On the second day of January 2018, I ended my Christmas holiday and went back to work.
I remember saying to myself at the time, “it’s going to be a while before you stop again, Ken.”
I was right.
(Photo by Richard Szwejkowski)
Last Friday, I locked up the office and started into my Christmas break for 2018. Since that previous January, I had managed just one day’s holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I had my weekends and I had most of the bank holidays too. Sometimes I left work early and I had a couple of days away early in the year but they were very far from being a holiday.
When I try to figure out why Christmas means so much to me these days, I think that must be a large part of it. The stopping. The being able to do something different. To slow down. To hibernate a little. Sit and read. Watch a film I’ve seen a score of time before. Take a walk.
It’s like a video game where you struggle and struggle and then win a little bonus for yourself. A little gold coin, perhaps. Christmas is that gold coin. Achievement unlocked.
I love Christmas because I’m stopped but it’s also important that the people I work with and for are largely stopped too. Nobody is after me.
The day I start these holidays is a strange dizzying time. It’s like being thrown, fully clothed, into the deep end of ‘nothing to do’. It reminds me of a goldfish we once had. He was in a little round bowl and he stayed there for a while. Eventually, we got him a bigger rectangular tank and put him in there. But, here’s the thing, he still swam around in that tight little circle inside the big tank. He couldn’t get his head around the space. That’s what I’m like on these first days of the Christmas break. I can’t sit for too long. I can’t rest. I clean the house like a maniac. It’s like I’m building a nest wherein I will hatch Christmas.
At this moment, I’m just about over that ‘lost goldfish’ stage. I’m starting to settle into this different routine. There’s still a hundred things to do but they’re a different hundred things. I’ve still got a small bit of shopping to do and the bedroom needs a good going over but the carols are on the speakers as I type this and the fridge is well stocked and nobody is calling me and there’s no place that I really have to be.
It’s a moment to savor. The holiday stretches out like an endless thing but I know that feeling will only last for the shortest of times. I have to be one place on one day, I have to be another place on another day. Soon the gentle rise of the long break will be peaked and the end will be there in full sight below. Long before the holiday is over, my mind will return to what I have to do and how I will do it.
The holiday is never as long as it seems, not in my mind.
But that’s Christmas future. For the present, there is peace in this preternaturally tidy house. The voices on my speakers proclaim a ship sailing in and the lights of the little tree here in my room are flat and white and even.
I wish you a Happy Christmas. I really do. I hope there are a few moments that are markedly different from the rest of the year.
I’m going out now, to explore the unfamiliar corners of my Christmas.
Who knows what I might find?