I am feeling guilty. This is what I associate Christmas with now, guilt and obligation. How bah humbug is that? I am a miserable person, a miserable excuse for a person. And I feel guilty about that too.

This year I made a concious decision not to send many cards. It used to be that I would send out quite a few dozen, many containing my carefully crafted annual update full of news and family photos. I knew that round robins got a bad press so I tried hard to make mine an honest letter to my friends, to people who I thought would be interested in how we were doing. And then I was asked by one of the recipients to please not send her the update. I felt crushed.

Why did such a simple request hit me so hard? Naturally I acquiesced to her request, but sending a card that said nothing more than To- and From- felt impersonal, sterile, unnecessary. So this year I haven’t. This year I have sent only a few cards, plus even fewer brief notes pointing people to my on line life. This is where I hang out now. If anyone is interested in how I am doing then they are more than welcome to meet me here.

Except not everyone has a computer, not everyone is comfortable interacting on line.

I got a card this week from an elderly uncle who has, in the past, been a recipient of my annual update. His card said more than just To- and From-. He also told me how much he enjoyed reading my update each year. This year I do not have one to send and I do not know if he ever goes on line. He will hear from me, but may be disappointed at the shortness of my message.

I feel guilty that I have allowed the comments of one person to knock me down. Others will miss out on something they enjoyed receiving because I could not grow a thicker skin. How can I ever expect to be a writer if I cannot cope with negative feedback?

Next year I will produce a round robin, even if only for the two or three people who have specifically told me that they enjoy receiving it. I will not feel obliged to send cards to those whose only contact with me is a To- and From- with no news. I will not feel obliged to send cards to those who follow me on line and who require no update as they have access to my news in real time. I will endeavour to keep in touch with those who eschew social networks but who make the effort to talk to me in other ways.

I am not happy with how my card writing has gone this year, neither am I happy with my present buying. Yesterday I wrapped all the gifts that I have been amassing over the month. My elder son did not give me a list and I have neglected to hunt out the little puzzles and oddities that normally fill his stocking. I have placed a few last minute orders on line, but his space on the floor on Christmas morning will look bereft if these are not delivered before the big day. There will be nothing to keep him occupied as the others tear into their parcels, ordered early with the help of lists.

I have learned useful lessons this year. I have learned that I should be concentrating my efforts on those who offer me support throughout the year rather than those whose relationship to me makes me feel an obligation towards them. I must also try harder to shrug off mental setbacks, although that is easier said than done.

I still have time to write a few cards, to contact those who enrich my life. There is still time to set aside my guilt and allow myself to try for a merry Christmas. I can only hope that those who seek to bring me down have more pressing matters to divert them. I really must try to grow that thicker skin.



Emerging from hibernation

These past few days I have woken up to a world covered by a heavy frost but with a weak sun trying to burn through the haze. Winter may not yet be done but there are the first signs of spring in the garden with the trees starting to grow their buds and the early flowers coming into bloom. Even my chickens are laying a few more eggs.

As if to herald the promise of new growth after the long sleep of winter my own life is becoming busier. I have a run of appointments over the next few weeks as I attend to the maintenance required to keep my body sound and presentable. Today it was a trip to the opticians where I discovered that, unsurprisingly, I needed a stronger prescription to allow my eyes to relax more whilst reading. The young and friendly optician assured me that this was nothing to worry about, just an age thing. I think I knew that without the reminder.

With the sun trying to break through the haze and the bitter east wind finally blown through I decided to walk into town for my appointment. What a good decision that was. The trees are still bare of leaves and the fields soggy after recent floods but the paths were dry and the walk delightful. The lanes were quiet of traffic and only a few cyclists and dog walkers passed me when I left the roads to make my way into town. Fishermen lined the river and I even saw a pair of swans. It is a lovely day here in sunny Wiltshire.

By the time I had finished in town and started the uphill walk home it had warmed up sufficiently for me to remove my coat – a first for outside this year. My legs were too stiff from yesterdays workout at the gym to gambol like a lamb (and I am of course far too old for such antics) but I felt young and cheerful inside. What a difference a bit of fresh air, warmth and sunshine can make to one’s mood.

It is not just I who have become busier with the advent of spring. The warmer seasons are always active times for my children. The first camping trip of the year is approaching along with a school trip abroad and a more local activity weekend. Although they are capable of sorting and packing for themselves my kids still expect all that they need to be available to take. Thus I am required to keep on top of who is going where, when and with what. I also need to sort out who needs the services of the parental taxis. Thus far I think we are required to be in only two places at any one time. Sometimes it can get more complicated.

The first couple of months of this year have been a time of introspection for me but I do now feel ready to spread my wings a little and venture out into society. I am calmer and even a little more confident than at the start of the year.  It is not that anything in particular has changed other than my ability to cope. Whatever the reason for my minor meltdown over the festive season I seem to have come through. The arrival of the sunshine can only help with my mental rehabilitation.

Perhaps it is now a time to look forward, to allow a few buds of my own to grow. Who would have thought that a walk in the warmth and sunshine could have made me feel so positive? There is new life in the air and I feel ready to embrace it and live.