This morning I attended my son’s school Christmas production ‘Lights, Camel, Action!’
There were around one hundred kids and eighty or more parents and family members squidged into the little village school hall. The heat, the hubbub, the crying baby (It wasn’t Jesus). If you live with a chronic illness I can imagine you imagining this scenario. In come the tiny four year old angels for their amazing rendition of Twinkle Twinkle. Its quintessential Christmas… Something that can’t be bought or bottled. I didn’t come for that though, I came to see my son as a wise man doing a funky camel dance (whatever happened to the sanctity of the classic Nativity eh?)
I’d pushed myself hard to be there after tremors and restless legs kept me awake until sometime after two AM last night and I’d been out the Sunday afternoon before for my only social gathering of the season. This school event was important for me though as my son leaves first school at the end of this year, and my daughter already had her final Nativity two years ago. So it’s the end of an era, the last Nativity.
Through the various segments of line dancing by Nazareans and Ballet by angels we went, all being judged, ‘strictly style’ by an innkeeper’s wife, a cow and a donkey. One of the children held up a huge board encouraging the audience to cheer the acts, or boo the final judge, Caesar, for ordering a census. It was all wonderful and really enjoyable. The kids put so much effort in, especially Mary and Joseph who sang a duet together. Then came my son’s funky camel dance. I’d spent the previous twenty minutes feeling like I was crumpling inside. Do you ever have that experience of being detached from yourself, like you’re computing reality through a lens attached to a 1990s pentium processor? Or watching on a giant screen? Yet seeing this hilarious camel dance was so worth it. My son nailed it, especially the John Travolta dance fever move. The show moved on. More clapping, another baby behind me crying, the heat rising.
I had a decision to make. Do I endure the rest of this, including the raffle at the end, knowing that every minute in the place was exhausting me further or do I just get up and walk out? Thankfully I was close to the door. The next time the ‘cheer’ board went up, I made my move. Like a ninja with a walking stick, I kept my head low and dived for the door. Great, I was out of the hall. Next I had to leave the building and finally out of the gates. Thankfully I didn’t set any alarms off and before I knew it I was sat in the car. What made things worse was the fact that I’d totally not had breakfast before I left! I never functioned well without breakfast even before ME. It had been one of those mornings. My evacuation was complete though and I’m now back in bed.
Sometimes I have those weird moments where I wonder how it came to this, not being able to survive a school Nativity. Rather then feel down about it though, I feel really proud of myself, that I put my health above my pride. For me it took guts to walk out of a Nativity, but I saw my son as a rather unconventional wise man and for that I’m so pleased.
I feel like someone reading this needs to know, it’s Ok to walk out of something when you need, it’s OK to look a bit unusual, it’s OK to quit while you’re ahead, it’s OK to let go of other people’s expectations of you, it’s OK to let go of your own expectations of yourself.
Recently I went to a retail park discount shop but forgot my walking stick. They were selling plastic chairs for 6 quid at the entrance. I put one in the trolley and sat down on it three times around the shop and then at the queue for the tills. I would have felt so awkward doing something like that a year ago. I knew I was getting some funny looks but it was either that or risking my legs going to jelly or choosing to not even enter the shop once I realised I didn’t have my stick.
These oddities are all moments on the road to self acceptance and more effective management of ME.
If you need to leave a social event or family gathering early this Christmas, just do it. If you need to send apologies because you know if you do go the repercussions might last months, then please know, you have permission to not go. You have permission to do whatever you need to do to get through Christmas unscathed.
It’s OK to just leave.