“Fill your life with experiences and not things”- Unknown
Well it’s that time of the year again. Whilst considered the most wonderful time of the year by many, the holidays can also be a source of stress, pressure, financial constraints and perhaps a sinking feeling of not being able to do enough for your children.
This year more than ever, most vulnerable members of our society are really feeling the pinch. With reports of child poverty rates due to hit 5 million in 2020, homelessness and food bank usage on the rise, and cuts to services all around.
The pending election looms over us everyday on news and social media, with people throwing opinions like fruit all over Facebook, some locked in bitter debates with neighbours over the media and policy, others just in a panic over reports of losing the NHS.
Christmas to me feels like an extra stress. I don’t have any particularly great memories of the season from childhood, and now as a mother. I feel guilty about not absolutely loving Christmas with being a parent. Predisposed to struggle with organisation and planning, I get overwhelmed easily by crowds and queues. I can liken the feeling to a meltdown and no matter how I hard I try, I never feel truly satisfied that I’ve done enough for the kids. To me, December is a race. A hard race full of obstacles, that I try my hardest to reach the finish line unscathed.
My thoughts tend to ruminate this time a year, gaining a frenzied momentum as they bounce between email accounts, messaging apps and social media. 30 years ago the average length of the human attention span was 60 seconds, now the average is something ridiculous like 8 seconds!
So if you’ve read this far, you’re probably more than ready for me to turn your attention from my anxious parental thoughts at Christmas, back to Scarlett’s point of view and the title of the blog!
In keeping with the usual tone of my articles, I like to express what Scarlett has taught me about the world. This simplistic approach to life often mirrors that of Buddhist philosophy. But it’s come easier to Scarlett than to Buddha. He only chose the simplistic path after examining and rejecting materialistic fulfilment. Scarlett is predisposed to reject materialism and live in the present moment due to her cognitive disability and her visual impairment. The two combined have literally stripped back her life to the bare bones. Scarlett’s life doesn’t happen between her ears, it happens in the now. That is a very special gift that Scarlett possesses, and because of it, she really encompasses the Christmas spirit!
On one hand, Christmas time is all about traditions. The English Father Christmas developed in the late Victorian period though Christmas existed centuries before then. Elf on the Shelf and Christmas Eve boxes came sometime after. Every year since then there seems to be another ‘magical moment’ mandated for us to recreate for our offspring in order to be fully emerged into Christmas spirit. Everything on top of the omnipresent pressure to spend loads on a big present pile for Christmas morning. All such joyous things to children of course, but where will they stop?
One of the most favourite traditions our little ones participate in is the good old Christmas List! They can create a literary collection of all their hopes and desires. We’ve all spent the year being bombarded by cleverly constructed product advertisements, which leave us all, particularly our children, feeling like as long as we have that ‘thing’ then we’ll be happy.
Christmas is consumerism’s playground. I expect we have all be there, when we have been organised and done all our shopping nice and early to ensure they get everything they want… to find an amended list, and there’s a dozen more things on there you haven’t bought!
Scarlett will never make a list, that is a tradition she will never fulfil. Not in a sad way. It all relates back to her simplistic approach to life and having very little desire for ‘things’. Also due to her being, for want of a better word, incommunicado. As her mum though, I think I can interpret her very well despite the lack of language. So I’m going to write here and now, the list I THINK Scarlett would write for herself, if she could.
Scarlett’s Christmas List
- More Music
- A lie in
Elated at the prospect of extra biscuits and time at home with her family, Scarlett is neither interested by the acquisition of ‘things’ nor can she fall victim to misleading or deceptive child targeted advertisements. Thus making her disabilities her superpower! Scarlett wants for the important things that money can’t buy…. time, love and affection. She wants for feeling generating experiences. She can’t even see her present pile to be able to judge if it is big enough.
Scarlett just makes me think about the world so differently sometimes. She keeps me in check about what is and what isn’t important. There is only one physical world here on our planet, but billions upon billions of different internal worlds. With Scarlett’s being so juxtaposing to mine, the stark contrast is somehow liberating to how I process my own thoughts.
So maybe next time you are clashing over political matters, bare this in mind. We are all in our own individual cinema screens, absorbing completely different films. Yet we behave as we are in the same audience, watching the very same event we call life.
And next time you unlock your phone for no other purpose than to just thumb through Facebook, remember that this is pulling your presence away from the present.
And most importantly, be a little bit more like Scarlett. Scarlett is happy for no reason and driven by nothing more than basic, simplistic fundamental needs. She is the personification of true Christmas Spirit!