This is the time of year my wife and I kind of dread. She is an instructor at a gym--mostly martial arts, but she can teach other sorts of classes, too. She teaches all kinds of classes in January, what she and her colleagues call "Resolution Season." She's tired as hell right now. It's all good for the "shared household" bank account, but I don't get to see nearly as much of her as I'd like.
We dread the annual round of diet talk, too. It's in her gym, in my office, and on our TV. I'm particularly annoyed by Slimfast's new campaign featuring what are allegedly female "comedians". The funnier the joke, the more a comedian can get away with, and at least in the ads, these women can get away with very little indeed. I expressed my feelings about the British woman who talked about needing to zip up her bridesmaid's dress in one month on Twitter today: "Take stairs instead of the elevator, eat less junk + more veggies, buy yr dress a size larger, + zip up yr lips, you whiny British wench." But slow, sensible weight loss, tolerance of one's own body, and wearing a dress made to fit you rather than forcing yourself to fit into a dress don't move dodgy diet products, do they? It's not just gym instructors who count on getting paid during Resolution Season.
I always think of the importance of balance during the winter. In December, as the days get shorter and gloomier, we decorate with bright colors and tinsel. We seek to chase away the dark with our lights, at least subconsciously. The theme of light contending against darkness comes up in the celebration of Hanukkah, in the familiar story of the Star of Bethelhem from my childhood Christmases, and in the Neo-Pagan Yule that I adopted. I feel I can have Yule decorations, as European Christians "borrowed" them from ancient Pagans hundreds of years ago. (Never mind that the Old Ones didn't have frankly fake white trees pre-lit with colored lights; that's their problem.) I appreciate it far more in New York City than I ever did in Florida.
But by January 1st, I want to take my house back. The Yule decorations that looked so pretty a month ago now seem like clutter. We're bored with it all. We're sick of trying to keep the cats off the tree, which they seem to feel we put up just for them. I'd eagerly made candy and cookies, and then taken advantage of Half-Price Chocolate Day on December 26th. Now I'm not sure I can bring myself to eat a bite of sugar ever again. We tear down the lights, wrap up ornaments, put everything away, sweep the floor. The house looks right again. It breathes, and so do we. It's over. Back to reality.
I like it, to be honest. I like the month of frenzy and indulgence followed by one of relative asceticism. It's an ancient pattern. It seems right. Today the garbage was picked up again on the streets of New York--on a "limited basis", thanks to the City's asinine response to the snowstorm, but we'll take it. It felt like the whole world had been cleaned and made new. I know that's not true. In Arkansas, people are picking up dead fish and birds by the thousands, scared that they're next. In other parts of the world, the misery is unrelenting and people know nothing else. When depression had me in its stifling embrace during my teens and twenties, I believed it when I said "Same bullshit, different year." Today, however, I got to feel a fresh start. I appreciate what an amazing gift that is.
The annoying anti-fat and anti-smoking commercials will leave my TV just like the annoying commercials turning every human endeavor into a "great gift idea" did. There will be small scraps of Valentine's pink and red among the wintery gray and white. Eventually, the first halting bits of green will poke through, too. We'll eat chocolate again, just a bit this time. The ice will all melt, and I'll happily tie on roller skates to go to the store instead of pulling on my boots and trudging. The wheel turns again and again. Best to turn with it.
If you try to find a balance, there's a better chance that balance will find you. I hope it does.
Some links that may show just how out of balance our world can get:
Valentine's Day is officially banned in Iran.
There's plenty of blame to go around, but right-wingers claim that the SnowLoko in NYC was all union members' fault.
The Physicians Committee Against Smiling--sorry, for Responsible Medicine--is trying to ban new fast-food restaurants in Detroit, even though they are based in Washington, DC.
An Evangelical Backlash Against Environmentalism Yes, my brother and I had arguments with our older relatives even though our uncle was recovering from a stroke at Christmas, and this blog entry encapsulates why.
An interesting new blog from a perspective that's often ignored: Ask a Bisexual Guy
Finally, some of you probably already know that I wasn't pleased at the outcome of the Winter Classic. (The Capitals beat the Penguins.) Eric Fehr of the Capitals outshined both of the show's leading men, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, with his two goals. Intent to Blow spoofs how that might have displeased the NHL's powers-that-be.