Friday, 28 December 2012

Step 2: Make A Plan And Stick To It

Does anyone else suffer from what I'm dubbing the "Winter Frenzy"?

It's that nagging need to fully indulge in whatever's going on, way beyond the level of sanity or sense.

Around this time of year, there's the pressure to have the perfect Christmas (the perfect presents, decorations, family day of celebrations). There's the constant smorgasbord of food and drink on offer and people trying to stuff it down your throat in the nicest way possible. And there's the sale frenzy that now seems to start before we've even got to Christmas.

Whichever way you turn there's pressure to conform, fit in, out-do your friends and neighbours. Have the best Christmas, the best presents; it's like a competition and .... I hate that aspect of it.

This Christmas, as with so many before, I can feel it settling around me like a cloak of dis-satisfaction - the feeling that I'm missing out somehow - but this Christmas I've identified it, and hopefully I can therefore stop it.

It starts with the family aspect of Christmas for me: I've always wanted a big, boisterous, glamorous family Christmas like I imagine my friends have, but the reality is that I have a very small family and that isn't going to happen. My Christmas' are my dad and my 98 year old grandma - one gets insanely stressed by everything and the other is very frail, partially sighted and nearly profoundly deaf. We cook lunch super early and take it to my grandma's small house about 50 miles from home. It's a low-key affair, and what I realise year after year is I should be grateful for these years when I still have them both. Whatever happens in the future, I won't wish away these precious years with them both because they are what is left of my family. Maybe I'll have those boisterous family Christmas's in my future (and maybe I won't - we can't plan for how life works out), but I'll treasure the family days while I can .... especially when I realise that I might be away next year and this may not happen again. Family is good - appreciate it.

Then there's the food: my plan is simple - take control of what I can, and enjoy the rest. Christmas is a time to enjoy some food that you don't have the rest of the year. It's a time to catch up with friends and family and talk and laugh and ... yes ... eat. But it doesn't have to be every meal and all day. I've tried to listen to my body as to when I'm full and then stop. And when I'm home, or have a choice, I try and stick to Slimming World friendly meals. I take it a meal at a time. On Christmas Day I had a good breakfast because I knew the rest of the meals were out of my hands. Strangely enough though, I wouldn't say I was terrible the rest of the day.

Boxing Day I indulged in a tradition - the pub walk. A lovely stroll over the hills (and splashing through muddy puddles like a child), followed by mulled wine, sausage baps and lots of chat in the pub. Then the walk back, and an evening of Christmas films in pyjamas, cold cuts dinner of leftovers, and a few Christmas chocolates and more wine with friends. Two glorious days of family and friends, and so yesterday I reined it in a bit. I dropped in on some more friends, had tea and cake, but kept my meals sensible and on plan. Now I've got 3 glorious days of relaxing with no particular plans and intend to eat well, and maybe swim and walk.

Not shop. Which brings me to the last in my unholy trinity of Christmas pressures: The Sales. Long-term readers know of my struggles with money, which is mostly driven by my struggles with shopping. I am a (reforming) shopaholic. Labels, image, STUFF - I love it, but I'm trying to steer my life away from that path. These days I want less stuff, not more - I'd like to de-clutter my life, streamline it, and make more time and space for doing instead of having. But, my god, show me a winter sale and it so hard not to think of all that I could have.

Case in point: I'm obsessing over Hunter welly boots at the moment. Why? Because my friends have them (well, some of them do) and I hate feeling left out. Doesn't matter that I have perfectly nice stripy Joules wellies and that I don't use wellies often, I want some Hunters.

Except it does matter - because I don't need them at all. I broke it down, that want, and it comes back to my driving need to have the same lifestyle as my friends. Sheer material competitiveness. Deeper than that, it's that they are all getting married, buying houses and having successful lives and right now I'm not. And somehow I've mixed up their belongings with their lives, and confused the two. The Hunters are just the current manifestation of that. This kind of competition is what got me in my financial mess in the first place. And it's ridiculous because it's not the life I'm choosing for me at this point. I might not be able to choose the relationship part (it will or it won't happen), but I'm choosing my adventures and my direction, and Hunters don't need to be a part of it right now. My down jacket is, that I got in the sale just last week, because it gets very cold in the Namibian desert, where I'll be in March. And some ski-wear might be in the spring, because I may be stocking up on decent gear to see me through a season next winter (more on that excitement in the new year), but for now I'm choosing to stay away from the sales, and all the lifestyle ideals they're trying to sell me, because they're not my life right here and right now.

I'm going to spend the next couple of days being in the moment, existing in my life, and not trying to live someone else's. Treating myself well, and reflecting on this year and what's yet to come next year. I hope you're enjoying this time and not letting the pressures get to you either!

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