Every year around this time I have a sense of reliving an old story, like that movie Groundhog Day. The holidays are over and the mad dash to start the new year off “right” has begun. Have you taken down all your Christmas decorations yet? Have you put away all the toys and gifts that came into the house? Were you on your game enough to have donated or cleared out toys before the holidays so there would be space for said new toys? Did you soak up lots of rest and relaxation so you can hit the gym in force starting on January 2nd? Have you cleared out all of the holiday treats so that you can successfully stick to the New Year’s Resolutions you made? Blah, blah, blah…
Every holiday season looks a little bit different for us, a tradition that has been many years in the making. With divorced and remarried families on both sides, we usually celebrate a minimum of 4 Christmases, spread throughout December and early January (this year it was 6). Sometimes we travel, or my mom flies in, and those trips are dependent on several factors, not the least of which is what’s going on at work for Jerry (husband) or my mom. Sometimes we try to pull off one or two nights of a Phish New Year’s run. Before the kids and those pesky school vacation restrictions, we would often travel with the intention of avoiding the crowds (i.e. mid-December or into the first weeks of January). With Dylan in 2nd grade, this is the first year we attempted a trip in the throes of the busy Christmas travel season. Here’s what this holiday season looked like, by the numbers: The boys and I spent 8 days in Florida for Christmas (12/21-12/29) with 2 days at those typical Orlando attractions like Universal Studios and Downtown Disney; Jerry made a last-minute plan to cut his trip short due to work deadlines (changing your flights the week or two before Christmas isn’t stressful AT ALL–he traveled from 12/23-12/28); Cooper (4 1/2 year old) got on a plane to Orlando 90 minutes after being diagnosed with strep throat and a 102.7 fever; after a flight delay, the boys and I arrived home at 10pm on Monday 12/29 and Jerry & I proceeded to do “our” Christmas with the kids (Santa presents and presents from us); we went to a concert in Cambridge (Lake Street Dive) on 12/30; we hosted a New Year’s gathering/Phish concert viewing at our place, with 11 friends sleeping over (we thankfully had 2 friends come over early to help us clean the house and prep some food for that shindig–thanks Neil & Jenny!–and our dear friends brought food and drinks since we had been traveling); Jerry returned to work on 1/2; and we hosted 2 more family Christmas celebrations at our home on 1/3 and 1/4. The boys and I went back to work and school yesterday, 1/5. For some crazy reason, all I want to do is grab my cat and crawl back into bed to nap while Cooper watches Team Umizoomi on an endless loop.
I’d be lying if I said life wasn’t usually this crazy busy. Although our months and seasons unfold differently every year, one thing I know about myself is that I thrive on the busy, the new, and the exciting. That is, until I don’t. I’ve gotten better at recognizing the burnout before it hits, but it’s an area I still try to stay aware of and tuned into. I’ve been in a place where my body FORCED me to slow down, and I don’t want to get to that point again. Three months after we bought our house, having hosted an 85 person housewarming, a 32 competitor Mantathlon, and a fundraiser for my nephew who was fighting leukemia at the time, I contracted a terrible case of poison ivy, and was out of commission for almost 2 weeks. Poison ivy is an interesting thing, because it’s all about how your body reacts to this potential allergen/irritant–10 people could step in it and everyone will have a different sort of reaction. Some people won’t react at all, and some will need to check into the ER for steroids. I grew up in Plymouth, MA when it was RURAL (my parent’s got a farmer’s home loan for our house) and I’m sure I trekked through some poison ivy in my many childhood jaunts in the woods. At this particular stage of my life though, my body decided it had had ENOUGH and, when I finally checked myself into the ER a week into my ordeal (I had really good seats to see Bruce Springsteen at Foxboro Stadium that night, I had to do SOMETHING!!), I heard the nurse tell the doctor that he had “never seen anything like it.” Yeah. That’s not the sort of thing you want to overhear being said about your current condition by a medical professional!
Being who I am, I was determined to learn the lesson from that experience, lest I be destined to relive it (or something similarly unpleasant–I wanted to peel the skin off 1/3 of my body, I loathe to think what could be more unpleasant than that!). Summers in New England can be intense, and one of the things I loved about our 7 years in San Diego is that you don’t feel all this pressure to do ALL THE FUN THINGS in 3 months. We would celebrate Easter with a BBQ by Mission Bay, and I spent a few thrillingly different and peaceful Christmases hiking in Joshua Tree National Park or exploring the tide pools at Point Loma. When summer rolls around again, I have taken on the practice of scheduling some days “off” on the weekends–no plans will be made, unless they are with Jerry and the kids. Otherwise, before I know it, we’re booked through September 30th and school hasn’t even let out yet. It makes for a loooong summer, and the celebratory spirit of the gatherings gets lost in the work and tedium of being constantly on.
So, here we are, January 6th. I still have all of my Christmas decorations up (except for stockings, which traveled to Florida with us and so were put away when I miraculously managed to unpack my bags last Friday). I still have to put my luggage in the attic. I haven’t yet done a workout. I still have New Year’s cards to send out (I opted for those in lieu of holiday cards this year) and I still have calendars to make to fulfill on Christmas gift promises. Every day I intend to get my treadmill set up again, and…well, Jerry bought the family a Wii U over the weekend as a bonus gift for him hitting a really big bonus at work (hence the shortened vacation) and we’ve been putting in some “quality family time” playing the cool new 3-D games we have. The kids’ Christmas gifts are still in the living room (or the dining room, where they were relocated so people wouldn’t step on them on NYE) as their room needs a major overhaul before it can accommodate any more items. I need to clear out my garage bay before the snow really starts hitting (we moved some stuff in there in late September, to be dealt with later…), unless I want to take away the one thing that made last year’s winter somewhat bearable (not having to dig my car out to leave the house). Jerry’s busiest months are January, February and March, so although he just worked like a madman throughout all of December (he’s sort of amazing in his ability to turn it ON when necessary), he will be working overtime and putting in long days for the next few months. On top of all that, it’s about 16 degrees out right now and bitterly cold with the wind chill, and at the root we humans are just animals who want to hibernate when it’s like this…am I right?!
As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’m actually really excited for the new year. I’m taking on a Year of Radical Wellness for myself, and I knew that it would be something I would have to choose moment by moment, day by day, and that I would ease into. Beating myself up because I didn’t get to the gym on January 2nd would NOT fall under the umbrella of Radical Wellness. I’m planning to explore wellness in its many facets throughout the year, to see what it means to me. I’ve already made some changes and I can already tell they’re going to make a major difference in my life when added up over the course of 365 days. I’m giving up alcohol for 364 days this year. I toasted with sparkling limeade at midnight (after guzzling a glass of champagne at 11:50pm!). I know that I can’t authentically explore my highest form of wellness without really taking a long look at my relationship to alcohol. It’s the one thing that I pour into my body consistently and at ‘not-always-moderate’ levels that I know is toxic to me. So I’m taking it off the table, to see what that looks like and to choose what works for me in that area. I do plan to share a bottle of wine with Jerry on our 10 year wedding anniversary, which, interestingly enough, is almost exactly halfway through the year (May 29, 2015). We bought a bottle on our 5 year wedding anniversary, and I’ve had a promise to share it with him for 4 1/2 years, which is longer than this promise to myself to not drink at all this year. I’m interested to see what that experience is like for me. And I know I will accomplish this year-long hiatus from alcohol by practicing one of the most well-known tenets of AA, One Day at a Time.
I was feeling overwhelmed this morning, like a deer in the headlights–so many things to do, what can I possibly choose that is the “right” thing–maybe I’ll just go back to bed instead. And I have some pretty damn good evidence to support me if I choose to do that. Cuz the last 2 weeks have been REALLY busy, even by my own standards. But then that Groundhog Day feeling came over me…and I felt like I had been here before…and I wanted to lock it down in writing so that next year when I see myself in the same place of Holiday Hangover transitioning into New Year’s Resolution Burnout, I can remember that I actually have the power to choose differently.
Cooper has patiently been watching Team Umizoomi on loop while I ignored him to write this. For all I know, he could be in Holiday Hangover as well. We have Tuesdays off together and he has been more than patient with me over the last few months as I often use some part of Tuesday mornings to get some thoughts down for my blog. We’re gonna go hang out and play some Wii (his request) as we both ease ourselves into 2015…we have 359 more days to create what there is to create this year!
I’m pretty sure Lady would climb into the heating vent if she had opposable thumbs and could pry it open.
The first snow of 2015 is falling on my cold and lonely still-decorated tree.