The Quest for Compassion at Christmas Time.

Every month, I take part in a global blogging movement:  One Thousand Voices For Compassion. For almost a year now, we’ve been writing a post every month about some aspect of compassion which we’ve come together and shared. I know that for me, focusing on compassion every month and sharing these values with like-minded crusaders has truly expanded my horizons and my world. It’s been such an inspiration!

Here’s a link to the link-up:

So, here I am back again thinking about compassion. I haven’t watched the news for a few weeks so events beyond my own microcosm are something of a mystery but I know our world is in crisis on many, many fronts. However, I also know that there is much beauty and love in our world as well. As an optimist, I have to believe that ultimately goodness will triumph evil. That one person, even one little person like myself, can actually be a part of what makes a difference…especially when we come together… just like grains of sand joining to make a rock.

I have already contributed a post about visiting Sydney’s Lindt Cafe 12 months after the terrorist siege which shut down the Sydney CBD and resulted in three deaths. This was a very emotional moment for me, especially as I knew one of the hostages:

However, while it is important to be mindful of events making headlines around the world, so much flies under the radar and I feel that by addressing some of the smaller stuff, that we could indeed make inroads on some of the bigger issues.

After all my pre-Christmas trials and tribulations, I have been reminded yet again about the dangers of perfection. Moreover, in the context of Christmas,  how expectations of perfection can all too easily destroy the spiritual, social and fun aspects of Christmas turning it into a horrific ordeal where everything we truly hold dear could well go up in smoke. By the way, I’m not talking about your precious turkey or Christmas pud here but relationships. Love exploding into smithereens under the pressure as nothing or no one could ever possibly measure up to those unrealistic standards of perfection. After all, who really lives on the set of Vogue Living…especially if they have kids, pets and experience any sort of joie de vivre?

Even though I’m pretty laissez-faire about the house, even I’ve found myself getting caught up in this perfectionist trap this Christmas.

Let’s start off with the tree.


Our Christmas Tree

Even though our tree might look pretty slap-dash with it’s cluttered eclectic menagerie of mismatched ornaments and the poor angel precariously perched at the top looking like she about to jump off, a lot of thought went into that tree. The tree is fresh and was specially ordered in, as we didn’t want a big tree. We have way too many ornaments and so I went through the boxes with my daughter only picking out the best, the favourites and made a mental note to chuck out the broken ones. Cut back.


Christmas Stocking made 1982, aged 13. Close-up of my crappy needlework.

I know it’s not the done thing to hang your broken ornaments on your tree, especially pride of place. However, what are we supposed to do with broken people? Do we throw them out as well? I don’t think so, especially when you think this through a little further and realise we’re all imperfect or broken in some way.  This, of course means, that we’re either all in. Or, we’re all out!

Shortbread Christmas trees 2015

My not so perfect shortbread Christmas Trees.

Again, I was struck by the perils of perfection while baking shortbread Christmas Trees. While turning shortbread into shapes seemed like a good idea, it certainly wasn’t child’s play. Trying to extract the shortbread mixture from the cookie cutter involved surgical precision, especially when it came to removing the trunk intact. It even required a scalpel AKA butter knife. By the time I’d finished, no two trees were exactly the same. Yes, you could tell they’d been cut by the same cutter but there was also some other force at work. It’s called being handmade. Not something churned out by a factory where each and every detail is identical and any variation is either chucked out or sold off cheap as “Factory Seconds”!


Heart Teddy is missing an eye. Does that mean it’s officially broken and should be chucked out? I don’t think so!

That is also what it means to be human. Excluding identical twins, no two humans are exactly alike. There are themes and variations and just like my shortbread biscuits. We need to embrace everyone without expecting to see ourselves reflected in every mirror. Well, may be not embrace but at least accept. After all,  I’m not suggesting that you need to go hugging complete strangers to be compassionate.

Humanity needs diversity, a kaleidoscope….certainly not identical, factory-made clones.

However, accepting diversity doesn’t usually come easily. It requires compassion, empathy and, above all else, love. Not just towards others but also ourselves. If we can’t accept imperfection in ourselves how can we possibly hope to accept it in others? That said, for some of us we’re much more critical of ourselves than others. Then, our journey is more about learning to show compassion, love and acceptance to ourselves at least to the same degree that we shower it on others.

This all leads me to my greatest Achilles Heel…having the house neat and tidy for Christmas. Quite frankly, this just isn’t going to happen. All house is bursting at the seams. We’ve had to move and rearrange things to fit in the tree and a piano load of decorations. Moreover, we’ve had so much on, that we’ve only had time to dump and run, which does nothing for maintaining the house. Yet, we’ve performed in end of year concerts. I’ve been doing my blog. Made a Christmas cake, shortbread and I posted 35 Christmas cards today. Is a spotless house really going to bring any joy to anyone? I don’t know but fortunately, we’ll be having Christmas lunch at my aunt’s place. This, of course means, that the house can wait! As long as Santa can squeeze in, we’ll be happy!

Our home might be somewhat overstocked but at least it has a heart and there are far greater crimes about humanity than a bit of dog hair on the carpet!

After all, Baby Jesus was born in a very humble manger in a stable surrounded by barnyard animals and his first visitors were lowly shepherds. That is what we are really honouring at Christmas which is so, so far removed from our contemporary notions of the “perfect Christmas”.

Yet, I am who I am and I still feel like all my efforts have fallen painfully short. That nothing’s quite right. I don’t even know if I’ll manage to convey what I know matters most…love. Trying to show others you love them isn’t a perfect art. We all know how those efforts can backfire. I can only hope that the spirit of Christmas somehow fills in all the cracks, converting my best intentions into something which touches their hearts like a magic wand.

After all, isn’t that’s what’s truly important? To know you are loved and for others to know you love them?!!

heartman 24.6.2010

“Heartman” Drawn by Mister 2010 aged 6.

So, embracing the spirit of compassion this Christmas may we embrace each other and ourselves with love and acceptance just as we are…whatever that means!

If you would like to read more about compassion, here’s a link through to the link-up:

Our family wishes you and yours an Australian “Merry Christmas”. This is a greeting which covers most creeds and cultures here and largely refers to the man in the big red suit, some Christmas “cheer” and time off work, which could well be spent at the beach. This is how so many Australians unfortunately find themselves wearing patchy red birthday suits. More compassion required!

Love and Best Wishes,

Rowena, Geoff, Mister, Miss, Bilbo and Lady

PS: “Happy Holidays” is not a greeting used in Australia and so despite wanting to be culturally sensitive and all-embracing, I feel that I need to be true to where I’m from and what these words mean where I am. Merry Christmas is just like saying “G’day mate” and has lost much of its Christian heritage. I’m not too sure what I think of that either.



27 thoughts on “The Quest for Compassion at Christmas Time.

  1. TanGental

    I’m with Derick. Clean I get, tidy is a waste of writing time. Your points about acceptance are very much spot on Ro. Hope your Christmas isn’t overpoweringly hot. Love to you all from a moist and mildewy London.

  2. roweeee Post author

    Thanks very much, Derrick. There is always one person but I suspect they’ve hidden it all at the back of their cupboard. That was my strategy for cleaning my room up as a kid. Have a Merry Christmas! xx Rowena

  3. roweeee Post author

    Thank you very much, Solveig. I am getting there. That said, I think those days in between Christmas and New Year’s will bring that peace when we can just stop I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year as well! xx Rowena

  4. roweeee Post author

    I haven’t seen them so much but I have watched a few home lifestyle shows and considering their homes are TV sets, they’re always perfect. I do know some people who really it is all sorted but not many.

  5. roweeee Post author

    Thanks very much, Kathy. By the way, while calling my son to pick up his Nutella toast today, I’ve discovered that Bilbo now not only answers to Lady but is also quite happy to be Jonathon as well. He is off the prednisone now and not quite as famished but still on the prowl. When it comes to begging, he has no shame!

  6. roweeee Post author

    That’s okay, Geoff. I was going to say that I could almost make Derrick a couch out of cuckoo clock parts. A week ago I had two boxes of antique cuckoo clocks and clock hearts on our couch (in addition to the usual crap) Our next door neighbour used to be the local jeweler and watch repairer and he also restored old clocks. Recently, he went off to hospital in an ambulance and he moved into nursing home. Inevitably, the family came and cleared out his house and there was the big pile of stuff put out beside the road for council cleanup. I salvaged his clocks, which connect up with my German heritage but have further undermined efforts to swing a cat around the house. It would have to be a mouse. xx Ro

  7. roweeee Post author

    Thanks very much, Geoff. I agree wholeheartedly!!! The weather has actually cooled down considerably and is pleasantly overcast after a few days of heavy rain. We’re all most relieved. So like you, it’s moist but the parched earth is letting out a welcome sigh of relief! xx Rowena

  8. roweeee Post author

    I did find a YA novel called The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart which I’ll have to buy. I did suggest a Cuckoo Clock dance to my daughter’s dance teacher. I am also thinking about mounting the clock hearts in perspex framed boxes with some kind of time quote. It could look good in an office. A few of them are quite stunning with all their brass cogs.
    There is a story in the neighbour. When I saw him getting carted off in the ambulance, it reminded me of when I left with my father for my wedding in a Mark IV Jaguar convertible and the neighbours were out on the street waving and I waved all the way to the Church. Obviously, that was such a different send off to poor Stan who has terminal cancer but he must be well into his 80s and has had a good innings.

  9. herheadache

    I love that this last year I could be a part of 1000 Speak. I have enjoyed reading your posts each month.
    Christmas and perfection have gone together, but nobody has achieved it, even those who have tried their hardest. Impossible.
    I had a health scare in my family lately and so all I wanted was to be together with them. No other presents required.
    We in Canada have no snow for Christmas, and that makes me sad, but I know you are used to heat on Christmas. Maybe we here in Canada are on our way to joining you with that soon.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  10. roweeee Post author

    Thanks very much. Sorry to hear your had some rough times in your family this year. I know what you mean about simply appreciating having each other. It hasn’t been so hot this year but it’s humid today and I’m all sticky. We watched the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race leave the Sydney Heads. That’s an Australian Boxing Day tradition along with the cricket. The kids are with my parents and as much as I wanted to get on with writing, we’ve been on the run lately so I’ve been clearing away the mountains of paperwork. I’ve at least got to start the New Year out on my best foot even if it ends up falling off after a week or two.
    Like you, i’ve really loved being part of 1000Speak. It’s changed my life and extended my outlook in so many ways. I’ve really enjoyed your posts as well.
    Sorry, you didn’t get any snow this Christmas. Christmas is such a time of tradition and it’s hard to have those things messed around with, even if it does seem relatively trivial in the overall scheme of things. Take care and all the best for the New Year xx Rowena

  11. yvonne

    I hope your Christmas was perfectly imperfect!
    Thanks for being part of 1000 Voices this year and especially for joining in at this busy time!

  12. roweeee Post author

    You’re welcome, Yvonne and thank you very much for expanding my world so dramatically and giving me a vehicle for expressing my passion for compassion! Love and best wishes for the New Year xx Rowena

  13. treerabold

    Merry Christmas to you and your family Rowena!
    I think heartman and heart bear are both beautiful in their imperfections. So much like all of us.
    I like the idea of blogging about compassion. I will follow the link to learn more

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