You know with Christmas just a few breaths away, I am in a somewhat reflective mood. Reflective and honest. And in truth a little bit menopausal to boot. So, if I am rambling, I can’t help it because I can barely hold my stream of thoughts during a conversation, never mind write a reflection on the spirit of Christmas. In truth, the menopause – if this is what is happening to me and not early onset Alzheimer’s – is a lot like how I imagine it would be to have dual personalities. Stressful, emotional, exhausting and bloody infuriating.

I was taken shopping by one of my daughters today. “How sweet,” you say, “what a lovely Mother Daughter thing to do.” If you don’t know me, you are right; it sounds lovely doesn’t it? But those of you who do know me, know that I prefer to visit shops where they give me things, I pay and no actual shopping, thinking, selecting or deciding and queueing takes place. So, in saner moments I refuse such offers, snorting at any and all suggestion of attending a shopping centre or any place where people gather in large numbers to purchase toot they usually don’t really need, has been made unethically and is going to cost me money I didn’t really want to spend. Yes I know, Scrooge.  But for some crazy reason, today something told me I should go, my alter ego nice Mummy probably who, unlike me, doesn’t find trailing through rails of clothes a fate worse than death and who doesn’t mind at all trying on 25 different coats and then buying none! Or paying £66.25 in Waterstones for 5 Christmas books that people will probably never read. Nice Mummy finds shopping entertaining and even had a little boogie in H & M amongst the rails of urban grunge and teeny tiny underwear designed for small miniature people with thighs the size of ankles, and bums which do not require the assistance of lycra. Trendy, hip and fun Mummy’s boogieing amused fellow shoppers, who commented on her “cool moves”, and astonished chic daughter, not in a good way, who believes all forms of dancing should be confined to the under 25’s (especially in public) and never should happen in a shop.

Nice Mummy, however, didn’t manage to stay fully embodied throughout the whole trip.  Several times, grumpy cynical Mummy popped up and made negative comments about the sweat shops who probably supplied various large retail outlets who shall remain nameless, and how Christmas was now all about buying loads of shit no one really wants just so you have something to wrap up in paper no one looks at and then ends up in landfill, creating dangerous fumes which will exacerbate global warming, causing the rise of the oceans and ultimately the death of our species. Grumpy Mummy spent a lot of the trip working out if her overdraft really could handle a shopping trip to buy Xmas Presents and perhaps she had better put some of her hard-saved tax return money into the account to cover the cost of this ridiculous celebration she didn’t believe in anyway, as she is a fully-fledged badge holding atheist.

After three hours of shopping – much of which was painless to grumpy Mummy’s surprise, even slightly enjoyable – grumpy Mummy won the battle. At daughter’s suggestion, as we make our way to the car park, “Let’s just try Superdrug to purchase a funny, quirky, well thought out under £10 secret Santa gift for someone at work!”, grumpy Mummy decided unless they were prepared to offer her genuine real super drugs, she couldn’t take another shop, no matter how “super”, and stomped off to the car park in a huff. Not my finest moment, but not my worst either, that being tears in H and M at the thought of trailing through the rails looking for summer clothes with another daughter a few years back. In my defence… ok, actually there is no defence, I just effing well hate shopping, other than for books. All other forms of shopping are truly the work of the devil, or shall we say “the man” who wants us hooked on the consumer treadmill until we die surrounded by zillions of shirts, dresses, shoes and bags, silver hoop earrings and 50 million pairs of single unpairable socks.

So, off I stomp to my car laden down with bags of goodies, which recipients’ had better bloody love, whilst daughter does super-fast trip to Superdrug. Surprise, surprise! No lovely funny, quirky gift was found in the less than super Superdrug. Daughter is now frantically looking at all the shops we drive past on way home; Tesco, Coop, Indian and Chinese takeaways, petrol garage, all unlikely to offer inspiration.

We make it home in one piece and heavenly wonderful husband has made dinner, wine is on table and dogs are busy chasing each other up and down the hall, not necessarily a good thing as one dog is only been in residence two days and I am unsure whether this is a game or all hell is about to break loose!

“Shall I pour you a glass of red?” says charming husband.

Grumpy Mummy says “Yes, pour me the fucking whole bottle!” in my head, but sane happy Mummy, who is just so bloody relieved to be home, is the voice of reason and remembers it is Monday tomorrow and as I am unable to have only one glass of red (due to a medical condition known as “zero control”), sane Mummy says, “No, I am not drinking tonight, I will have a cup of that delicious liquorice tea.” And smiles sweetly.

“Eh?” says wonderful husband. “Really?” “Oh well, more for me” and flicks on the kettle.

Dinner follows and it was delicious, despite arguments over new dog becoming a vegan, causing a stressful and incredulous atmosphere.

Family then prepares for the annual event of putting up the decorations. Since time immemorial, the idea of families coming together to decorate the tree, sing carols, eat yummy Xmas food and smile happily together in anticipation of a Christmas filled with love and good cheer has been my fantasy. But in fact, I don’t think I have experienced a year without an argument or tears, often mine, especially since the girls entered the teenage years. Our tree was never cool enough, sparkly enough, matching enough, big enough, never had enough lights and was generally not enough. Fuck it – if you hate our tree, move out and buy your own bloody tree, was grumpy Mummy’s usual retort.

However, each year the family would plan to come together on an agreed date to decorate and make merry and yet invariably, someone or everyone would have made other plans. Food would go uneaten as, “I like the idea of it but it’s fattening and I’ve got a party in a few days.” would be the usual response, and then if I didn’t buy the junk food, “Why is there no nice food to eat? It’s bloody Christmas.”

But this year – this friggin’ year – at last all three girls are home, in the mood, and in the most part talking to me (well, two were, so two out of three is good in my books).

Being a strong independent female, I open the hatch, get the ladder down, shoot up into dusty, junk filled loft and chuck down bags of decorations, the tree, the lights, the sacks, the ornaments the whole damn shebang. Christmas choones are on the telly and we get our merry on to start Christmasifying the lounge.

But wait! Only half the tree is in the box!

A frantic search occurs, including looking under the table and behind the sofa, as “We may have left it there since last Christmas,” suggests the youngest, who clearly hasn’t seen any end of a hoover for a year or this suggestion would have never been brought up. This was followed by lovely husband saying “Good idea, have a look under the sofa!”  At this point I am incredulous. We live in a small house, husband and child have clearly not moved a piece of furniture or hoovered in more than a year or they would both know without a shadow of a doubt that half our six foot xmas tree has not been hiding there for the past twelve months.

Husband decides all is lost and goes to visit his Mother, daughter attempts to put together lights and discovers all plugs which connect to lights are missing, and youngest daughter gives up all hope and says hopefully, “Yay, maybe we can have a real tree this year instead.”  Grumpy Mummy immediately rears her ugly head and recites 10 zillion reasons why a real tree is a non-ethical purchase and will only be entering our house, “Over my dead body!”.

No one is listening to grumpy Mummy as they have zoned her out. I blooming wish I could too some days. Whinging old kill joy.

Sane, happy Mummy remembers that if she has a hot bath she sometimes feels better. It can even be better than 10 minutes meditating, if she is really, really good, she could meditate in the bath and come out Zen and pure and sane.

But no! Grumpy Mummy sits in the bath and stews over the wasted day, the stolen xmas tree, disappeared plugs and now defunct lights. She doesn’t meditate or feel calm, she has imaginary conversations with “the man” and plans her escape to an island free from Xmas and consumerism and teenagers.

Sane Mummy whispers quietly she doesn’t want loads of decoration, maybe just a little holly and a candle. And it’s nice to buy presents, and spend time with daughter who is growing up too fast and working in the big city all week. And the new dog is lovely and cute and just needs a little training. And actually, she has a lovely hubster who is never rude or judgemental, even if he does finish all the wine.

Christmas is hard work, even if you are mindful, even if you meditate and medicate, even if you have a warm home and nice family and good job. It’s stressful at times, and our expectation doesn’t make it any easier on us. So give yourself a break, have a rant, have a bath, drop the F word, pour a wine and Merry Effing Xmas.

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