It’s Too Hard to be Mindful. Especially In December.

Every year I swear it will be different. I promise myself all kinds of things (they are lies) in January, when I am feeling the joy of a brand-new, empty page that only a new year can bring. January always feels a little bit like the arrival of fresh snow. It tricks me into believing that it is actually the pure beauty that it appears to be and that there aren’t dead leaves and mud and dying plants underneath. And so I make lists and goals and plans and (maybe even) resolutions. I glance backward just long enough to see the chaos and frustration from the holiday season that has just come and gone like a drive-by and I tell myself things like, This year I’m going to start Christmas shopping in June and be finished before Thanksgiving! and I’m going to write every day! and I’m going to start ALL the routines! Even though I know that I am lying to myself (and even myself knows it), I write them down… and then I just keep adding.  

So here I am and it’s a week before Christmas. I am firmly rooted in that holiday craziness that swerves wildly between manageable chaos and complete anarchy, and I know that the blank page of January is coming. I can already see it. I can imagine myself with a clean piece of paper and a new pen. Few things give me greater joy than a perfect, brand-new pen and a fresh pad of paper or (holy God!) a new journal. It is mind trickery of the highest order and I fall for it every, damn time. 

In the past, my method has been to put my head down, square my shoulders, squeeze my eyes shut and barrel through, hoping for the best. I know that I somehow, all of the presents will get wrapped, Christmas cards will be addressed and cookies will be baked. Somehow it all gets done, but it always feel like I’m not really paying attention. Probably because I’m not. I have a love-hate relationship with the calendar when it hits mid-November, on through the end of December. And the thing is, it’s one of my favorite times of the entire year… I love the lights, the parties, the togetherness. But I don’t really love all of the gift buying and I only like some of the cookie making and I really hate putting up Christmas lights. And along with the undercurrent of joy and love and holiday music, there is a buzzing of frantic rushing that runs right alongside it. 

I can’t begin to explain how many Januarys have begun with the promise to begin my Christmas shopping in June. I have never bought a single Christmas present outside the month of Late November or December in my entire living life. Partly because who in the hell can do that? I mean, how do you know that what you buy for someone will still be needed six months later?? This tactic may have worked in a different generation… one that didn’t have Amazon, perhaps. If I get something for someone in June, it’s almost a given that by December 25, they will either have purchased it themselves or don’t remember why they wanted it in the first place. Plus, when it’s June, I’m just trying to get through June. I’m not thinking about freaking Christmas. 

I start each year with all kinds of amazing (ridiculous) intentions. If “My January Self” that lives in my imagination was a real person, I would be killing it so hard right now that I’d practically be Oprah. But the thing is, my Imaginary January Self is not me. My Imaginary January Self has a clean house with clean sheets and it always smells good because of all of the many ways she uses her time wisely and creates routines. She writes every day because she has a never ending source of inspiration and she just makes the time, even when it’s tough, because she knows it’s important and if we’ve learned anything from Instagram, it’s that we make time for the things that are really important to us! My Imaginary January Self has children who do their own laundry, help with the cooking and love nothing more than spending long periods of time with me. She exercises every day and eats bushels of fresh vegetables and cooks from scratch a lot and makes freezer meals for when she’s in a pinch! If my Imaginary January Self came alive and was a real person, I would definitely hate her. There is no way we could be friends. Because there is no way that someone can be all of those things at the same time. And still be a human. Or at least, be an enjoyable human. 

And all I can think is that the next right thing to do is to just be mindful. But I want to punch that word in the throat right now. It is too hard to be mindful, especially in December. 

And yet I still have this little vision of myself on January 2 (because New Year’s Day is still a vacation), perched and ready to make All The Lists and Set All The Goals. It’s like a little journey into my own Christmas Future: seeing myself plow through these next few weeks just to get to my next fresh start. And I don’t want it… I don’t want to pretend that I can be my Imaginary January Self. I don’t even like her. 

Instead, I’m going to cling a little bit more firmly to my December Self. The girl who says yes to all the parties because they are her favorite, even though they sometimes make her very tired the next day. She eats cookies and cookie dough and doesn’t exercise as much. My December Self says a lot more yes to things in a season that everyone keeps saying, “it’s okay to say no” and so she got to help organize, collect and serve at a Christmas party that fed and gifted some of Atlanta’s most vulnerable moms and children. (Look, there is serious magic in saying “No” to some things… but it has gotten so much hype that sometimes I forget the magic & privilege of saying “Yes”.) She spends full days making cookies and watching baking reality shows. She can’t wait to go Christmas shopping with her girls in downtown Alpharetta, a favorite, new tradition. And it will include hot chocolate and carbs and strolling as the only form of exercise. 

I want to roll into January with less expectations, fewer empty promises and less internal judgment. I want to show up with a little bit of a muffin top and a glass of wine instead of another damn routine and a basket of kale. 

So I guess what I’m saying is that I want my resolution to be fewer resolutions. A deeper appreciation for my December Self, because she is the one I love, she is who I really am, she is who I want to make lists for on January 2… because I can let go of a lot, but I’ll never be able to resist a new pen and a blank page. 

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