I’ve arrived at a December T-junction. One sign points west, down the road I always travel and the other sign points east, down an unfamiliar road.
To the west, is a desert with weeds tumbling about. To the east, there’s grass and tall conifers. I find the green inviting but the unknown challenges in that direction cause me to hesitate.
I look west again. I know the condition of the road and the obstacles I’ll face travelling it. I recognise the destination but I get burnt in that desert every year so the familiar scene doesn’t comfort me.
I have to make a decision so I force myself to walk. I move east, away from the desert toward the glimmering green. Halfway down the road, a warm breeze carries faint laughter and music to my ears. It sounds a lot like Christmas cheer.
Christmas is a difficult time for most of us, for various reasons. My greatest struggle at Christmas is managing (or not managing) pesky intestinal failure. When it comes to my rare, odd bod, sitting around talking and eating all day is an awful recipe for post-event suffering.
Every year I try to manage my intestinal failure better than the year before but still, I fail. The familiar demons of gluttony, boredom, anxiety and people pleasing all rear their ugly heads on Christmas day. Mix all these ingredients with sitting around eating all day and a large dollop of intestinal failure and Christmas day ends in Grinch-worthy horribleness.
Every Christmas, there are dips, chips and other foods to pick at before multiple main meals, delicious second helpings and how could I possibly pass up just a few mouthfuls of dessert? It’s a special day and I deserve to let go and enjoy myself as much as everyone else. But one of the ‘letting go’ consequences is a lack of mindfulness that results in eating more delicious food than my gut can handle.
I’m tired of being stuck in the desert year after year after Christmas. Even if the east road is more challenging, it’ll be worth my trouble for the sake of a better destination. This year, I’m taking the road that ends in less suffering.
I realise something has to change if I want a different outcome. Christmas day is unlikely to change. The something that has to change is me. I have to do things differently this year by making better choices. And this means walking a new road to a different destination.
I’ve been thinking about the various, automatic ways in which I respond to my environment at Christmas time and brainstormed ideas for healthier behaviours that will give me the best outcome.
COPING AHEAD: THE WAY TO GO
I’ve written up a ‘Social Event’ note in my iPhone that has three sections. The first section lists what I’m not going to do. The second section lists what I am going to do and the third section lists essential truths I need to remember prior to, and during, Christmas day. This is going to be my GPS as I walk the new road, toward new territory.
I’ll try to believe that being polite is overrated and that my physical comfort is more important than making my loved ones feel good by eating their food. I’ll try to believe that missing out on food isn’t all that bad.
I need to remember that I’ll suffer afterwards if I make bad food choices on Christmas day and that the suffering isn’t worth the instant gratification or sense of belonging that eating brings.
MORE FESTIVE CHEER
Doing Christmas differently this year is going to require me to do some inner wrestling and tease apart some unhelpful habits. It’s also going to mean re-educating my family about ‘me and food’. But I’m optimistic that this year, I’m going to get Christmas more right than I ever have before.
YOU’VE GOT THIS
What are you going to do, what are you not going to do and what are you going to try and remember this Christmas? Consider identifying your unhealthy habits and working out how you can change or tweak your behaviour to create a happier result.
Think about taking the east road that leads to more happiness and less suffering.
Any change that holds the promise of more Christmas cheer is worth a try, right? And if all else fails… well, there’s always wine.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, LOVELY READERS :o)