How to Be An Introvert For The Holidays

“Ah! there is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.
Nobody can be more devoted to home than I am.”

– Jane Austen

The first week of November is over.  The clocks have changed and darkness comes earlier now.  It’s that time of year where comfort food, hot lattes, and a crazy schedule consumes  me.  While the world expects me to be more social, really I just want to hibernate. These are the months that I want to curl up near the wood stove and write and read and sip seasonal tea and write and read and… well you get it.

It’s also THE HOLIDAYS — no longer divided by Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Now it’s all one.  It’s parties and family and friends and gifts and decorating and eating and preparing and rushing and…and… my anxiety is in overdrive.

Do I host the holiday dinners?  Who do I invite?  How many people can we fit in the house? Do I bake pies or order them?  Make my own turkey or cater?  Why isn’t anybody on time?  The food is ready and n0 one is here! Did we really get into a political debate?  When the hell are these people leaving?  I want to put on my yoga pants grab a bottle of bourbon and hit the bed!

Ahhhh.  The holidays.

This year, I came up with what I hope is the perfect solution*. I’m not hosting ANY of the holiday gatherings.  I’m also not accepting any invites.  This year, Thanksgiving is going to be a casual meal.  Maybe a late lunch and an evening of leftovers and grazing.

*Technically I wanted to rent a cabin in the middle of nowhere and spend a week, but that is logistically harder to do than you’d think, and it stressed me out. A lot.

Christmas Eve has always been a night of tradition in my house.  Growing up, it was either hosted by my parents or their friends.  Lots of people.  Lots of food.  Going home stuffed with food and excited to host/attend the dinner all over again the next day.  As a child, it was truly the most exciting time of year (not to mention people kept giving me stuff!).

As an adult it’s meant a mixture of cooking and catering having family or friends or both.  A week of baking the specialties I wait all year to make like sticky toffee pudding and Irish chocolate fudge cake and 800 dozen cookies. Mostly, it’s me (and my husband) in the kitchen preparing the many courses of our dinner (and cooking too much).  In the past few years, we’ve made it an informal buffet rather than a formal dinner.  But still, I rarely get to sit and enjoy the time with my friends or my family.  And there’s nothing quite so awful as waking up on Christmas morning with a stack of dirty dishes on the counters.

This year — that ain’t gonna happen!  I’m making reservations at an upscale restaurant that I’ve wanted my husband to take me to for years.  My friends have an open invitation to join us.  Memories and craic can still happen. We can still meet up, eat good food and be together.

Afterwards, we’re going home and putting on our matching Christmas pj’s and playing board games around the tree and watching movies. Just the three of us — and Finn (our dog). And we’re going to eat cookies, and cake, and whatever – from the couch or the floor or wherever the hell we end up.

Christmas day, we will open gifts and have a brunch.  Then we will stay in our pajamas all day and eat and play, and nap,and read and snuggle (we are really good snugglers).

It’s not that we don’t love our friends and family, but the three of us (plus Finn) never really get to just stay home and do nothing.  There’s always something — soccer, gymnastics, yardwork, snow to shovel, groceries to buy, cars to service, blah blah blah.  We never get to just be...still. We always say we will do it, but then we get invited and think — ahhhh we should go!  But this year I am consciously going to refuse all invitations. Not because we don’t appreciate it, but because we just need some family time. In our pj’s. While stuffing our faces.

And this year, I am actually really looking forward to the holidays.

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Lightning Strikes Twice

Okay… so we left off with my Fitbit in the toilet (and ultimately a landfill).

When one’s Fitbit dislodges off their bra, wiggles through two layers of shirts and lands in the toilet, there’s really only two conclusions to come to; 1) the Universe doesn’t think you need to exercise at all or 2) The Universe is pointing out that you DON’T actually exercise.

Considering that I gained three pounds this weekend through dieting, lets just rule out conclusion #1 and go straight to the Universe reminding me that my Fitbit simply served as a daily reminder that I sit at my desk for 8 1/2 hrs a day, plus the hour-long round-trip commute to my office, plus when I go home and eventually fall on to the couch or my writing chair — well you get the picture…

Losing my device meant I had two options.  I could simply take this as a sign that I really don’t need a device to remind me of how stationary I am, or I could get a new device (cheaper this go around) and get back in the business of exercising more.

I decided to go without buying a new device (since I am on a budget and most articles I read state that you shouldn’t buy something just cause you want it).  But this is what happened…

When I took the 7 flights of stairs down to stretch my legs a bit, no one knew it but me.  And when I circled the grocery store four times grabbing everything I’d forgotten on the first go around, I couldn’t tell if I’d reached my mid day goal of 5,000 steps or not.  When I took the dog for a walk and we had to cut home midway (because he isn’t use to walking after the winter) I was paralyzed with the fact that I had no idea whether we’d even reached a mile or whether just a block longer would have hit me to my daily goal of 10,000 steps or not.

It bothered me. A lot.

So I did a little research and found a device at 1/3 of the price.  It was water-resistant so with the summer coming, I could even use it swimming.  It was a Misfit Flash.  I found a coupon that would save me money if I ordered two, but I  couldn’t think of a reason for needing two, even when my husband suggested a back-up — so I paid regular price. It came with a clip and a wrist band. It is less fancy than the Fitbit, but it does the simple things I need (sleep tracker, pedometer, calorie counter, water resistant).  It came within 3 days.

When I received my new tracker, I felt committed to getting active again.  I’ve been having discussions with friends about a cycle of going home and feeling so tired that I don’t get to exercise. Exercising gives us more energy, but what precisely can we do when don’t have enough in us to get there? The jury is still out on this.

I motivated myself to go back to yoga (future post coming soon) and work out as more (if only to prove that I do in fact need a gadget to record my productivity).

I wore my Misfit on my wrist for three days.  It was nice to know my precise movements again.

On the fourth day, I decided to use the clip and secure it so that if it were to fall off, it would fall into my pocket. I’d seriously learned my lesson on being careful. I missed it being on my wrist, but it wasn’t  a huge deal.

On that same day, I showed my coworker the new tracker. We discussed how cool it was and then I excused myself to the ladies’ room…

Yes, I said the ladies’ room. See, as a writer, I just foreshadowed something there.  Can you guess what is?

It’s part of my filing system called “Shit You Can’t Make Up.” My life is primarily made up of such events — the stranger than fiction elements that keep things interesting.

Writers know that details are important to stories — even the mundane which marks the familiar for the reader;  such as how I unbuttoned my jeans and the clarity of which I understood the teal flash of a disc in my peripheral was in fact the Misfit dislodging itself in a beautiful flight that was no longer unique to me.  This time, my tracker skipped liked a beautiful glass stone to the bottom of the bowl and when I peered in thinking “This isn’t happening…again” the toilet answered with an automatic flush that violently swooshed my Misfit away.

I was dumbfounded.

This time, I knew that it was the mischief of an angry god who perhaps had once inhabited a volcano and maybe f*cked up, so a higher up god was like “Dude, I’m sorry but we are demoting you to the sewers. Only after you swallow 8 million fitness trackers, will you be restored to your former position.”  And so this vengeful god seeks to claim all fitness trackers within the New York state sewer systems.
So you see — in the end it wasn’t about me at all.

However, we like our happy endings, do we not Dear Reader?  On my coworker’s recommendation, I wrote to the good people at Misfit and briefly explained how the clip should have been able to deter the “Toilet god” (only I didn’t mention my demoted god theory so much as just mentioned that my Flash ended up getting flushed) and that I was disappointed it had not worked and had in fact only remained fastened to my pocket for roughly 2 hours.

To my relief and surprise, they offered me a replacement — which will be here in roughly three days (when all that I do in my life can be quantified once more).

If this happens a third time… well I’m probably just not telling anyone about it.

***Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned.

 

How My Fitbit Landed in The Toilet…

I stare at the toilet bowl watching my Fitbit sink to the bottom resulting in a loud “plop.”  The noise is shocking because my brain is still watching it flip off my bra and do a slow-motion cirque du soleil summersault through the air.  It’s mesmerizing, actually. It’s an instance of pure clarification, because I know where it is going to land.  I could try and reach for it, but I stand there, dumbfounded and in awe of the graceful flight of my Fitbit — that is until the splash wakes me from this trance.

And there it is, sinking like a stone…

What puzzles me is how on earth I am responsible for landing  my Fitbit in the bottom of the toilet.  I mean, I have a five-year-old.  How did I land it there? My five-year-old comes in immediately to point out that my Fitbit is at the bottom of the bowl.

“Look what you did!”  He points out loudly.  He makes an uh-oh whooping noise — the kind he makes when he thinks I might be mad at him — only we instead look at each other puzzled wondering who is going to be mad at me? He seems convinced that someone is going to be super mad.  I believe him.

I have that momentary reminder of what being in trouble felt like as a child and my immediate instinct is to flush it.  Flush the evidence and when it all backs up, plead ignorance. And I may in fact even reach my hand towards the handle, but then in a sobering moment, I realize two things: 1) we only have one bathroom — dammit!  and 2) I will have to pay for this both monetarily and again when my husband asks me why the hell I flushed.

So I text my husband:
“Hypothetically, if my Fitbit landed in the toilet — is it flushable?”

Response:
“DO NOT FLUSH!!!!!!!”

Okay then.

“Hey Mama?”  My son tugs at my arm.  “I need to pee and ewwwwwwwwwwwwww you dropped that in there.”  He points to the Fitbit.  “I really gotta go Mama.” Pee dance follows.

I look at the toilet and consider whether I would ever wear it again.  The answer is no.  So I give my son the go ahead and watch as he giggles and aims for it, moving it around the basin with a stream of urine.

Can we back up?  Can I tell you how we got here?

My husband was working late. I picked my son up from school directly following work but traffic was terrible.  I even had to turn around mid-route to back track to another road and avoid the standstill. This alternate route entailed road construction.  I picked up my son and he begged me for a kids meal.  We let him have it once a week.  He pleaded and frankly the idea of not having to cook for him was the convincing factor.  The line at the drive-thru was CRAZY.

So when I walked in the door and let the dog out to relieve himself, I went running into our bathroom because I drink tea all day and somehow in the hurry of  removing my coat, my Fitbit flew off.

And now we are caught up.

I would await for my husband to come home and fish it out.  I was fairly certain that this fell under husbandly duties.  I distinctly remember a similar scenario laid out in our wedding vows (he was in charge of bugs and toilets). That. Was. The. Plan. Just wait…

…until my son said,”Mama, now I gotta poo.”

It was then that I realized, I had to remove the damn Fitbit.  It’d be better now than later. Rubber gloves and a plastic spoon and let me tell you, it was quite slippery, but I was able to do it and let my son use the toilet.  As I tossed it into the trash bin it flashed me a greeting “Hey, Sexy”  (yes, okay, that is the greeting I programmed it to say, okay?).

Now, I only mentioned it to a handful of friends but their reactions were unexpected.  Unanimously, they all said, “No!  You threw it out?”

Ummm.*throat clearing*. Yes, I threw it out. It.Was. In. A. TOILET.  Did you guys not hear that part?

“You could have cleaned it.”

Maybe if I had a surgical tool sanitizer but I DON’T…

I chalked this up to my friends being a unique herd of beautiful weirdos — who I adore and actually respect greatly for knowing that had I kept my peed-on-toilet-swimming-activity-tracker, I’d be in the “judgment-free zone” with these awesome peeps (it made me feel a little warm inside and equally concerned me).

So fast-forward to today where I explained my ordeal on Facebook and asked for advice for a replacement.  Any good suggestions, from anyone?  Any preference in brand, anyone?

Instead, I got the same heated debate of “WHY DID YOU THROW IT OUT?”

While this debate plays out, I had to try and figure out what meaning this all had.  What was the *Universe* trying to tell me by literally tossing my activity tracker in the toilet.

 

I had a notion of what it all meant. But I am tired and going to bed, so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow (or whenever I actually decide to write the next post).

To Be Continued…

 

 

 

Gratitude – And Other Things I’m Working On

2015-05-12 17.59.37Part of practicing yoga is taking time to acknowledge the gifts in your life.  We call it gratitude.  It requires taking a few moments in your day and thanking yourself, your god, the universe for all of the good things that surround you.  It’s weirdly one of my favorite moments in my practice, aside from Shavasana (which is the corpse pose in which you lie quietly and relax, and CLEAR your head — if you do it right, it feels like that moment between being asleep and awake).  It’s at the end of practice where you thank yourself for taking the time to actually do yoga, for accepting your accomplishments, letting go of your failures.  It sort of reminds of that moment in church (Catholic) where you shake your neighbor’s hand and offer them peace — only you’re offering yourself peace instead — which is so much harder.

Anyway, it was raining the other night and I was sleeping as a guest in a bed that was not my own.  My back ached.  The rain was loud and I could hear the traffic from the intersection.  A nearby freight train could be heard every thirty minutes or so.  I was about to complain to myself — to tell my future self that I owed my future backache to the uncomfortable mattress and my moodiness to the lack of sleep.  As my inner self opened up her mouth, the word “gratitude” came out.  I was legitimately thankful that I had a roof over my head, a warm blanket, and a window between me and the street outside.  That I could sleep safely and not worry that someone would attack me or steal my stuff.  It was a strange thing — to let go of the complaints and to recognize that nothing was owed to me.

I started to list the things that I was grateful for.  An overpriced vacation.  My snoring son. My husband. Taking my stepson along on the first real family vacation we’d ever had with both children. My dog who hours earlier had eaten a new rug I had just bought for his indoor pen while the dog sitter was in the shower.  The fact that I had the means to do any of this felt like — a blessing?

Then something weirder happened.  Every time something crappy happened, I tried to practice gratitude.  Okay — so when the manager at a certain convenience store didn’t understand that I was annoyed that they literally filled up my 24 oz chai cup to the brim with ice and charged me $4 for what turned out to be 4 oz of actual tea and milk — I may have forgotten gratitude (although I was grateful for my constraint).  It can’t be applied all the time.  I’m certainly no Gandi.

So here I am sitting before this computer trying to practice gratitude when the fact is, my plans for July and August and really December have somehow spectacularly just fallen to pieces.  See, I am in the last leg of my MFA degree in Creative Writing.  I’ve suffered through a class of Early American Literature (I’m more of Brit Lit fan myself) from our sister department (English) in order to complete my coursework and FINALLY finish the novel I’ve been working on for two years.  All that I needed to do was A) Finish the American class (just two weeks to go!), B) take Shakespeare for the final summer semester   Six weeks with the bard. And I like Shakespeare too! and C) complete my novel by early October to graduate in December. And all of this went to hell a few hours ago when without warning my campus account sent me an alert that my class (which was scheduled to start one week from today) has been canceled. Not only canceled, but now I can’t seem to get into the Fall course and my summer funding is also now canceled for lack of credits.

My fall semester will no longer be devoted entirely to writing, but devoted to a fifteen week semester of analyzing Shakespeare (vs. the six weeks the summer course would’ve required). It also means asking my husband to accommodate my schedule — meaning Mondays are his day to watch our son — no exceptions.

I could go on with the ways that this negatively affects me, but then a friend said, “Maybe this is for the better?”

How?

How is this in my favor? I’ve had this schedule devised since March?

My inner voice keeps whispering, gratitude. But what are my blessings in this scenario???

I don’t know.  Yet. Perhaps there’s something in these change of plans that are super positive.  It frees up July and August to work on my novel.  It leaves me time to play with my son. To read books I want to read.  To catch up on these blogs (does anyone actually read this stuff, anyway?).

What I suppose it teaches me is that gratitude is hard.  It’s not just being happy sleeping on a bed as hard as a rock, but an ongoing challenge to sift out the everyday stuff that gets in the way of our happiness.  I can binge on Netflix (and not feel guilty), read those books that have been sitting on my shelf growing in numbers and mocking me for lack of time to read them.  I can explore some of the really good chapters I’ve been writing lately and see if that is where the story really wants to go.

But  most importantly, I think it was Elizabeth Gilbert who said, “I am my best person when I have less on my plate.” And probably a better mother, wife, and definitely a better writer.