When the department stores were in their heyday, the week between Christmas and New Year’s was promoted as the “thirteenth month” as in “Shop our thirteenth month sale for all the gifts you didn’t get under the tree.” It is an odd week for those of us with vacation at this time of year. Every day feels like Sunday, we tend to over-indulge a bit in food and drink, but we also permit ourselves more Netflix time or uninterrupted reading time or even just a snuggle with the pets on the sofa. We actually see family and friends instead of texting them, we go out to lunch or host dinners in and maybe do a little post-holiday retail therapy. When I was teaching, it all came to a screeching halt on New Year’s Night with the realization that MY GOD, I HAVE TO GO BACK TO WORK TOMORROW.
A friend of mine told me recently that she has come to appreciate the word “allow.” As she put it, “reluctantly removing my super-woman cape and allowing things to take their course without constantly feeling as though I have to intervene or control.” She was recovering from a knee surgery where she had to allow her body to heal on its own time schedule, not hers. I think that idea of “allowing” and giving ourselves permission to ease up a little is what makes the thirteenth month so enjoyable.
Even though I am no longer working, I still savored recent evenings when I simply sat in the chair next to the Christmas tree and read a good book or watched a favorite television show without feeling as though I should have been doing something more productive. There are more desserts and cookies in my house now than at any other time of the year and I’m flat-out enjoying them just as I do my annual Christmas Eve glass of high-test eggnog spiked with a shot of rum. I tell myself it’s ok because it’s Christmas, but it really is ok.
I’m not suggesting that we throw all of our healthy habits out the window or become couch-dwelling sloths, but I think sometimes we need a respite from the constant pressure to achieve– whether it’s a slimmer body from carb-free eating or becoming more intentional (a buzzword I have come to detest) about some aspect of our life. I love social media, but the posts showing off kale soufflés made in an instant pot or testimonials about new-found serenity resulting from an hour of 4 am meditation can send waves of guilt through those of us happily watching Homeland while nibbling on a chocolate chip cookie. We who thrive on to-do lists and structure, on responsibility and taking care of business, (yes, even after we’re retired) have a hard-enough time extricating ourselves from the hamster wheel and when we do, give us a break already!
Today I made a wonderful butternut squash soup, watched the Penn State game, ate unhealthy kielbasa, sauerkraut , and mashed potatoes laced with butter and half-and- half, laughed and cried through the 2018 Call the Midwife Christmas special and topped off the evening with a piece of leftover gingerbread. I thought about starting to clean up some of the Christmas decorations and I have a pile of essays and pieces under construction that need to be polished and submitted and I probably should have at least gone out for a walk. But I didn’t. I allowed myself a perfect thirteenth month day.