Christmas, by far, is the most manic of the holidays. In a strange sort of bipolar roller coaster – of stress and gluttony, joy and relatives, wrapping and unwrapping – we crawl up and careen down. There is expectation and surprise, giving and receiving, the approaching New Year’s resolutions.
But for now, there is Mom’s homemade Apple Fritters and the resulting food baby.
By noon, I’m typically ready for a nap and an appointment with a therapist. Instead, I usually find room for another fritter and start cleaning up wrapping paper with more than a little guilt about my blatant consumerism and how many trees died in the making of this holiday (including the one standing in my living room, although carefully harvested from my own property).
My hope is to always create a soft landing and not come screeching to a halt with a hangover and a list of painful do’s and don’ts in the New Year. Next year is the year I become a morning person, for example. It cannot be less comfortable than the year I binged on a pound of fudge and margaritas before going off sugar, alcohol and caffeine.
In a short list of most-awful-things-I-have- ever-felt, we’ll find “that time I was crushed under a boulder” and “Jan. 1-4, 2015” at the top. That may have also been the year I resolved to stop making resolutions. Now I call it “New Year Intentions,” and feel far less like a failure when I have to adjust them by about Feb. 3.
Year after year, between Christmas and a fresh calendar, I find only one thing helps keep me sane and sooth the impact of a return to real life: going outside. That, and color-coding my planner with gym dedications six months in advance.
Going outside, in large or small doses, seems to serve as both an escape from drunken cousins and a literal breath of fresh air. It gives me time and space for the calming balm of perspective and a brief moment to give myself a much-needed attitude adjustment of gratitude.
There are holidays on which I have ritual outdoors activities. On my birthday, I try to get out to enjoy the fact that I have a body willing to take me the places I want to go. On Thanksgiving, I burn off approximately one extra slice of pie’s worth of calories. On Christmas, I can bring myself to do nothing. Which is why Boxing Day has become my second day of Christmas.
I was introduced to Boxing Day when I lived in Europe, where it is often celebrated, presumably so families could take efficient trains back home, enjoy socialized medicine or sleep in on the company dime. In my family, it became a day of outdoor adventure, an unavoidable reminder that the best things in life don’t come in paper packages.
This year, it’s a snowshoe summit with my dear ones and a thermos full of tea. A laughing, layered troop of wool-clad and fritter-stuffed humans will emerge from the doors of Subarus, strap strange platforms to their feet, and head through a winter wonderland to the soundtrack of conversation and the swish-swish of our legs.
Just like every year, I’ll pledge to purchase fewer things and spend more time with the people I love while breathing in the wonders of nature. The cold air on my face, warmth of my tea and beating of my heart are a reminder that life itself is the gift and we ought not take it for granted.
Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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