Ah, there’s no month like December: the air smells like winter, mulled wine and Christmas cookies and a fresh start’s just around the corner, in the shape of the new year. Every year around this time, we convince ourselves that everything’s going to start over on the first of January and therefore we rack* our brains for the best New Year’s resolutions, trying to choose realistic ones that we can actually attain because no one wants to carry the burden of unattainable goals around for the rest of the year.
Personally, I always put a lot of pressure on myself in December because I feel like I need to get tons of things done before the end of the year because apparently, my brain’s convinced that there’s no more time after that. Or maybe it’s because I want the holidays to be calm and relaxing and therefore try to get everything done before then in order to be able to fully enjoy them. Many can confirm that I’m not very good at relaxing and even less so knowing that I didn’t take care of everything that needed to be taken care of.
I take the saying “work before pleasure” quite literally and can’t think of a time when I allowed myself to get some rest before having taken care of everything I had planned to do. I believe this runs in my family − everyone’s always been keeping busy, and doing nothing was frowned upon especially when there was something else to do (which, let’s face it, is pretty much all the time). I can proudly say that my family’s a very productive one. We get sh*t done. We’re super efficient even when we’re procrastinating because we usually procrastinate in a very active way. At university, every time I had exams coming up, I transformed my room into the cleanest and tidiest room anyone has ever seen and I took care of chores that I had actively avoided for a long time prior to that. All of this instead of studying, obviously.
You may think that there’s nothing wrong with a work-before-pleasure attitude and I agree to some extent because the feeling of being able to tick items off my to-do list is quite satisfying. BUT it’s also quite stressful to not be able to do nothing without feeling guilty, especially when it’s the one thing my body so desperately needs to recharge.
When you’re wired to be productive at all times because not doing anything makes you feel like you’re falling short of expectations (other people’s or worse, your own), just sitting on the sofa, either by yourself or with friends, can feel like torture. Sometimes I sit down to do “nothing” (AKA have a cup of tea, watch TV, read a book or talk to a friend) and manage to be quite calm for a certain amount of time (the length of which depends on how stressed I am to begin with). Then at some point, my brain decides that I’ve been idle for too long and urges me to start moving. As a result, I get antsy and begin fidgeting to get rid of my nervous energy. Depending on the circumstances, I start doing chores, moving stuff around and/or having trouble concentrating on what other people are saying because my mind has wandered off into activity mode. The latter is particularly frustrating because at times, it prevents me from being the attentive friend I want to be. While I never have any bad intentions in such moments, I sometimes get too anxious to stay in the (usually idle) situation much longer and have to move around in order to blow off some of the anxious energy. Unfortunately, people don’t always understand what’s happening and might end up getting offended or hurt even though I usually try to explain what’s going on. I guess it’s one of those things you have to experience in order to fully understand.
This is one of the reasons why I like to go for walks with friends (other than being quite fond of walks). Walking keeps the activity-seeking part of my brain both occupied and satisfied and any superfluous nervous energy is funneled into the physical activity.
To get back to the initial subject of pre-holiday busyness, I have to admit that, like every year, I spared no effort to fill up my calendar with all sorts of activities such that I have everything covered, from catching up with friends to baking Christmas cookies. Interestingly, my plans probably don’t differ much from what I do throughout the rest of the year (minus the baking of Christmas cookies) and still, I’m much more stressed about them than at any other time of the year.
December always makes me reflect on what happened throughout the year, as I’m sure it does for many other people. It doesn’t help that my birthday’s also in December and that this year, I’m turning thirty – I mean seriously, where did my twenties go?!
Am I where I planned to be by the age of thirty? I actually have no idea.
I don’t think I ever had a plan. I’ve always been torn between what people expected me to do, what I expected myself to do and what was realistic and/or right for me to do.
The only thing I’m pretty darn sure of at this point is that being almost thirty feels nothing like what I thought it was going to feel like. In sticky situations, I still find myself looking for an adult to take over until I realise that I’m the adult.
Concerning New Year’s resolutions, I decided not to jump on the bandwagon this year. I think I’ve been working more or less actively (depending on how I was feeling) towards who I want to be as a person and I’ll just keep that up. There’s no need to put more pressure on myself by determining now what should have happened by the end of 2019, given that very few things actually turn out the way I plan them and that I have absolutely no control over anything but myself in the process.
That being said, there’s probably one thing I should add to my list of self-improvement*: learn how to do nothing without freaking out 😉 …
[Picture found here − quite an interesting article too, if you want to give it a read.]
Happy holidays everyone!
* Does this spelling look weird to you too? Here‘s what I found when looking it up.
** I’m actually not a fan of this word because it seems to be implying that I’m not good enough the way I am and therefore need improvement – but then again, no one’s perfect and there’s always room for improvement…