A personal view by David Trott
It’s often been said that once the world famous Bridgwater Carnival is over, the clubs and organisers immediately start working towards the following year’s fantastic event. Sometimes I feel Christmas is little like that. From late summer or early autumn we witness the shops hauling out their Christmas stock and we once again listen to a festive loop of music which encourages us to wish that it could be Christmas every day.
I don’t intend to drift into a Dickensian `Bah-Humbug` theme around the festering festive season, however there are aspects of Christmas that I have found unsettling and troubling in the past. Most of this disquiet revolved around perfectionism and the portrayal of the perfect family enjoying the perfect Christmas.
This image was often brought into our homes by advertisers on the TV where we saw a sort of annual competition by the major retailers to produce the most idealistic and romantic picture of the season. In these near epic productions we observed Mum and Dad in their Christmas togs providing lunch for their happy smiling children and the cheerful, clean and tidy grandparents. The magnificent meal was often prepared in an ultra modern kitchen the size of an aircraft hanger, where the happy couple stopped work occasionally for an adoring kiss under the mistletoe. These small screen Christmas offerings usually unfolded in a superior residence at the end of a chipping drive with manicured lawns, where a twelve stone Labrador ran free.
Those of us who work with clients who lean towards perfectionism will know the pitfalls of this pattern of thought, with the constant struggle to achieve and obtain the often unachievable and unobtainable. For example not being content with our efforts to lay the perfect lawn, paint the perfect picture or raise the perfect children can be at the root of many psychological issues and our work is often to address those hazy origins and the resulting negative thoughts. I’ve frequently worked with clients who needed to achieve perfection in everything they did and I well remember the breakthroughs when they realised that sometimes `good enough` is ok. Linked closely to this is the belief that those of us that have reasonable expectations of what we are able to achieve will often surpass those expectations and in doing so will improve our self esteem and as a result, our wellbeing. However, this view of things might flounder when we consider Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel ceiling, Leonardo da Vinci and the Mona Lisa and perhaps Antonio Canova and his Three Graces. Did they reach perfection with their work or were they just `good enough`?
So, what’s Christmas going to be like on the small screen this year? Well, already we are seeing advertisers acknowledging that it will be different because of the Covid-19 situation. I’m guessing images of glossy cocktail parties, families of forty-seven around a dining table and a million people in the fountain in Trafalgar Square at New Year will have to be consigned to the store cupboard for the moment, but how will that be for the perfectionists in our midst? There’s an old Somerset saying that states `Life is not all beer and skittles` and however rustic and bucolic that may sound, it does have some truth in it. Those of us that accept that life can be sometimes be flawed and unfair may well journey through the festive season slightly better than the perfectionists who are still trying and failing to achieve perfection in these strange and often distressing times. Less than perfect times were often examined musically by the early American blues players and more recently by Ralph McTel with his haunting `Streets of London`, Phil Collins with `Another day in paradise` and of course the Pogues with `Fairytale of New York`. So if Christmas this year isn’t perfect, could it be `good enough`? Let’s wait and see.
© 2020 David Trott - TAP Council member