the ideal relationship (jewellers, perfumers. Now think how half of all UK women feel who are single, having never married)
body beautiful (sports shops, health foods, the scary
witches ladies in Boots who try to make you buy potions serum)
family bliss (pretty much everywhere. We don’t, for example, see ads of happy singles chowing down on champers and opening the jewellery they quite rightly bought for themselves. Nor do we hear about the one in five UK women who will never have children).
unlimited diversions (Curry’s, HMV, etc. 4000 channels on home improvements)
inner peace (Body Shop, Lush and anywhere that blows your nostrils to smithereens. Not quite sure how Lavender brings the family together, but apparently so)
sartorial magnificence (TopShop. If you’re a size 6 and aren’t interested in staying warm)
comfort food (Our butcher took orders for 300 turkeys This Week. Meatageddon).
This is where I urge you not to buy into such shallow distractions and to focus instead on the Real Meaning of Christmas. Which I would do, were I not scared of being hit by the Hypocrisy Thunderbolt. After all, don’t we all buy into the wrong things? And don’t we all seek happiness in stuff?
I was moved recently by an article from the author Marian Keyes on exactly this issue. Listen to this:
“Despite being showered with blessings…I always felt…I suppose the best word is “afraid.” Afraid and unworthy, and ashamed that, despite all my good fortune when so many others were struggling, I still felt “wrong.”
So, to fix myself, I tried: nightly gratitude lists; craniosacral therapy; meditation; reiki; eating too much sugar; swearing off sugar completely; falling off the sugar wagon in spectacular fashion; and doing random acts of kindness…And when all else failed, I bought more shoes.
Seven years ago I moved onto the hard stuff…hypnotherapy (trying to retrieve lost memories)…acupuncture, chakra yoga. I spent a week in a holistic spa in California that swore it “changed lives.” But I was looking for spiritual fulfilment and they were more interested in making me lose weight…a personal development course (with funny breathing)…and the Hoffman Process…an intense, eight-day residential where you bury your old childhood and become “reborn.”…Part of the process is having a funeral for your old self…so at 7am on a rainy morning in a remote part of Wicklow, I lay on a black bin liner on wet grass outside…
Shortly after I finished it, I crashed into a nervous breakdown, where I was suicidal for the best part of two years…my life fell off a cliff: I couldn’t work, I couldn’t sleep, and there were endless days when I couldn’t even get out of bed…I had a couple of stays in a psychiatric hospital and countless combinations of anti-mad tablets. I consulted an angel-channeller, a lovely woman who had nothing but “fabulous” news…and a astrologer who delighted in telling me that my life had transitioned into a time of great disaster and that I should move to Peru.
It has taken a long time to recover my equilibrium, but in the past year something has changed – I’ve grasped that happiness is not the single “correct” emotion (but) simply one of countless states of mind I’ll feel in my lifetime…More important, I’m accepting that I’m always going to have a hole in my soul, that everyone has it to a greater or lesser extent. Sometimes the volume is turned up high and other times it’s quiet, but like having a stone in my shoe, it’s always there…I am simply a human being.”
Wondering whether or not to invite your friends to a carol service? Unsure if they want to (gently) hear about Jesus? This is why they need to hear. And we too need reminding. There’s a hunger in us all, that can’t be filled by a million diamonds; a hole is us that the perfect family or the most seductive scent cannot reach.
This is our hope and this is the hope of the world:
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (Matt 1:21)