Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Holiday Cycle

While I don't technically celebrate Christmas, I am also not "anti-Christmas" - not anti-festive cheer, not anti-religious stuff, not anti- any of it really. Most people around me celebrate it and I join them in the general spirit of things. I enjoy putting up a tree. Enthusiastically I drink hot alcoholic beverages spiced with cloves and feast upon minced pies. Aglow with corny good cheer, I walk hand in hand with my loved one in the crisp winter air under garlands of lights along the village Main Street. I've been known to decorate my bicycle with tinsel. Truth be told, I am not even that annoyed by the sounds of carols, blasting on a relentless loop in public places and shops, all through the month of December and likely earlier.

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!


27 comments:

  1. And we all wish you too, a happy holiday Veloria! Merry Christmas.

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  2. Happy holidays to you, too! It's snowing here in Southern Oregon right now. Plans for Christmas dinner with my 98-year-old father and friends at a higher altitude tomorrow are likely to be cancelled, but a walk in the snow with my little dog is probably a great suggestion. A bike ride is out of the question. My boyfriend and I did a huge feast last night to celebrate Winter Solstice and I'm feeling stuffed and a bit guilty...but not much. As long as the power holds out, I'm going to bake today between stints of working on the computer on the off chance that I get to see my Dad tomorrow. At 98, material gifts are worthless, but food, especially homemade snacks are always welcome. Thank you for your post. One of my resolutions for next year is to get on my bike and ride more...and you will help me with your helpful and insightful posts.

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  3. Mince pies rather than minced pies surely... ;)

    Christmas is just one day and just one dinner? If only...

    There's Christmas Eve and Boxing Day as well (or St Stephens Day depending on what side of the border you are)

    If other families are like mine, there is a standard set of meals for each of those days and woe betide the host who deviates from family tradition and leaves out or substitutes any of the canon of foods that people have grown up with.

    However you are dead right that there is no better time to get out on a bike (except for maybe New Years Day to work off the excesses of the day before then as well...)

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    1. I know! There's the work celebrations (which involve too much food), the Christmas Eve celebrations with family (which involve too much food), and usually other sundry celebrations, which also usually involve too much tempting food.

      Sigh. I mean, I love chocolate and all, but I also like being active and fitting into my trousers.

      ~nemarra

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    2. They may start out mince but are eventually minced, no?

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  4. At last you tell me I am not alone. "Christmas" now taints two months of the year with tat, torment and tedium on TV. Mass hysteria at its best!

    A bike ride is a great way to de-stress...

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  5. I think that you just nailed it, Veloria. Merry Xams. Enjoy and stay safe.

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  6. Well said. And Happy Holidays to you and yours!

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  7. Lovely sentiments lovely bicycle, and very nicely put. Hope you have a lovely break!

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  8. Part of that, I think, is that people have bought into the idea that the holidays are something special and if it falls short of perfection it is a failure.

    Thankfully, due to travel times and distances in the 1970s our holiday celebrations pretty much fell by the wayside. Back then my parents said they would rather have us visit in the summer when the weather is nice and we could just sit on the back porch and visit. Now we just get together over coffee and tea to visit.

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  9. I agree with you Veloria - I think Christmas has become so stressful because people believe they have to do things in a certain way - many actually spend Christmas Day with people they don't even want to be with and follow a prescribed pattern of behaviour as you describe - obsessing over gifts, decorations and the biggest obsession - the meal. I also avoid shopping centres and crowds at this time of the year - I freed myself from this mania years ago, now I spend Christmas Day relaxing with my adult son and apart from a fruit cake, we eat normally. Christmas morning I was out early on my bike for a two hour ride through shared path ways in our beautiful bushland. I haven't missed a day riding my bike due to Christmas and it is a great time to get out on a bike and away from the town chaos. I discovered some years ago that we don't have to keep doing something just because it's always been done that way - but I know that is hard for many depending on family situations/expectations. I am religious by the way - I love watching Christmas Mass from the Vatican and all those 'lame' Christmas shows - but I see no relationship between Christmas and gluttony/gift buying and general commercial hysteria. I think we impose this on ourselves so we can also just abandon it and really enjoy the holiday season.

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  10. Here (Ottawa Canada) the temperature has been well above normal all December. Plus 16 today when it should be below freezing.
    It doesn't matter how busy I am Christmas day, I intend to go for a bike ride. :)

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  11. Rode my bike in rain and snow yesterday to the blood bank and donated a double, had a cookie and a bottle of juice, then rode to the market to get pickled herring (by special request, no less) for one of the kids, and to the chemist/pharmacy to pick up some meds for my partner. Errands AND cycling...that's a winning combination. And fear not, the days will grow longer, bit by bit.

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  12. Merry Christmas to you. I heartily agree about the chaos of it all, but I admit that I do love the carols and the corny old movies. I just cried my way through the ending of It's a Wonderful Life. For some reason when the telegram comes in from Sam Wainwright, I just lose it.

    I fear I haven't set butt on the bike in several weeks... but alas, not for lack of time or too many Christmas errands. Somehow, ice ruts 6 inches deep and temperatures barely above freezing make me... um... well, I think 'tis the season for yoga!

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  13. Reading the above posts which mention the cold weather - I must say I have the utmost admiration for those who of you who live in cold climates and are prepared to cycle through snow,ice and freezing conditions. Here in Australia it is of course full summer now - and mostly we have a cycling friendly climate throughout the year, however it can and does get cold in winter (in the southern states) and as much as I love cycling, if I have to wear a winter jacket I am walking and my bike gets a rest.

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  14. "I have diligently avoided shops and large cities."

    shouldn't be too difficult in Northern Ireland! ;))

    Happy Holidays to Velouria and all the Lovely Bicycle Readers!

    Jack

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  15. Mom and I do bargain shopping during the year so it's not so bad. We've also cut down on our gift giving. It has become stressful and the roads are packed with last minute shoppers and people taking off for the week. However, I always manage a ride. It has to be the neighborhood or a short ride in a park, nearby. I put red and silver bells on my white chromoly Breezer Downtown EX ST and rode around Lake Ella park. My socks - red and green argyle with black Converse shoes. Got to have some fun. In the mid to high 70s in N. FL. Happy holidays all.

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  16. Got out on the bike this morning and rode to the bicycle bridge over Ballona Creek, where it flows into the Pacific Ocean. The tide was much higher than normal, only a few feet from the bottom of the bridge. The sky was clear, snowy mountains stood watch on the eastern horizon, and quite a few others were out on their bikes. A cold wind blowing, but the ride kept me warm.

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  17. There is much to love in this delightfully grouchy post, and I do love it, so don't get mad at me, but I want to say two things. First, it is ironic to suggest others are narcissistic because, although they are available to you throughout the year, there are a few weeks during which they focus on their relatives and leave you out! Second, and relatedly, the culture of therapy is profoundly mixed up on the topic of obligation. That culture is not sure how to tell the difference between genuine obligation and morbid guiltiness, sacred duty and neurotic obsession. I think this is related to the belief, widespread in the 1960s and 70s, that family is a prison and breaking up families is liberation. In reality it is exceedingly common for people to be really and truly--not delusionally and through narcissism--indispensable to other people. It is especially true in families. But it is hard to hold in one's mind at the same time both a deep belief in that notion of liberation and a serious appreciation of familial love and its obligations. I suspect that large numbers of people have been hurt when therapists talked parents and spouses out of the knowledge they had on this topic before beginning therapy. And I say this with awareness of the fact that in many other cases families really are prisons.

    Walter

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    1. Oh did you think it was grouchy! I thought I was being upbeat, albeit pragmatic : )

      There is nothing you've written here that I disagree with. The thing about philosophical statements is that none will apply to everyone or everything. The type of situation I was referring to, is one where a person not only spends all their time tending to the needs of others - in detriment to their own needs - but is also extremely frustrated and disgruntled by doing so yet does not see a "way out." In my experience those kinds of situations do not end well. And so, in the long term, it might be better for everyone involved if that person finds a way not to neglect their own needs and to delegate some of their responsibilities.

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    2. No doubt. Yet there are cases in which no-way-out is the reality and it cannot be dodged. Here is an example. My son is 13 and mentally ill. He suffers in school, so he is home-schooled now, by me. My wife did most of the work for the first ten years, became overwhelmed, and stopped helping. I also work full time and my salary provides three-quarters of my family's income and all of its benefits, so quitting that isn't an option. The situation is very onerous and various needs of mine go unmet. People say: isn't there a special school for children like him, can't you get government benefits to pay for some alternative? There isn't and you can't. A better situation is not available: out is not the way. There's just learning to cope with what's here.

      There is a cycling connection, by the way. He's my stoker. We only have one car and the boy and I get around town on the tandem. He rides with his iPod on and says it's calming. For me it compensates some for the lack of time to ride on my own.

      Walter

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  18. Spot on, Christmas is just one day for me, with an acceptance that it spills over a bit on to the day before and the day after. Christmas Day for me is a nice slap up roast lunch with family members, gathering together at my sister's (she has the biggest house!) and not much more. It is a cracking day which we can afford to look forward to as preparation for it involves no more than turning up with a bit of the lunch each.

    I'm scratching my head a bit here as so many people above agree that Christmas is now out of control, and frankly it's common knowledge that most people do feel the same, that you have to ask the question - why do people join in like sheep? We all have free will, opting out of the ridiculous overblown institution that has now become Christmas is only a matter of making the decision. To all those who find Christmas an exhausting, harrowing chore, I say why not try next year just arranging a nice meal with or without your friends or family, and leave it - more or less - at that? All that stress and worry ... gone.

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    1. The answer I get to this question from friends who do the elaborate Christmas thing, but complain abut how much they hate it, is that it is done for the kids - who expect things and would be disappointed by anything less, etc. I really do feel like it is a cycle and as such it is difficult to break abruptly without an entire network of people - including the childrens' friends' parents, as well as their school - all agreeing to do things differently as well. I mean, the schools my friends' children go to have the kids writing long lists for Santa and reading them out to each other as part of the curriculum (I think it is presented as a penmanship exercise). One of my friends joked that certain brands must sponsor the school and compel them to do this, considering what ends up on these lists almost ubiquitously!

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    2. There is in existence amongst my extended family and group of friends a tribe of youngsters who frankly, I believe, would all go into self-induced then group-escalated hysterical meltdown if they couldn't compare designer clothing and smartphone tablet gifts on Facebook Christmas morning.

      Bah! Humbug!!

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  19. Well, like you I don't really think much of Christmas and I would skip over it entirely if it were not for my Kids & Family, It fact I got ridiculed this year for thinking it was on Thursday not Friday!
    Still, it's not so bad, it's one of the few times of the year my family make the effort to get together and they are perfectly fine in small doses!
    I DO like Food and cooking and I can pretty much pull all the stops out once or twice a year without too much distress; rather enjoy it really.
    Yeah, the Christmas music drones on, the traffic blows, the crowds are a pain, but overall I am good with it.
    Riding, We are enjoying unseasonably warm weather, so I have been riding at least a little everyday!
    No comlpaints
    - masmojo

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  20. Merry Christmas.

    This is all water, Choose to be a duck not a sheep.

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  21. No cycling in the runup to Christmas? To me, the Christmas shopping season just means more shopping trips by bike. Sure, I could order most of my shopping list online, but where's the fun in that? I'd rather just ride to the shops. I've logged over 100 miles just for Christmas shopping this year.

    I haven't decorated my bike this year. I do like to ride around in a red Santa hat during the Christmas season. It's been unseasonably warm this year, so I've worn it less on bike rides (and family gatherings) than in years past, but when I do , I'd like to think that I'm spreading some Christmas cheer. I can't tell you how many friendly honks, hand-waves, and "Hi Santa!"s I've gotten while wearing it.

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