I love the winter. Spaces that summer warmth fills with people, are emptied by North winds.
Faces and voices are muffled by scarves and hats. Expressions are muted.
People hide away in homes, or collect together in arranged huddles at Christmas markets and concerts. Groupings are pre-arranged and less organic. I’m less likely to fall into accidental socialising.
There is more structure as the weather pushes people into making arrangements, rather than wandering around in the hopes of bumping into someone to interact with.
The beaches are empty. I can wrap myself in layers of softness against the biting wind. I can be nothing more than eyes, and the whole world is open and clear.
Everything is warm darkness or cold light. Smells are spicey, not the cloying stickiness of summer sprays. Enjoying lights and textures becomes the norm, not an oddity.
I love buying presents. Shopping is itchy and painful, but planning how to make people smile makes me happy. I like to think of the patterns of the people I love, and to try to find things that will fit with them.
I hate to wait for the giving, but I love the anticipation. A portion of me is given over to thinking of what is to come. Tradition is just another word for routine. Christmas traditions give me permission to do the same things year on year.
A few years ago Christmas was a lot more stressful. We would go to others. The only way I could hide away was to volunteer to cook. It became a strange coincidence that I was always ill by Christmas evening. I would be exhausted, run down, my head would throb, I’d struggle to talk. All I wanted to do was lie down in a darkened room.
As I got closer to choosing to seek an autism diagnosis, I began to recognise the ways I was hurting myself. Rebuilding my traditions hasn’t meant cutting myself off from every discomfort. There’s joy in some of those too.
Tonight is the obligatory Christmas Concert. I will watch small people sing and dance and perform. I will feel proud. Both of their achievements and of mine. My heart will swell as they sing my favourite Welsh carol. The one I sing all year round, because I love its lilt.
I will nod and smile and hope no one tries to pull me into a conversation. I will quietly hope for a comedic interlude; Mary pausing to pick her nose, Jesus being held lovingly by the ankles, a wise man wandering in the wrong direction. I will sing all the way home with my car full of Christmas. As the clouds drizzle instead of snowing, and the traffic lights twinkle through the rain, I will feel a warmth of belonging. Maybe not everywhere, but here and now. And sometimes here and now is all that matters.