All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Eleven memories of Christmastide throughout my life

Christmastide

The Christmas Festivities (from Christmastide by W. Sandys)

1. There was definitely a reindeer in the house! (Christmas Day, 1985)

My earliest Christmas memory occurred in 1985 when, after running downstairs to tear open our presents, my siblings and I discovered a reindeer hoof-print on the living-room carpet. We were adamant that this proved Santa was not only real, but had ridden his sleigh through our front room.

Of course, the reality was our parents had decided to draw this hoof-print on the carpet in order to keep the magic of Christmas alive in their little darlings for another year. Or did they?

2. The punishment cushion (Somewhere between Christmas and New Year, 1986[?])

I’ll admit that as memories go, this one is rather random. I’ll also admit that I’m not entirely sure of the date, but am adamant that it occurred sometime in the days between Christmas and New Year.

It was one during one of those post-Christmas Day lunches that was made up of a metric ton of cold meat, boiled potatoes, salad and (the ubiquitous) Brussel Sprouts. Feeling somewhat frustrated and annoyed I was acting up; flicking food over the table, stomping my feet and generally being an annoying little devil. Although I had been told to behave on several occasions, nothing had worked, so, after a potato had splatted against a wall my parents had had enough. Informing me that I’d get a smacked bottom if my behavior continued in this manner I did what any child would have done – pushed them even further!

This caused my mother to rise sternly and move around the table. I found my feet and made a bolt for the living room door, only to have her grab the back of my trackie-dacks and pull me face down onto the floor. Expecting her to soundly smack my rather vulnerable backside I panicked; only to become immensely relieved when she pulled a cushion over my butt before smacking that.

As punishments go, it could have been worse!

3. Starter for Ten (Boxing Day, 1992)

Back when I was but a cherub-faced teenager, various members of the Lake family used to gather in the one location on Boxing Day. At its peak, these annual days of celebration would draw nearly twenty people vying for attention, gastronomic delights and entertainment. In order to oblige the latter, we would often dip into the board game collection, cramming around the table for epic games of Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit or Sorry.

After a couple of these family based funfests, I decided to up-the-anti and began concocting elaborate quizzes (usually film and television based) in order to test the knowledge of my respective family members and prove how utterly awesome I was when it came to the field of film and television.

The questions generally ranged from quite difficult to utterly impossible and very few people ever scored more than half a dozen from the fifty odd questions posed to them. But it was always a joy to create and chair those quizzes.

In fact, in these days of lonely, isolated Christmases, it is those quizzes that I miss the most.

4. Sausage, Egg and Chips (2 January 1991[?])

This is one of those stories that will no doubt be passed down from generation to generation within the Lake family.

Various members of the Lake family had gathered at a five-star restaurant to celebrate the birthday of my Aunt. The food, as you would expect from such an esteemed establishment, was all top of the range ingredients and intricately prepared dishes. But I didn’t like the sound of any of them. I’ve never been one for veal, I’ve never been a big fan of lamb and the descriptions of the items – which came with more adjectives than any menu should have – did nothing to entice me into eating any of it.

Getting a bit grouchy, my father asked me what I wanted, so I answered with what was at the time my favourite dish; sausage, egg and chips. Hearing my request, the birthday woman summoned one of the service staff, who scooted off to the kitchen to inform the chef. Shortly after, as everyone else was being brought extravagant gastronomic creations, I was brought a plate of sausage, egg and chips; with the eggs being served fresh to my plate via silver-service.

This was the only time I ever made a personal request at a restaurant and, I fear, my anxiety will prevent me from making any further random requests in the future. But, believe me, did I feel special that night!

sausageeggchips

“I was brought a plate of sausage, egg and chips; with the eggs served fresh to my plate via silver-service.”

5. Meadhbh has her way (Christmas Day, 1995)

For as long as I can remember, Meadhbh has encouraged me to wear women’s clothing. In her opinion it’s more exciting, more colourful and more adventurous than the stale, boring and uninspiring options available for men. In fact, if Meadhbh had her way, women’s clothing would be the only thing I’d wear.

Generally, I’m strong enough to withstand her constant badgering, but there have been occasions through my life when, weakened by depression, I’m unable to. One such occasion occurred when I was a teenager, when Meadhbh decided that I should be wearing a purple polka-dot skirt, white blouse and make-up to celebrate Christmas with my family.

She thought I looked stunningly good, my family (and I) however, didn’t.

6. Silent Night (New Year’s Eve, 2000)

To say I’ve never really celebrated New Year would be an understatement. It’s one of those contemporary traditions that I’ve never quite understood. We don’t celebrate the end of a month, or the end of a day, so why do we feel the need to crack open the champagne and cheer on the change of a calendar’s digit at the end of a year? As such, my New Years are generally quiet and laid back affairs, often spent chilling in front of the television or conversing with (when I had them) friends and girlfriends.

Of all the New Years I’ve celebrated, the one that is most memorable is steeped in silence. When it came to mark the 1999/2000 New Year I was living in a backpacker hostel in Inverness. Although alcohol was a large component of that period, there was little of it drunk that night, instead four of us sat on a wall in the back garden of the hostel, silently watching the fireworks ignite the Scottish sky above.

One of the most peaceful (and memorable) moments of my life.

7. Losing my virginity (1 January 2001)

Some people I’ve spoken to would rather not remember the time they lost their virginity. But for me it’s one of the happiest moments of my life, for I lost my virginity at the beginning of the new millennium, on my favourite Scottish island, to someone I had genuine feelings for.

An unequivocally blissful moment of my life.

8. Happy Feet (Christmas Day, 2006)

This was, in retrospect, my last ‘happy’ Christmas. For the first time in eight years – courtesy of traveling and emigration – I was able to spend the day with my family. Although my parents wanted to spend Christmas on the beach – as many travellers from the UK want to do – the truly appalling weather that battered Melbourne that year meant we were forced to alter our plans. Instead of the beach, we spent the day meandering around Crown casino; opening presents, playing the pokies and eating dirt-cheap fish ‘n’ chips.

Once the limited appeal of poker machines had faded we decided to head upstairs to catch a movie and, after much deliberation, decided upon the newly released animated classic ‘Happy Feet’. Although I fell asleep half way through the film – courtesy of soon-to-be-diagnosed Glandular Fever – the positive memories of the movie, and the entire day, have never faded from my mind. For, unlike all other Christmases that I’ve spent in Australia, this one actually saw me happy for the majority of the day.

happyfeet

“For, unlike all other Christmases that I’ve spent in Australia, this one actually saw me happy for the majority of the day.”

9. Who wants a relaxing Christmas (Christmas Day, 2006)

Unfortunately, the happiness that overwhelmed me on Christmas Day 2006 (see item [8] above) could not last. Within an hour of leaving the cinema and bidding farewell to my parents, I had a conversation with my then girlfriend; the girlfriend who would soon become known as ‘the abusive one’.

Within twenty minutes of talking to her she had criticized what I had done throughout the day (which wasn’t as adventurous as she wanted me to be), pointed out how I wasn’t making enough effort to wish my friends happy Christmas (even though I’d wished as many as I was able a happy Christmas) and attacked me for how I’d worded a Christmas e-card greeting I’d sent her earlier that day (she took offense to my use of the word ‘relaxing’).

By the end of the conversation, all sense of happiness and Christmas joy had dissipated, replaced with an overwhelming frustration and deep sense of worthlessness.

10. The worst Christmas present I ever received (Christmas Day, 2008)

It is only in recent years that I have become a staunch anti-Christmas Grinch. Many moons ago, I was the first person to hang tinsel from the walls, throw a tree into the corner of the room and annoy everyone and their dog by loudly singing Christmas tunes at all hours of the day and night. But all that changed when my girlfriend gave me the worst Christmas present I’ve ever received; a present that, no matter what I do, haunts my Christmas Days from beginning to end.

In 2008 I was living in Alice Springs. I had a job, I had a girlfriend and I was – aside from the depressive episode I’d slipped into – coping relatively well. In the lead up to Christmas we’d decorated my unit with a tree, hung sparkly decorations and planned for the best Christmas we could possibly muster.

The only problem was I hadn’t realised that my girlfriend’s idea of ‘best Christmas’ entailed sleeping with one of our friends. Now, for those of you who’ve never had someone cheat on you, be very, very thankful – for it hurts like an absolute bitch! There I was, cooking the roast for the two of us to chow down on that night, and there she was, rollicking and rolling around in bed with our friend.

But to be honest, that wasn’t the worst of it. What hurt even more was that when she finally returned home she decided that it was my job to fix her broken heart because she felt like she’d been “used” by our friend. Given the practice I’d put in during my prior abusive relationship, I dutifully slipped into appeasement mode, doing everything I could to cheer her up and ensure her day ended on a high. All the while feeling like my very heart had been torn from my body, thrown into a gutter and carried off by a rabid pack of dingoes!

I’ve hated Christmas ever since.

11. A Homeless Christmas (Christmas Day, 2011)

There are few things in life as depressing and lonely as a homeless Christmas. Not only do you not have anyone to spend the day with, you don’t even have a home to hide away in. Instead, you roam the streets like an unloved hobo wishing upon whatever you believe in that the day would just disappear.

My last homeless Christmas was spent enjoying a Christmas dinner cooked by a local charitable organisation before relishing in the quiet desolation offered by the local cemetery.

However much I hate Christmas now, I am eternally grateful that I have a home in which to seek solace throughout the big day, for this, and the other Christmases I spent homeless, showed me what real loneliness feels like. And trust me; you don’t want to experience it. Ever!

~◊~

Previous installments of the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Day One | Day Two | Day Three |
| Day Four | Day Five | Day Six |
| Day Seven | Day Eight | Day Nine |
| Day Ten |

~◊~

Other wonderful bloggers participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Marci, Mental Health and More | Many of Us |
| Looking for Lucy |

If I’ve missed you from the above list, please let me know in the comments field below and I’ll add you as soon as humanly possibly so everyone can read your magnificent responses! :)


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The Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge

We all know the song, especially the undeniably contagious “Five gold rings!” line, but how many people know that the Twelve Days of Christmas are also known as Christmastide (or Twelvetide) and begin on Christmas Day, not (as the commercial calendar would have you believe) on the 14th December?

The Twelve Days of Christmas are celebrated in different fashions the world over. In Eastern Christianity, the Great Feast of Theophany (Epiphany) on 6 January is considered a higher-ranked feast than the Nativity (Christmas), and commemorates the Baptism of Jesus rather than the arrival of the Magi. Whereas in Western Christianity, each day following Christmas Day is a feast in memory of a Saint or event associated with the Christmas season.

In contemporary times, many in the UK still celebrate aspects of the Twelve Days of Christmas, whereas in the US, the traditions have been largely forgotten, replaced by more secular traditions and the ever-popular New Years Eve celebrations.

To celebrate this auspicious time, I’ve decided to begin something which I hope will become an annual tradition; the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge! A challenge that will see reflections on the year just gone and anticipations of the (no doubt) glorious year ahead!

This year marks the inaugural appearance of this challenge and it will commence on the 25th December. As with all blog challenges, it would be magnificent if other people played along (unless you’re all too busy munching on mince pies) so feel free to do so at your leisure! :)

The prompts, should you wish to play along, are outlined below and can be interpreted however you wish:

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The Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge

Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge_Large

Day 01 – 25th December – 1 Thing you got for Christmas
It might be something you got this year, last year or perhaps a favourite present from Christmases past!

Day 02 – 26th December – 2 Foods you can’t get through Christmas without
Are you a stickler for a traditional roast or do you favour a more eclectic array of food?

Day 03 – 27th December – 3 Favourite songs of 2013
I don’t know the actual figures but surely there have been tens of thousands of songs released over the last twelve months…so picking a mere three of them should be pretty simple. Or at least you’d think it would be!

Day 04 – 28th December – 4 Favourite movies (or TV Shows) of 2013
Are you a Game of Thrones fiend or an Iron Man aficionado? Now’s the time to share your pick of the entertainment industry’s output of the last twelve months.

Day 05 – 29th December – 5 Life lessons you learnt in 2013
Whether we realise it or not, we all learn something new every single day of our lives. So what have you learned in the year just gone?

Day 06 – 30th December – 6 Regrets from 2013
Today’s prompt is not about looking back with negativity, it is about identifying where we went wrong so we can take a more positive route in the future.

Day 07 – 31st December – 7 Wonderful things that happened in 2013
How many awesome things happened to you during the last twelve months? Surely picking just seven should be a piece of cake! :)

Day 08 – 1st January – 8 Minutes to share your opinion on New Year’s Resolutions
Some people swear by New Year’s Resolutions, others think they’re somewhat pointless…you have eight minutes of writing to outline what your thoughts on this annual tradition may be. And if you do make resolutions, why not share them?

Day 09 – 2nd January – 9 Places you’d like to visit in 2014
Take a moment in this hectic period to forget about your credit card statement and financial situation. If money were no object – where would you like to visit during the oncoming year?

Day 10 – 3rd January – 10 Books you’d like to read in 2014
Maybe you’re itching to read an upcoming release or catch up on some literary classics, whatever books you’re looking forward to reading, why not share them so others can add them to their list of books to read next year?

Day 11 – 4th January – 11 Memories from Christmastide throughout your life
This time of year is often seen as one of reflection, so why not spend a few moments reflecting on your life so far and share eleven memories that occurred at some point during the various twelve days of Christmas you’ve lived through so far.

Day 12 – 5th January – 12 Goals for 2014
And for the finale, the biggie: what do you want to achieve throughout the year ahead?

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So there we have it, twelve (relatively) simple prompts to keep yourself (and others) entertained throughout the Christmas and New Year period. If you do decide to play along, please remember to link up via the comments field so I can keep people abreast of all the magnificent answers that are floating around in cyber-space.

I for one am looking forward to embarking on this challenge…probably more so than the big day itself!