Christmas 2020. I was dreading it. Perimenopause has made me rather unsociable and this unexpected symptom was casting quite a cloud over my usual festive planning.
The build up to the ‘Big Day’ is a busy time in our family, full of our own traditions and annual get-togethers. Not fake, perfect Instagram-ready parties … just lovely, relaxed, phone-free family fun.
I’m normally the life and soul of the party, happy to take my turn and sing with the kids on karaoke, play games and dance in the kitchen. But this year, for the first time ever, I just didn’t fancy it.
Instead, I was longing to spend the festive period curled up on the sofa in comfy clothes, a glass of good red wine in my hand, the dog releasing silent farts as he sleeps in front of the fire and the Christmas tree twinkling quietly in the corner.
Am I a bad person to feel overwhelming relief that COVID-19 restrictions have gifted me the Christmas I was longing for?
I don’t remember when the unsociable thing started. I’ve got quite a full-on job and hobby, both of which involve speaking to lots of people and attending lots of events. When it came to my down time, I was always pleased to have some time to myself, enjoying the peace and quiet.
But lately I’ve grown to enjoy it more, especially in the last year or two where other people just generally started to get on my nerves. At first, not having any other symptoms, or even being aware of perimenopause, I just put it down to being a bit older. Maybe I’d finally become a grown up and was just happy with my own company.
But then I was turning down nights out at the cinema with the husband. And if I was at a large event, I was happily sat on my own at a table with a large glass of wine and not having to make small talk.
I’m not concerned by this phase in my life at all. I’m actually really enjoying choosing who I spend my precious free time with. I know that some friends and family are talking about me behind my back, probably because I’m not running myself ragged organising all their fun – it’s hard work being the life and soul and I’ve had enough; I don’t want all the work and I don’t want all the bloody noise! None of them have cared enough to ask if I’m OK.
A perfect night for me these days is a nice meal, comfy clothes, something good on TV or a bubble bath, then an early night with a good book. If I can stay awake until 10pm I’m happy.
Apparently the way I’m feeling is all to do with falling oestrogen levels. My body is adjusting to the next phase in life. Many women I know in this stage of perimenopause have taken up new hobbies and interests. I was even laughing with a friend about her latest obsession until I realised I was doing it too!
Maybe this period is the perfect time to reinvent ourselves, get a new job or just get out and explore. Is Mother Nature telling us we don’t need to look after everyone else and instead we should get out there and do what makes us happy?
I guess I’m lucky because although I’m not keen on people at the moment, I’m perfectly happy with my life. My husband is well trained after 30 years, my dog is a little gem and I live in a nice house. I’ve got a garden, hobbies and friends of a similar age – they are fine with me not being in touch that often. We all understand each other and how we feel right now. There are no dramas here … nothing to see … move along.
Well that was until I realised I didn’t want my usual Christmas. The thought of all the usual planning, cooking, cleaning, entertaining and hosting was filling me with utter dread. I just didn’t want it this year.
I thoroughly enjoyed the isolation aspect of lockdown earlier this year – it gave me the solitude I craved with none of the guilt. I didn’t have to make excuses not to see people because COVID-19 took care of that for me. I even enjoy having to wear a mask because it means I don’t have to smile at people.
As COVID-19 cases started to rise again, along with talks of new restrictions and lockdowns, I began to realise that the usual Christmas gatherings were most certainly off the cards. Even if I had wanted to, I could not host the parties that we’d traditionally organise at our home.
Feeling no guilt at all, I have come up with a whole set of new plans. I’m quite excited about Christmas now. I’ve bought all the presents and I’ll be wrapping them beautifully like I always do. But this year I will not be running myself ragged, clearing up from a Christmas Eve party at 1am on Christmas Day, setting the house ready for Christmas dinner.
My house will still be covered, inside and out, with decorations and twinkling lights. My Christmas tree will be groaning under all the baubles. And me? I’m going to be sat with my feet up in front of the fire. I’ll be watching all the programmes I normally have to see on catch-up services, sipping pink champagne and eating Christmas nibbles that I won’t have to share and loving every minute!