To be honest, Christmas spooks me these days. It feels so completely out of sync with who I am and what I’m about that its like being dragged kicking and screaming into a time warp. Held prisoner in a set of completely different routines, I’m either kept from my usual creative work flow by “other things”…or I take refuge in it, which erodes my new year enthusiasm when I find myself continuing with that same Christmas-tainted work in the so-called freshness of the new year.
To those of us that are Highly Sensitive People (HSPs), the festive season can feel almost unbearably charged or even toxic, including high exposure to people and behaviours that we normally manage to avoid; and that’s not just within our families and friends, since many of us are empathic enough to feel the general mood of the collective. So, believe it or not, we get taken along on the energetic roller coaster of high anticipation, of drunken partying, of huge anticlimax and buyers remorse along with the rest of the population, and all from the comfort of our own sofa!
There are other factors that are toxic; some that are pretty obvious (different foods and drink, in different amounts, to what we might normally consume; higher exposure to EMFs when people visit) and those that are less obvious.
For instance, who knew that they spray Christmas trees with so many really nasty chemicals? I didn’t until last year when a light bulb moment, after taking the tree outside and feeling like something subtly oppressive had been removed from my living environment the minute it was gone, led to me doing some research. I realised, I am always on my physical last-legs by the week the decorations go down, with all my pain and fatigue symptom in top gear by that particular week of the year, not to mention allergy symptoms that feel out of season; so, was this a contributor? It felt like a significant penny dropping in my understanding of something puzzling that had been going on for years.
It turns out, this cocktail of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are a normal part of the mass-industry of Christmas tree farming, I read from several sources including those who manage the code of practice for growers, requiring plantation workers to wear protective clothing and take significant health and safety precautions. They are the same massively toxic chemicals that seriously mess with our core health and lead to chronic illness, as referred to so frequently by Anthony William, the Medical Medium. Yes, the same ones which those of us with such health issues avoid so diligently, all year round, by eating organic (quite apart from the fact that some of us are so acutely sensitive to chemicals now that a plug-in freshener can have us on our knees) and there they are…on our tree in the corner of our lounge. My first thoughts, apart from those for myself, were but what about all those children, the elderly and infirm or immunocompromised that have unwitting exposure..? How can this be happening in the name of a celebration?
Must remember this for next year, seek out alternatives, I remember thinking (though I could only find one organic UK tree supplier, well out of range of my address). Yet the goldfish effect had me buying one from my normal supplier again (such is the knee-jerk approach to Christmas that its like we become automatons of tradition…) until, having brought that tree home, I clocked an almost immediate physical reaction; burning skin and tightening of the throat. That was the first moment I remembered what I had found out the year before. So we returned that tree and did what I said I would never do; we invested in quite a pricey (thus, I hoped, considerately designed) fake tree for the first time, telling ourselves that at least its a one-off as it should last for the remainder of time that we put one up for our kids and (future) grandkids. It was nice enough and I didn’t notice any physical reactions to it…but I still couldn’t wait to take it down and get my house back to normal.
So why do we persist through these types of inconvenience in order to still do these things, once a year? Because other family members expect us to!
This surrender of personal autonomy, of even our brain cells, can be an underlying aggravant to our wellbeing throughout the whole festive season. Even the fact we are told it is “festive” can feel like we have signed over our personal will and been told to be just like everybody else, on cue. I can feel my real self gnashing and snarling at the window of some “festive” Christmas hideout, a sort of saccharine gingerbread house in the dark woods of winter, into which I’ve been put under house arrest, told to “act nice” and yet, inside of me, there’s an inferno of rebellion building. Of course, this feeds straight back into a higher level of inflammation in my body by January so that, even when our (real) house is feeling lighter and so much quieter, our sleep allocation back to normal, our things put back in their place, I feel awful…just awful…throughout all the month of January and even February, most years without exception.
This year, for all I began the year on such a high of relief (or release!) from the Christmas period that I was grinning broadly and creating wildly, looking forward to everything so much, for the first few days, that I ignored how I felt from the physical point of view, my body is still (two weeks later) in such a terrible state that its hard to ignore. At the moment, I’m just in so much pain and fatigue that I can hardly manage a fraction of what my intentions are set upon doing…and, yes, I resent that, for all I try so hard to take the higher objective.
For me, I know the way I am feeling right now is not just about the post-Christmas backlash; there are a few contributors to my physical struggle at this time of the year, and yet I also know (if I’m being truly honest) that it’s such a huge contributor. So, if you’re noticing your levels of struggle, pain or chronic fatigue are so much increased that you are left bewildered, or like you’ve had a monstrous setback in your health, like you can’t seem to get over your tiredness and brain fog, however much you sleep right now, then these maverick thoughts may be an opening for you…because to realise is to release the previously locked-up part of that admission and start the process of healing. It’s a version of standing up for yourself and daring to speak your truth, which is always most in sync with your highest self; which is why it feels so good.
So if this is you; if you want to admit to such thoughts, go on, rebel; you might feel much better for it. Dare to say to someone “you know, I’m really not that keen on Christmas, I would prefer to just skip it” and enjoy their reaction. Relish the sheer audacity of being that person with the up-stream opinion and, who knows, by next Christmas you may be shouting about it or even acting upon it to do something completely different with the month of December. I said it to someone the other day, when they asked how I had been, and she took it as a welcome cue to outpour just how much she feels the same way and had merely “gone through the motions” this year. I suspect there are more and more of us feeling quite dispossessed by what Christmas is supposedly about these days and its time we showed ourselves.
The push back can seem fearsome; our culture has made it so wrong to be deemed the Scrooge of the season and this opinion is, more than likely, policed by some very close members of your family, trained to shoot dissenters on sight, since this is quite typical. However, it’s not about churlishness or lack of party spirit, nor do we hate other people or disparage family tradition. Maybe, if we are HSPs, we have invested so much into getting our life and work flow in the kind of order that suits us that we resent watching it being blown to smithereens for weeks in the name of something that doesn’t really ring our bell but which our culture holds as sacrosanct. Maybe we just don’t see the point in continuing what no longer feels so relevant to who we are now, or dislike the material spin and gross hypocrisy of it, plus the cultural fetish for trying to recreate an idealised past.
Maybe we need to drastically change the way we, personally, “do” Christmas in future, including who we spend it with and where we want to be. My feeling is that I want to be as far from those other people who go through its most commercial motions as possible; somewhere remote enough to pretend its no more than a feeling of supreme peace and love. Somewhere the trees are actually growing! This admission of how we are really feeling offers room for some major evolutions of our lifestyle; something to work towards, rather than put up with what doesn’t work for us anymore. In fact, maybe our abhorrence could act as a signpost for where, and how, we really want to be living our lives, all year round, since all Christmas really does is highlight the worst, and most emotionally dependent, excesses of a defunct age.
After all, we all need to strike out for our own individuality, at least some of the time, and there is no time of the year more detrimental to that than the cultural body-blow that Christmas has become. Yet everything is open to being evolved and, perhaps, we already have some thoughts about how we would like to do this. Maybe we just needed to get all that off our chest and to speak our own personal truth in order to feel better; shaking off the energetic hangover (I know I did). Then, we can really get our new year started, having had the release of expressing our feelings to somebody, even just ourselves. Going on from this point, we can then start to set brand new intentions for the next year-end that is already coming up on the horizon…yes we can, we really can do this thing; imagining it to be just how we would (really) like that time of year to be spent. This is how we practice being the conscious creators of our own lives that we really, truly are. If we have been feeling “off” about Christmas for some time, even getting clues through symptoms in our bodies, which is how our true feelings are forced to express themselves when we fail to listen, it’s possibly because we had been forgetting that and allowing ourselves to be swept along on a tide that wasn’t ours.