Family

Deborah Hill Cone's lazy girl's guide to surviving Christmas

Christmas is a really hard time for people who have what is known as “a fragile process.”

By Deborah Hill Cone
There is one sort of person who knows when their GST is due, and another sort of person who can immediately name their spirit animal. (A sloth, if you're asking.)
There are the sort of people who possess Vulcan chess mastery and the sort of people who have a knack of creating driftwood sculptures. Not judging.
Then there are those practical go-getting type people, who find the external world, with all its chores and details and practical considerations their natural milieu. They can manipulate the complicated aspects of daily life like a haz-mat technician handling plutonium. Vogue editor Anna Wintour, when asked what her greatest skill was replied: "Decisiveness."
Spoiler: I'm in the other lot.
That is, the ditherers and dreamers, who find even getting the washing done and deciding what to cook for dinner a bit too demanding. I zone out so much sometimes it's hard to fathom how I've managed to get this far through my life in one piece.
I've made a sort of peace with this.
I'm just really, really bad at navigating life's pointless daily tasks. I was awake in the middle of the night the other night and feeling clenched with a primitive dread and then I realised I was stressing because I had some overdue library books. And at this time of year with Christmas and all that stupid pressure to try to make your life like the movie Love Actually, it's even worse than usual.
Christmas is a really hard time for people who have what is known as "a fragile process." Those of us with a fragile style of processing tend to experience core issues at very high or low levels of intensity. We tend to have difficulty starting and stopping experiences that are personally significant or emotionally connected (Hint: family gatherings are both.) We either connect too strongly or are not able to connect, and can be easily overwhelmed.
See, living in the real world is hard. If you're like me, you need help. Here are some of my top tips. (Other than watching Love Actually again and realising it is Batshit Crazy, Actually.)

One

May I share the best five words of advice ever. 'One. Thing. At. A. Time.' That's it. When you feel overwhelmed just do one thing at a time. Everything just gets easier every time you tell yourself that.

Two

Before you do anything else, take responsibility for your own comfort. Attend to that first. Audit your body state, your posture, your breath. You need to feel safe before you can do anything. Maybe we all still desire to be looked after like a baby. Do you need some good food? Do you need a warm jersey? Create a quiet, warm and welcoming place to return to.

Three

Just notice. A little bit of repair happens just in you noticing what is happening in the here and now. "What happened there?"
Try to do it with compassionate curiosity. And whatever you notice, cut yourself some slack. Be slightly biased to letting yourself off the hook when given a choice. I found this written in my journal: "You can have a smaller party."
I was going to have a big party and ended up just having lunch with all my favourite women.

Four

Routines can help. Maybe reduce decision-making by wearing and eating the same thing every day. Pay attention more to process than to content. I'm going to write 500 words, whether they are good or not.

Five

Remember done is better than perfect. Life can't always be marvellous. Sometimes you can feel bad but still be okay with that, and make peace with what is. I try to look for 'collateral beauty', the good stuff in the middle of the bad.

Six

Create laughably small goals. The famous producer Rick Rubin when working with stuck songwriters used to ask them to do a small piece of homework that night. They were told to come back the next day with one word they liked for the song they needed to finish. Just one word.

Seven

Try not to feel the pressure to create 'a life', 'a personality', or a 'character'. Don't keep questioning: am I the sort of character that wears green sparkly nail polish or has a 'smash the patriarchy' bumper sticker or eats turmeric bread made of crushed crickets? Just try to be a human. That's all.

Eight

Don't be tyrannised by the imagined conception of what is expected of you, what you believe you ought to think, how you ought to look, what you ought to do and who you ought to be. It doesn't matter if people approve of you. If you take negative feedback as a black or white judgement about your worth, you will give up every time you face adversity.

Nine

Tell yourself that it's okay to f* it up. Taking control gives you a sense of control and satisfaction instead of feeling powerless and helpless. But if you take control, you need to let yourself fail.

Ten

The little things are the big things. Because they are a reflection. How you do anything is how you do everything. Make your bed. Put the lids on pens. I did get around to taking my overdue library books back.

Eleven

Stop looking. You're not going to find an answer. There isn't one. The answer is not an escape from ordinary life, but a way of rendering ordinary life more magical. Happy ordinary, magical Christmas.