December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

The Christmas season has extended to more than a month these days. At once I rail against it backing up into Thanksgiving, and in the next breath I wonder where the time went.

There have been parties and gatherings sprinkled throughout the month, and that is a wonderful part of extending the season. Even last night, I was invited to a friend's house for a family gathering to celebrate Christmas Eve. I was essentially the one non-family member in attendance, and it is part of the wonder of the season that I was invited to take part.

Yet as I was driving home last night from the party, still warmed by the generosity of spirit, it felt strange that I wouldn't see these and other friends on the actual day of Christmas. It is of course it is logistically unfeasible to see everyone you love on the day itself, but mere mathematical impossibility does not dissuade the heart from wanting what it wants.

I wish I could be there in person to wish you a Merry Christmas, but you will be with me in (Christmas) spirit.

Merry Christmas everybody!

December 24, 2014

Ghosts of Christmas Past

A friend wrote recently, "Every year I debate whether or not to get a Christmas tree. But I never regret putting one up." It is something I have often said about going out on a run. I am rarely, "Woohoo, let's do this thing," but again, I never regret it.

I go through a similar battle to my friend each year with the Christmas tree. I wrote a bit about it a few years ago, and in some ways that feeling remains. When you live by yourself, it strangely seems like a wasted effort to put up a tree. Like any part of the season, or much of anything really, activities seem to grow in meaning by more than a simple factor of two when shared. Is it really worth going through the effort to get a tree, drag it upstairs, get the boxes out of storage and decorate for just you?


Yet I still debated again this year. I wasn't going to be able to make it happen until the 14th, so it seemed almost doubly silly to do it that late in the season. But I did, and once again, I do not regret the effort.

Every tree tells a story, and each ornament is a passage. In 2008 when things were beginning to come apart at the seams, I walked around my tree and wrote about what some of the ornaments meant (The Twelve Ornaments of Christmas). Everyone's tree has its own family history on display, but unless you know the story behind them, they are mostly just shiny baubles. If you were to listen to the stories told by your host, you would realize that the tree is more than a decoration, and it is really a telling of their lives, and of Christmases past. I was trying to share some of those stories, but I was also trying to anchor myself in family and tradition when I felt it slipping away.

You unpack these story totems but just once a year, so each time you see them, your brain rewrites the connection. There are a few that are a small surprise as the memory of where they came from fades. Some ornaments are second or third string, and some years don't make the cut, while others you could never forget and always get a special place on the tree. Then there are a few that don't come out of the box because their memory isn't what it used to be.

I obviously have ornaments that were from when I was married. Most of them come out each year, but there are certain ones that have remained tucked away. They are the ones with pictures or our names on them as a couple. Their meaning had changed significantly, and I just couldn't bring myself to put them on the tree. I also have more recent picture ornaments from Kristy, and their meaning has changed as well.

This year for the first time, I unwrapped those ornaments. I looked at them and tried to decide what they meant to me a year further down the road. I set them back in the box again, but less decisively. I met a friend the next night, and somehow the subject came up. As I explained it, I began to feel like it was time to put them back out.

I still think the ending was poorly written, but it is part of my story. I suppose if I were with someone now, it might be harder to explain why they belong on the tree, but maybe in telling the story, I would come to know better how I feel. If I keep these things in my too-large box of regrets, they seem to hold more power than if I just have them out in the open.

So my tree is up again, it is my story, and I am sticking to it.

December 23, 2014

Tis the (off)season

The Christmas season is in full swing with all its richness and scheduling craziness, but it many ways it is the off season right now. November and December are the two months where we get our reprieve from the tax season that somehow stretches into ten months. Even though the social calendar is filling up with festivities, there is a bit of peace to match the ideal of the season.

Wintertime is not only the off season for work, but it is also typically the off season for training. For those that have training cycles throughout the year, the winter months are generally when you take it a bit easy. Not only does your body need a break now and then to repair and renew, but you need to step back to give your mind a rest as well. You risk burnout if you go at it day after day, month after month, and I think time away allows you to pursue your goals with more energy and determination when you return.

Winter is an ideal time on the calendar for this. For most of us (ah to be in San Diego some days), the temperature drops and the daylight hours fade. Add to this the activity and temptations of the holiday season, and it is nice to not watch every calorie, and sleep in on those Sundays when you would be more typically rising early to run or ride. 

This year is a little different, though. For a number of reasons, I wasn't as active this summer. Injury and illness played a part, as did more finish lines on the work calendar than the running calendar, but if I am honest with myself, I lost that spark, that drive to take care of myself. As a result, I am carrying more weight these days, both physical and mental. That needs to change.

So I am getting back at it now. For the past couple of months, I have been getting out three times a week for a run or a ride. Things being slower at work makes it a bit easier, but the winter season makes it more challenging. I am running in the dark most of the time, so I am either chasing a little headlamp circle bobbing in front of me, or swapping out more scenic routes for ones with streetlights. 

And then there is the weather. It has bounced between drenching rain and bitter cold. A day after I sank into the saturated soil, the hole froze solid. 

But then it was 66 degrees on December 10th, the warmest December day recorded in Seattle since records began in 1945. There is nearly as much time spent wondering what I should be wearing as there is actually running. 

But I am finally moving in the right direction again, and the habit is starting to take hold. The other day when I was just about done, a red light delayed me. Even though I was ready to be done, I decided to turn right and add some distance rather than wait. I have also been running some 5ks lately, and it is nice to be toeing the start line again. 

The Evan Sebenius 5k Memorial Run

 The Green Lake Gobble

Turkey Trot

Holiday Fun Run

So it is sort of an off-season that isn't. I am hoping (planning damn it!) to carry the training dedication and self-care through the winter and into the April madness. I need to do a better job at prioritizing heath and well-being over deadlines that will be there no matter what I do.

One nice thing about the crossing of the off-season (that is or isn't an off-season) and the Holiday Season is having the time to be able to see friends and family. I look forward to the grand gatherings with the warmth of home and friendship, but there is something special about pinning on a race bib and taking on a challenge together. A bit of fellowship to add to the richness of the season. And burning a few extra calories before the roast beast doesn't hurt either.