For years, half of Christmas day was celebrated at my Nonna and Nonno’s with my aunty, uncle and cousins over a huge Italian feast. Forget the prawns! It was all slow cooked veal, rich napoletana sauces, homemade gnocchi and penne (until my mother introduced Nonna to the freezer – doh!), salads and fruit pastries, rockmelon sorbets and vienetta ice cream. What is it with Italians and vienetta ice cream???!
Like all Nonna’s, mine would never sit down because she was too busy force feeding everyone seconds and thirds. After filling up to full capacity with food and laughter, we’d roll out onto the balcony of their red brick two storey house, proudly designed to remind the whole of Regents Park what 70’s Calabrese architecture looks like. We’d reminisce over the years before as we took in the view of Nonno’s monstrous veggie garden and wine sheds. If I was lucky, Nonno would sneak me a glass of his homemade brew, which could probably fuel a 747.
Celebration for most of my life was about presents, hanging with relo’s, tonnes of food and later on in life, a shit load of alcohol. Due to the religious messages lost in translation, my family weren’t practicing Catholics and the origins of Christmas and Easter were therefore glazed over.
But as of the last couple years, the act of celebration has taken on a new meaning for me. Spending time lost in the dark showed me how accountable we are for our own emotions. It showed me how courage, confidence, humour, gratitude, presence, whatever it is that makes for a happy and fulfilling life, need to be cultivated. If you are like me, you were extremely lucky enough to come from a family that instilled those qualities in you. But if they’re not purposely preserved, life’s challenges will surely eat them up – I thought those traits were invincibly “me”. Damn I was wrong.
Neuroplasticity says that “nerve cells that fire together, wire together”. Buried by anxiety, this quote gave me light. It said to me, “You can cultivate any quality you want, all it takes is practice”. This also meant that I wasn’t stuck living with the irrational emergency brake on forever. However, if Neuroplasticity states that we can lay new pathways based on how we habitually walk through our day, this also means it can work against us if we aren’t self aware.
It’s so easy to be focused on our goals and smashing through the weeks worth of “to-dos”. I’d spent enough time focusing on the future, over-achieving, “nexting”, anticipating, reacting and worrying, that those traits became a part of my personality. They became reflex thoughts and emotions. I had laid new pathways without even realising, solely because I wasn’t aware of my daily actions nor did I take the time to look at the big picture. It was a lack of education really.
I shouldn’t have been surprised when fear took over (since it’s an anticipatory state of mind), and relaxed, carefree, present socialising became strangely difficult. Every moment felt like the hour before stage time – it was totally the opposite of the person I’ve been my whole life.
Times of celebration for me are now like little anchor points. They’re opportunities to strengthen the qualities that I want in the forefront of daily life. Hell yeah, I’m still a proud giver and receiver of materialistic goods, and it’s definitely a time to get shit faced on food and booze, but given my intentions of late, I seem to be getting more shit faced on the smaller things. The conversations with the people I love dearly and really soaking up and appreciating feelings of belonging. Now, the food explodes in my mouth when I’m not focused on tomorrow, when I’m pushing aside aspirations, plans, goals and living the day thinking, “I’ve got all I need right here. I have enough at this moment. I don’t need to do anything else.” Times of celebration are opportunities to give yourself and those around you big pats on the back. And for me personally, a useful one is embracing a powerful mantra ”Ehhhh fuck it. I’ll deal with it another day!”
At first it was difficult, the mind always shoots for whatever is the most stimulating. It’s defence mechanism is boredom. A wise friend once quoted- “Enlightenment is actually quite boring as there is an absence of drama”. And this is what rendered me insensitive to the simple things. The secret is in riding out the boredom. Boredom is a natural state when transitioning from “nexting” mode. But like anything under the light of curious acceptance, it dissolves. What’s left is magical
Massive Christmas and New Year hugs! Guys, I can’t thank you enough for being a part of this creation. It’s been a fantastic addition to my week. You are all another anchor point where I get to listen, absorb, learn and re-fuel. I struggled running social media for my previous band Nat Col & the Kings because of the content limitations that come with being a collaboration. But here, I get to just be me, as I am.
I hope you guys are having a great festive season. Love yas!