I’m on another festive road-trip, this year OZ rather than NZ. Christmas is such a great time to take a holiday – and while I’d love to be tucked at home with family and friends in the UK, amidst cosy jumpers and twinkling trees, I also love the utter freedom of constant movement and the excitement of seeing brand new things every day. Especially the sunshine. And my year wouldn’t have been complete without Sunday’s giant lobster on the roadside.
Christmas, nestled as it is before the end of one year and the start of another, often seems a time to compare. Compare life now to this time last year; compare location, occupation, partners, possessions; compare life’s pros and cons, what’s been gained and what’s been lost.
Our first night camping, what was lost was mainly sleep. Having been sweltering over in South Australia, we took a selection of sheets but decided sleeping bags would be surplus. Wrong. The tent, positioned as it was in the centre of a vortex, winds tearing around out of nowhere, was freezing. And I hadn’t even brought layers of clothing that could ease the situation.
Last night, we recovered in a motel. Whenever I stay in a motel I feel like I’m in an episode of the X-files. But there are no aliens here. Maybe just ghosts. I’m followed around by the ghost of last year’s Christmas road-trip, which I was lucky enough to enjoy with ex-partner-in-crime. I miss him like crazy. And last week, I went to see my friend Kade’s family on the Gold Coast. Not so much earlier than this time last year, partner-in-crime and I were over there for his funeral, and I’d not been back since.
Bad stuff has happened this year – stuff I’d rather hadn’t. But it’s not ever, nowhere near, the same as really losing someone. When someone dies, it doesn’t end. It’s never over. They’re gone forever. And every Christmas, every birthday, every holiday – they bring a peak in the ever-present pain for those who were closest. Seeing everyone left behind there, wishing my friend was still around, wishing it was possible to save each person from their grief… Those are Christmas wishes that could never be granted.
But such things are utterly out of our control. They can only be suffered and survived. And where there is unending grief, friends can only be supportive. Be present. Be there.
Not so with everything. Yesterday we acquired sleeping bags so we wouldn’t have another disastrous night of cold cramps. There are certainly things in our lives that go wrong that we can learn from and correct. Some things lost can be found again. I can think of several situations a tad more dire than lack of camping equipment that, with a little motivation, I can sort out next year.
Have a ridiculous holiday. Frolic until you’re famished and feast until you’re full. But spare a thought for those without. Those without the ones who would have made their Christmas complete. My heart goes out to you if you’re one of them. And if there’s anything distressing in your life that you know is fixable, that would make life merrier in 2015 if fixed, then make the resolution to address it. We owe it to ourselves – we who are lucky enough to have a full and fantastic life to live.