Domestic chatter

Right now, I have no work outside the home and while I would like to say I need the rest, I find the inactivity enervating in the extreme. It makes it hard to get on with the tasks I need to get done; I can take all day over something that really only needs half an hour.

Today I need to take my daughter into town for an optician’s appointment. We’ve been lucky to find a specialist in our little town who does colourimetry. This is quite difficult to define but basically it’s about finding a colour lense that makes your eyes work at their best. It’s used to help dyslexia and in all honesty, it has made a huge difference to my daughter since she got her first pair of coloured lenses about 9 years ago. Obviously it has caught on since then because when we last tried to find a local specialist, we failed and had to go with our original one. Now, since it’s been so long since her first colourimetry assessment, and she needs an eye test anyway, I was very relieved to find one in town. The trouble is that my driving phobia means we’re taking the bus.

Other things I have managed to do today: remember to pick up the dog’s medication, and put a load of laundry through the machine. That’s more or less it unless you include getting up and having breakfast. I’ve promised my daughter we’ll have a bit of lunch in town too, so if we get into town way too early we have something to focus on and she can sit down and recharge her batteries till we need to walk the rest of the way.

Tomorrow I am planning on going to Norwich, our nearest city, to do some Christmas shopping. Again, the driving phobia means I’ll be taking the train after a three mile walk to the station. The car will just be sitting outside the house. I’ve not even driven this car yet. I must try to get to grips with this phobia.

I don’t like Christmas much. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s to do with my inability to feel happy things or maybe it’s just I am a Scrooge and react with “Bah Humbug!” to the whole season. For most of her childhood, my daughter had to wait till her father got home from taking Christmas morning services before she could open her presents. Now he’s no longer a serving clergyman, we’ve gone to my parents for Christmas and again, the schedule is someone elses. This year we’re at home; my mother broke her shoulder a week ago and my father agreed it was best if we stay home. This is the fourth Christmas in this house; the first, I was still so much in shock from the move, I didn’t put up so much as a sprig of holly or a garland of tinsel. This year I’d like to make it a good one but in all honesty, Christmas means very little to me. We’re not members of any church any more, and we all baulk at the commercial side of it. I’ve sometimes suggested we do a stint at a night shelter or something instead but no one feels like that. So we sit in limbo.

I think after I’ve got the presents bought and sent away, I may be able to think a bit more about the whole festive thing a bit more. I’ve got a headache started just thinking about it.

Bah, humbug!

13 thoughts on “Domestic chatter

  1. Hope the apointment went well. A friend of mine’s daughter has coloured lenses to help with ther dyslexia and finds them a great help.

    When I was a child we had to wait until after Christmas dinner for our presents because in those day postmen had to work Christmas morning. We carried the tradition on with my children… it meant Christmas wasn’t over in ten minutes early in the morning. I have gone through periods when I haven’t enjoyed Christmas. But now enjoy the decorating because I make new arty stuff. Since John and I have been together (20 years now) we only buy small inexpensive gifts. I used to enjoy the midnight service etc but for several different reasons I haven’t belonged to a church for a while. (rather more to do with the insincerity of church members than belief in God)

    • It went fine but now we have a few weeks wait for the specs. She was also beyond tired on the way back and is now whacked. But when I nipped straight out to pick up some ibuprofen for her and pick up a parcel left next door, I came back and she’d made me a mug of tea. Great girl!
      I do enjo some aspects of Christmas but I really hate the build up to it and the commercialisation. Having just come back from the continental Christmas markets, i do feel a little more in the mood.
      I too often make decs, usually green ones, using our rather enthusiastic ivy from the end of the garden and bay from our bay tree(it’s about ten feet high!).
      Church, well, for us, it’s the refusal to get roped in that keeps us away; I got used to insincerity after 12 years as rector’s wife. It’s par for the course.
      merry Christmas to you and yours, Wendy!

  2. I hate the commercialism, when I was a single parent I was abhorred at the amount some of my dinner lady colleagues spent on their children. My two were always pleased with what they received, despite one of Elizabeth’s friend’s comments of “is that all you got?”

    I hate shopping too unless its nice independent shops. The amount of rubbish for sale is amazing.
    I spent many years getting roped in at church when we lived in Aldershot and enjoyed a lot of it.

    We are off to Elizabeth’s for Christmas, which could be fraught as we have to take our cat and she has two cats!

    • I hate being roped in before I am sure it’s what I want to do. The assumption is always that as rector’s wife I will be happy to…*fill in the blank* whatever the previous one did; and I was never anywhere near any of the stereotypes anyway.
      We usually take the cats too, and the dog, but my parents have no animals now so no risk.

  3. Presents are at a minimum at my home. None are sent out. We give only to the grandchildren and leave it at that. We invest in being together and enjoying that togetherness, something we can only do maybe twice a year if we are lucky.

    By the way, there is nothing wrong in being domestic. I am enjoying it by choice.

  4. I didn’t know that about lenses and dyslexia. How cool.

    I like Christmas but I have to make a concerted effort to step away from the frenzy. I’ve taken off the week of Christmas so that I can relax a bit with the girls (is that an oxymoron?) and not have to rush with all the wrapping and such.

    I abhor malls. Oh, mercy, they are just horrible this time of year. Though I did find a bookstore at the entrance of one that stocks a rather large range of items. I can be in and out without having to navigate the whole place. The mall nearest us is my image of hell. Nutty drivers fighting for parking, people hawking wares from their carts (when did that start?), and lots of stupid stuff everywhere.

    But I do like our tree and watching the girls get excited. We’ll also do Chanukah.

    • I’m looking forward more to Chanukah than Christmas; a few years back a Jewish friend sent me a menorah, a set of the candles and the prayers and I do enjoy doing the prayers and lighting the candles. She sent me a new supply of candles recently, plus a pair of dreidels and various other lovely treats.
      I did my shopping yesterday in our nearest city, Norwich, which is a train ride away. It was mad and I got ill fairly soon in the day with a suddent and very nasty attack of cystitis. But now I have to wrap and send, which I hate evn more!

  5. Viv,

    This post of yours — I’ve thought about it for a few days now — and see the theme carried on to at least one later post. Maybe two, if I count the lovely washed-out beach photo.

    The resistance that runs through your post — toward the season, toward the inactivity, toward driving the car, to finding the energy to get the gifts mailed and out of the way…

    If I were your spiritual director, I would invite you to think about the whys of it. What lays underneath it all? What hems you in so that it even affects your writing hand?

    But of course, I’m not your director. Just a director-in-training, still growing her wisdom. But if you find the questions worthy, then treat them with careful thought, when the pain of headache flies far away. And if unworthy… well, then, they are and should be tossed out of your life like the garbage that they are.

    Tough questions — even those that are not framed as questions per se, –about life essence matters always remind me of Rilke’s fourth letter to the young poet. I know you must be familiar with it. But I invite you to re-read it with fresh eyes, and read it as if it were written directly to you.

    I’ve copied the selection of interest below. And to you I say, you are a beautiful spirit. And you are a young poet. And I hope healing finds you soon. But even wounded, Viv…you write beautifully.


    … I am touched by your beautiful anxiety about life, even more than I was in Paris, where everything echoes and fades away differently because of the excessive noise that makes Things tremble. Here, where I am surrounded by an enormous landscape, which the winds move across as they come from the seas, here I feel that there is no one anywhere who can answer for you those questions and feelings which, in their depths, have a life of their own; for even the most articulate people are unable to help, since what words point to is so very delicate, is almost unsayable. But even so, I think that you will not have to remain without a solution if you trust in Things that are like the ones my eyes are now resting upon. If you trust in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge. You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

    • I had to take all night to let this sink in and not reply glibly as I might when provoked by a challange.
      First, a big thank you for your kind and wise words; you’ll make a superb director of souls. I’ve never read Rilke (beyond All Quiet on the Western Front, if that is the same Rilke) as I have always steered away from books ABOUT writing or poetry, except in a purely academic setting and then only perforce while doing my degree. I have a horror of things like creative writing courses; they seem like an abhomination to me. So I suspect I have missed out on a classic, because of my own misplaced arrogance. I’m not young any more; youth seemed to vanish while I was trying to get by. I shall be 44 next birthday and I do frequently feel as though I am running out of time.
      The why is something I battle constantly to get at. Some of it may be that I hate doing things I am expected to do; I don’t mean the duties we all have in life. Rather I mean the point where something has shifted from being perhaps spontaneous and fresh to being set it stone, traditional and fixed. I used to make wine and was very good at it indeed but though it was good enough to think of starting it as a smal business I knew that if it did, it would become stale and a chore and then, yeast being a highly sensitive spiritual being, things would fail (I am serious about yeast) Maybe it’s the same about Christmas, the traditions and so on have become a burden to weigh me down. I’d rather just give something when I find it to those I love, not because it’s a day in the year where gift giving is accepted. I hate the expectation of perfection that so mars Christmas festivities. One year, while my husband was parish priest in a rural area, we had a whole host of friends(who all brought freinds) descend on us for Christmas and it was a wonderful time. People pittched in and played games and talked till four am. The following year, it was a disaster, even though most of the same people came, because the expectation of it being the same was there. Never try to do the same thing twice.
      I’ve never had a spiritual director, beyond the occasional help for a few weeks during crisis times, and the times I have tried with various people have just managed to make me feel even more unhappy about my own shortcomings as a person and as a Christian. The few I have tried with(except a very elderly Anglican nun who shared my name) have all sought to make me something I am not and while the whole director/directee relationship is a fragile one built on trust, none tried to know me before trying to change me, and so I failed to trust them or their motives.
      I shall try and hunt down the book you mention in the sales.
      thanks .

  6. Viv,

    I’m relieved you received my words in the spirit they were written, as my intent was to invite you to thought rather than to defense. When I reflect on this, I accept it for the miracle that it is. For I am not so wise — I listen more with heart than brain.

    We are all a product of our life experiences and our genetic makeup and who knows what else — unborn dreams perhaps? So I strive not to judge others with labels of ‘good’, ‘bad’ and ‘areas to change.’ All I try to do is listen to what is said and then I listen in the silence for what is not said and then I try to listen for the nuances in between.

    I read Ranier Maria Rilke’s books “Letters to a Young Poet” for the first time earlier this year. But since then, I’ve read it through one more time and continue to pick it up a read a letter now and then. Interesting enough, the book was a gift to me from my spiritual director at a point in my life when my writing was stymied. The book is not a creative writing primer or anything of that sort. It is a collection of 10 letters written from a great artist to one who dreams to be. (And I believe the dreams dreamers dream can keep one young.)

    I believe the original text was written in German — though I could be wrong — but there are many English translations available. My director was fond of M.D Herter Norton’s translation and so that is the one I have. If you are interested in buying a copy, it can be had from the Amazon used marketplace for around five dollars, including postage. But it’s also free on the internet — not Norton’s translation, but another’s:

    I don’t know what Rilke will offer you, if anything. But I offer you the information to do with as you wish, just as I would if you were my directee. Suggestions I make during a direction session are simply suggestions — and they are born from a place I cannot begin to describe. Words just come to mind, just like Rilke’s book came to mind when I read this post.

    Spiritual directors are not for everyone. But I can’t imagine life without mine. If you have a good one, it’s like having two sets of eyes and ears in your life. And while the sessions have born change, they have come more out of freedom, by inviting me to come into my own rather that simply change me from the ‘old’ me to a ‘new and improved’ me.

    And this is where I’ll close, with one more question. What would happen if you began to buy presents when you were inspired to do so rather than waiting until Christmas? What would that freedom do for your life?


    • Hey, how else might it be received, Janell? Anyway, wisdom comes when heart and mind achieve perfect balance and that takes practise.
      I shall keep an eye out for the book when I’m out and about; it’s surprsing what pops out and off the shelf at times. And yes, I believe it was written in German.
      As for the last question I have been pondering it all day. I think I would probably upset and embarrass people if I just acted on the impulse to buy and give things. I do buy stuff when I see it and I then have trouble also remembering where I hid it when Christmas comes around…
      thank you!

  7. We keep Christmas fairly simple now. It used to be a bigger production when the kids were around and younger, and the days of prep were exhausting. After all the hoopla, it’s then just suddenly over: a big anti-climax.

    These days, with the children grown, it’s about the Season again. Time to be with people we enjoy, exchanging simple things and good conversation. We started the tradition of a caroling night at my home for the extended family. We are trying to keep it alive but there is some resistance to singing. We keep trying though.

    • Funny you should say that about singing. My daughter(who as you know has ME and is not at all well) was singing yesterday, and she has a heartstoppingly lovely voice. I wish she would sing more but she gets shy these days.
      We too seek to keep it simple; as my daughter only celebrates it because its important to us, and because she’s a young adult now, a lot of the fuss and feathers are unnecessary, and its about being a family. We’re going to see my parents and brother on Boxing Day, a two hour drive, but other than that we’re at home; then my oldest pal is coming for New Year, as she has done off and on for many years. I do miss having a big house where we could have half a dozen guests at a time(as long as they didn’t mind either sharing rooms, or using reception rooms as extra bedrooms(in the summer we used to have people camping in the garden) but one at a time is good. You just don’t get the amusing interactions of friends who don’t know each other yet!!

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