One of my new year’s resolutions this year is to be happier with myself. I haven’t been particularly happy with my body’s shape for some time, so I joined a gym and today was my fitness assessment. Seeing the numbers written down simply confirmed what I knew already. I need to work on myself for a little while.
So for me, this is almost like the new year a couple of days early. I’m going to go to a class in the morning and have a personal training session on Tuesday. Scheduling in gym time will be a challenge for me because of the myriad other claims on my time and an ever so slightly manic work timetable, but I am determined.
All the jobs are done, our house looks festive and we’re completely organised for hosting our guests tomorrow. It’s probably been the most stress free Christmas Eve for us ever. We’ll be going to lunch shortly and then coming home to a clean, tidy and organised home, to drink our coffee and read the Saturday newspaper. I love this day, almost as much as the big day. One thing I like doing is rereading the Christmassy bits of some of favourite books. This year, Jo of the Chalet School’s Christmas in Innsbruck will be on heavy rotation.
…of all the things I need to get done this week. There’s nothing like an immovable deadline to help you get stuff done. One of the reasons I love Christmas is that I get many more jobs that have been long-fingered done in the few days before the 25th than during the same amount of time at almost any other period in the year.
This week’s jobs on the list include The Big Food Shop, The Last Minute Gift Buying For Himself, The Run Around The Shops For Some Extra Food and general Getting Shit Done Around The House, including, but not limited to, Not Having A Huge Laundry Backlog and Making Sure Everywhere Is Generally Presentable.
I especially enjoy the post-Christmas period. As much as I adore putting up the tree and decorations, I equally love taking down everything and starting the new year in a clean house, ready for the time ahead. This year I’ll be especially glad to see the back of 2016, for reasons that hardly need to be stated.
I love to sing and I’m in a workplace choir. Our concerts have included The Annual Retirement Shindig, The Annual Coffee Morning Fundraiser and The Annual Christmas Spreading of the Joy. I have on occasion had moments of ethical crisis, as our repertoire comprises many religious songs, but I’ve managed to square that circle with myself as I do love a big old Christmas rendition of Joy to the World.
We’ve sang more than usual this year and I like it. I like the communal singing and the camaraderie and the enthusiasm of an uncritical audience who love an injection of a bit of Christmas spirit into their workday. Our last gig of the year will be The Annual Other Place That’s Slightly Connected To Us Morning Singalong. I can’t wait.
I was a really religious child. This was probably in fairly large part due to the fact that I went to a school that was Catholic in nature and which prepared us for the sacraments during the school day. I was very much into the whole thing and I still remember the small set of books about bible stories I read with great gusto when I was eight. I was in the church choir and was one of the first female alter servers in our local parish.
Despite also attending a religious second level school, I think I started questioning what the bloody hell this Catholic thing was all about the day when I was 13 and a priest who had come to have a chat with our class told us in a very serious voice that using contraception was a very serious sin because nothing should come between men and women during the act of sex. There isn’t enough time, nor do I have the inclination, to get into the number of weird and wonderful questions arising from that statement.
It was really only after I left college that I was confident enough in myself to admit that I didn’t believe in God, or a god, or that there is ‘something’ out there or that I was spiritual but not religious. When I met my now husband, his lack of religious belief was one of the reasons I knew we were right for each other. When planning our wedding we did so without having to trouble ourselves about religion. Other aspects of our lives can be a little more complicated due to having to ask why there’s no ‘no religion’ option on a form and patiently explaining that ‘atheist’ isn’t in fact a religion.
Do I miss it? I won’t lie, sometimes I do. I sing in a choir and we recently sang during a Catholic mass and looking on from a more detached standpoint I can appreciate why people find comfort in the words and rituals they’ve been a part of for many years. I can see why it would be a comfort to believe that you’ll see loved ones once again and that this life is a temporary state, while the next is infinitely better. I do feel a pang sometimes when I listen to religious music (right now the Mormon tabernacle choir is on heavy rotation in my car’s CD player) and think about how beautiful it can be.
What I don’t miss is the guilt. The worry about my lack of self control. The feeling that I won’t ever be good enough. I still have these feelings occasionally – I guess I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t – but now they’re motivators for self improvement through productive means, not feelings that should be pushed away and ignored until they can be released in a confessional or at a church service.
Around this time four years ago I and my husband of several months marched in favour of repeal of the eighth amendment after the death of Savita. I hadn’t been on a protest march before and to my shame I’d rolled my eyes at the various marches I’d seen promoted in college during my time there. Protesting seemed to be for people with way too much time on their hands.
Now I wonder why I was so blasé for so long. Why I didn’t know how dangerous the eighth amendment was. Why I never thought it would be the thing that would get me out of my privileged white middle class comfort zone and onto a march with people of all backgrounds. Why do many people still not entirely appreciate what impact this appalling constitutional provision has on all women and the ripples it spreads throughout the lives of everyone?
Part of me thinks it is because we don’t know how this impacts on us until the carpet is lifted a bit and we’re forced to look at what’s rotten beneath. Like when a grieving husband is on international television explaining that his miscarrying wife was forced to remain in pain because of a collective madness that gripped the religious right back in 1983. Of course Savita could never have known when she got on a plane to come to Ireland to work that something pushed through in the midst of a politically unstable time by a church and its followers of a faith she didn’t practice could cause her death.
I was thinking about when I got married and what I thought about the future. I am fairly confident the eighth amendment wasn’t something I thought would affect me or what would get me on a march. Now I know better. And because I know better, I do better. I wear my REPEAL sweatshirt and badges to Ikea because I want to send out the message that a protest movement isn’t just for students with too much time on their hands. I’m vocal about why I’m in favour of repeal and I don’t sugarcoat what it means for me, as a woman of 35 in Ireland, when the issue comes up in places as varied as my nail salon to work lunches and everywhere in between.
Repeal, is, actually, what I want for Christmas. Because choice should be available at any time. And because no family should have to spend Christmas wondering whether their daughter, mother and partner can be offered dignity in death rather than remaining on life support as a rotting corpse. That happened two years ago. I don’t want to be this year’s letter in the newspaper, actually.