Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Homeopathy for Christmas Blues

Ex pat syndrome can hit any time. I should have been on guard, but it is sneaky and will find you in the best of times as well as the worst. 'White Christmas' did it for me this time. I was having a great time in the loft of a beautiful Methodist chapel in Grassington the first time it hit me. The bell ringers were good and bells are well suited to most of my favourite Christmas music and the acoustics in the loft in the shadow of the stained glass windows were perfect. I sang along to 'O Come O Come Emmanuel' enjoying the sounds of our earnest but amateur ad hoc choir. And then singing 'White Christmas' and I was fine until that line, 'Just like the Christmas I used to know..' I had to pretend to cough the tears came on so quickly.

Now ex pat syndrome is both more and less than homesickness. That's what makes it so tricky to deal with. I miss my family and the smell of Christmas trees and lights--even the gaudy outrageous over the top ones-- because those lights represent the best of the human spirit in all its pagan nonsensicalness--my fairy lights will bring back the sun is what we all are really saying. My little Celtic soul loves the irony and the magic of it. If it were just homesickness, I could hop on a plane or string lights around the house or Skype home or any of the other things large and small that keep us connected.

Ex pat syndrome--as I've said before and others have said better than I can-- is missing something that never really was. Christmas was never like in the songs.  Rarely white, often frantic, and lights were expensive and difficult to put up and trees were awkward and prickly and hard to dispose of and came with a sense of guilt about cutting a live tree or the hassle of trying to keep a tree safe and cool enough til spring for planting out. I know all that even in the moment that White Christmas stops me in my tracks, but knowing it and holding it at bay are a world apart.

I have a good life and good friends. The second time 'White Christmas' got me I was stopped mid step in the pedestrian precinct of Thurso on Fun Day.  Before I was even aware of it, my friends had folded me into their arms. It didn't matter what made me sad. Their response was automatic, unqualified. That is the gift of Christmas now and always. My antidote for my ex pat syndrome is to fill the house with Christmas music, starting with Joan Baez and I knew I was on the mend when I heard 'I wonder as I wander how our dear saviour died for ordinary folk like you and like me.' OK. I may cry again at 'White Christmas' but I have Christmas in my heart now. To celebrate, to honour the gift of that unconditional love. 

And perhaps a few fairy lights.