It is the most beautiful time of the year, or at least this is how I feel. I remember when we were young my mom put up the Christmas tree and decorations on 8th December for the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, and this was when the road to Christmas and New Year’s Eve started.
You know how it is: you stagger in from a glorious holiday having been reunited with family at last. After 7 hours on the road on a journey which should have taken 4, you are hungry, desperate for a cup of tea and weighed down by a pile of washing that threatens to erupt from the suitcase. All you want is to collapse under the duvet and sort it all out tomorrow.
This year we got back to a kitchen that was a building site – the only functioning things were the kettle and the cooker – no sink, no hob, no fridge, no washing machine (eeek!!!) and the contents of the kitchen stacked up in boxes in the dining-room. Could I find where I had put things??? Of course not. Why is it some people can remember exactly where they put things (my husband – unless it’s his comb) and others can’t (me)?
Meals take so long when you have to hunt for things. You end up eating your breakfast (if you can find it) out of an old yoghurt pot. For many days I was washing up in the bath – not recommended for those with dodgy backs. There are various aggravations: not being able to access the room in which I spend a lot of my day; the need to clamber round ladders, paint pots, dust sheets and all manner of building paraphernalia every time the dog needs a piddle. I could not ask for a nicer builder, but his constant presence from the cheerful ‘hello’ at an hour of the morning when I am not presentable, to the afternoon’s equally cheerful, ‘see you tomorrow’ is wearing. Sometimes I just need space to think, swear, sing, talk to myself, overdose on chocolate without being observed.
We thought it was an excellent idea when our builder suggested he started the long-overdue work on our kitchen while we were away – and it was sensible advice. Never having had a new kitchen before, we had just naively expected less chaos and more progress when we got back. The disruption has continued for weeks, and I’ve got teeth-grindingly, self-pityingly stressed – while feeling pretty guilty about it. I know I am really lucky to be having a new kitchen at all – but I still get stressed. The kindness of friends offering help, people turning up at the door with meals and offering me the use of their washing machine, has been amazing and I am so grateful….but still stressed!
Then in our church service we heard from brothers and sisters in Uganda. The country has gone back into Covid lockdown with catastrophic consequences. People who live from hand to mouth unable to work and support their families are going hungry. Widows, street children, who have nothing, and no one to care for them, are in danger of starvation. Their situation is truly desperate. And this is happening now, today, when I am moaning about washing up in the bath.
That put things in perspective for me. I am utterly ashamed. How dare I complain when they, quite literally, face the prospect of losing their lives? For all the temporary stress, I have so much. I may not have a properly functioning kitchen, but I am not going hungry. So, I am determined to turn my back on grumbling; to lower my expectations of what I can do, while there is disruption at home, so as not to add to my stress; to be exceedingly grateful for the huge amount I have – not least the kind friends who care and share with me — and a beautiful new kitchen to look forward to…even if it is taking a while.