What I don't enjoy at all, however, is the predictable, yet seemingly unavoidable, cycle that happens this time of year: the cycle of pressure, stress, over-eating, over-spending, inactivity - and, later, the resulting apathy/blues/depression - that seems to afflict so many of us despite our best intensions.
Not having been in the US around Christmastime these past 3 years, I do not know what the craic is over there right now. But here, the stress and panic in the weeks leading up to the event has been ridiculous, and this year I feel it more keenly than ever. I have diligently avoided shops and large cities. But even walking through the local town centre the pressure hangs thickly in the air, like a contagious virus. Attempts to have lunch or coffee with friends have resulted in last-minute cancellations when yet more errands in need of doing are discovered, or else in my watching their jittery hands texting madly the entire time to coordinate crucial logistics (what do you mean Sean's not coming till Friday??) or avert some impeding disaster (I said perfume, not EDT! Are you trying to make her hate me even more? Yeah you'd like that, wouldn't you. Wouldn't you!).
Of course, the most egregious thing of all is how many of my normally (hyper-)active cycling friends complain that they can't get out to ride their bikes as Christmas approaches. And then, not only is a good part of December a wash, but once the holidays are over they find themselves in a state of discouraging un-fitness and lethargy.
It's a depressing cycle, and not a good way to greet the new year. And so in case anyone finds themselves falling prey to this affliction as Christmas Day creeps ever nearer, I submit some fleeting thoughts for your consideration. So please breathe deeply and remember, that...
...Christmas is just one day. A nice day, hopefully. But just a day, with a beginning and an end. No matter how well or badly things go, it will all be over within 24 hours!
...Also? It's just one dinner. We can enjoy its lavish spread, then go back to our normal eating habits the next day. There is no need to put so much pressure on ourselves to "not overeat" at Christmas, that we inevitably mess up, then decide that since we've already eaten too much, we might as well keep overeating until the new year!
...Contrary to what the adverts tell us, we cannot show someone we love them with presents. Even if they are very nice, or very expensive presents (and yes, dare I say it? Even if the present is a bicycle!). So we might as well stop worrying so much about getting "the wrong thing" or not enough things for the people who are important to us. And just think: with all the time saved from obsessing about gift-buying, there is more time to actually spend with our loved ones, shower them with personal attention, and of course - go cycling with them.
...You do not have to sit still in a stuffy room for hours just because it's Christmas and you have guests over, or are a guest yourself. Even if your companions are of a sedentary nature, consider suggesting a walk - at a pace others can enjoy of course - and you might be surprised when they take you up on it. Even just a brief stroll in the fresh air can lift the spirits - as well as break up any bickering brewing via the change of pace it introduces.
...No matter what, keep riding your bicycle. You might believe that you don't have time. That last minute shopping awaits, and that responsibilities overwhelm you, that the people around you cannot cope without your help 24/7 at this busy time of the year. But in the words of my Viennese psychotherapy professor: To believe that we are indispensable is a form of narcissism. In other words, ride your bicycle for as long as you need to stay sane, and everything else will fall into place.
And with this thought in mind, I wish you a happy holiday - with minimal stress, maximum joy, and maximum pedaling!