Christmas Hygge

In my part of the world, way down at the foot of Africa, it has been unbearably hot. The afternoon thunderstorms that bring relief from the shimmering heat have been delayed. Since Christmas is a time of excess and little self control, it has been uncomfortable to gorge on deliciously rich food and do anything more taxing than melt into a chair and sip iced water.

The Christmas tree went up in the early hours of the morning and for a plastic tree it looked thirsty. The branches drooped under the weight of shiny baubles and the tinsel was disconsolate and sulky.

Five strands of Christmas lights required more adhesive materials than the hardware store stocked. The sticker pads melted every day and the lights ended up on the ground, dusty and twinkling feebly against the wattage of the sun.

A massive cooking effort, labouring over a hot stove and oven resulted in pools of sweat and no appetite for anything. The freezer worked overtime to keep up with ice cube demand and the swimming pool turned into a bath. But still we persevered with the Christmas spirit.

We have perspired our way through December, hopefully scanning the achingly blue sky for any sign of a cloud. Our hopes were burnt. Daily, Santa was asked for rain. Cooling, blessed, life giving rain.

There is nothing hygge about being so hot that your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth and your eyes burn. No amount of water can quench your thirst or cool you down. No relief came when dusk fell, the humidity rose and our heads throbbed. We were living in a pressure cooker, tempers were flaring like the fires in Alexandra and there was no end in sight.

We ran the gauntlet to the shops for last minute presents, food, decorations and other non essential items. We moaned and complained and fanned ourselves. And we spent money. We threw it at the shops, restaurants, bars and play centres. We couldn’t burn through it fast enough. We needed a distraction from the heat and a hot and bothered toddler.

Fever pitch.

When it felt as though our blood was boiling in our veins, we took a step back, wiped the sweat from our eyes and looked around at the monumental effort that goes into making Christmas bigger and better than the year before. We tuned out the adverts, the shows, the news and the billboards. We looked at each other and although we were hot and sticky we hugged each other hard and we held each other close. In my little family of three, we broke the fever and remembered what the holidays are really about. Family, friends, love and care. Respect, kindness, fun and delight in each new day. Time spent with the people we love is worth more than a million presents under the tree. Memories made and captured last longer than any toy. This will be the hottest Christmas we’ve had so far but it is also the summer my son learned to swim fearlessly.

The heat broke two days after Christmas. The clouds grew and swelled and the air changed. The winds threw up dust and cooled the earth and our skin. We lifted our heads, closed our eyes and breathed the thundering atmosphere deep into our lungs.

And then the rains came.

I miss the rains down in Africa – Toto




Hygge, Health and Happiness

This week I have been plagued by migraines.

There is very little room for hygge and happiness when your brain is trying to squish out of your ears and your vision is strobing. As much as I wanted to crawl into a dark hole, life had to go on. So I pushed through with the responsibilities that come with being an adult.

On day three of Camp Migraine I did what all responsible adults do in times of crisis, I phoned my mom.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, when the going gets tough the moms get called and they do their mom thing. Within minutes I was driven to a Chinese massage therapist who worked her magic on my aching body and head. Mom then took me back to her house and made me lunch, all whilst keeping up a running commentary of how much better I was looking and didn’t I need another cup of tea, glass of water or sandwich? Then I was instructed to book an appointment with an optometrist and to seriously look at my stress levels because I’m a mom too and if I’m unwell, then how can I do my mom thing? And while I’m at it, go and buy some new pillows with better neck support.

Why is it so hard to ask for help? Why do we hurt ourselves and make ourselves sick to keep up the facade of being superhuman? When did asking for help become a sign of weakness? I believe this is something we all need to consider because human beings need to be helped.

Whether you need a sympathetic ear, a hug or a vent session we should all be able to have someone to do that with. Celebrating successes on our own makes no sense. We throw parties for new jobs, promotions, birthdays, new babies, retirements, achievements and new loves. Why, then, do we suffer in silence through anxiety, sadness, pain or anger? Why are we hiding these feelings?

This week I had dinner with three accomplished, smart and funny women. The food was delicious, the wine plentiful and the company was marvellous. It took us three months to get around to seeing each other and have vowed to do it more often because everyone needs a break. Everyone needs a different perspective and everyone needs to feel safe and appreciated. Our Happy Club is brimming with wit, acceptance and love. There are four of us but there is always room for more.

Happy is as happy does.

Look after yourself, and each other.

Go ahead and cry. I’m here to be with you – Fred Rogers