Saturday, 16 December 2006

Phantoms of Christmas Past

Christmas season always gives me a funny feeling in the heart.

On the one hand, I am all googly-eyed with holiday feeling. I want the Christmas carols, I want to go to church and drink in the ceremony, the splendour, the Mass. I think about faith and spirituality and how I aim to be a better person each passing year. I decorate the house, put up the christmas tree, put up all the chrismas cheer, bake stuff, invite people over, and play happy families for a mo'.

On the other hand, I loathe and detest the season. The commercialistic, nihilistic nature of the festival, where you wonder whether people really appreciate you, or the gifts you are giving them, and vice-versa. The idea that you have to visit people because it is the done thing. The idea that you have to invite people over because it is the done thing. Parties, dinners, potlucks, get-togethers, this should only be done because you want to, not because you have to.

I also detest the season for a more personal reason. I lost my mum just before Christmas several years ago, just when I had graduated from university. It was hard, and Christmas was too hard to handle as my mum usually made festivals such beautiful, wonderful events of family fun and family togetherness. When she left, we were all set adrift in a sea of silence, denial and grief. Being a family that does not talk about our pain, but only the bright side of things, it has been hard dealing with issues. I finally dealt with my issues only last year, after I got myself a pet. Pet therapy really works. But that's another blogpost, for another time.

Everyone looked to me, as the daughter of this very wonderful lady, and expected me to pull all the strings together and run things the way she did. I tried to be friendly, loving, compassionate and kind to all the people she was friendly, loving, compassionate and kind to. But I could not. She was a tough act to follow, is still a tough act to follow. She saw the good in every human being, in every living being, however messed up, screwed up or uselessly they behaved. I declare, even at university, mum was even more popular than me (she was a mature student at my law school) and we all looked up to her. She used to cook and bring lunch everyday to class for all those students living away from home because of the distance of home from uni' and who did not have their mums with them. She used to give pocket money to my classmates who did not have a regular income or allowance as their parents were poor. She loved everyone and they loved her back. Hail. The conquering hero. And then the conquering hero(ine) died, and her posse looked to me for guidance.

I think mum gave everyone she knew, so much of herself that in the end, my opinion is that she succumbed to the stress of it all. No human being can, or should, be allowed to take on the weight of the world on their shoulders.

I tried to keep up appearances for the past 4 years, to celebrate festivals, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, with the pomp and pizzaz that my mum had, but I realised last year, that I could not, however hard I tried, fill my mum's shoes for my friends, her friends, her family members. I am only me. Not superhero mum. Not a carbon copy, not even a pirated copy, of the woman she was.

Once I realised this, last Christmas I snapped at a close family member who was rude(and who in fact, once I thought about it, had always been abusive, nasty and violent since I was a wee little kid of 7 or 8), and I then and there decided to never darken his doorstep with my presence again.

I have ruthlessly snipped out all the beloved extended family members connected to him from my list of persona pro-grata and dumped the relationships all into my big black bin of surrender. I acknowledge that I am not my mum. I acknowledge to not being as strong as she was. I can't handle the nonsense. I can't deal with them anymore. I don't have to, and I don't need the unconscious vitriol and venom that inevitable exudes at every gathering.

I also decided to stop seeing some very close friends of mine, because the only thing we had in common was mum, and the Past(which had her in it), and how good it was. And with her gone, their friendships with me don't seem to satisfy them as much, or me. The luster was gone, the gleam of our friendships faded and things just weren't working out. There were many reasons why the friendships failed, but I realise and see now that the End of all things, started happening after mum died. The endless comparisons, the endless arguments, the differences in thought, direction and opinions all started circa mum A.D.

Mum used to be my shield, and mum used to defuse tense situations with a word. And people used to listen to her, such was the power and charisma she carried. And if people couldn't deal with her, they beat a hasty retreat in the face of her presence.

But without her around, I don't have a shield anymore, I am too tired to exude any charima and I don't need to keep the gloves on anymore. I am not going to try and be like her, or be her or try to live up to her. I never ever could, can or will. I can only live up to being the best person, the best human being that I can be.

That's all I can promise you, ma. Sorry. I hope it is enough.

I realised that I had to look after me first, and then only would I be of use to my father, my brother, my sister-in-law and to those who remained kith and kin despite the demise of my beautiful beautiful mum, who was the centre of attention and attraction wherever she went.

I have, since 2003, rediscovered and reconnected with some dear cousins of mine whom I grew up with. I have also made some new and wonderful friends who give me joy everyday. Maybe they will be the angels of Christmases Present and Future.

And maybe Christmas will one day come alive for me again.

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