Last Month Of The Year

It’s December again, a fact that feels particularly hard won this year. (It’s been a good year, just one filled with trials and effort on a number of fronts; thankfully, I’ve been able to face it with loved ones and friends, and that makes a big difference.) The final month of the year has always, for me, held some magical resonance. I buy into the Christmas thing a lot, if not entirely, and in my head, it starts as soon as December does.

Helping that considerably are advent calendars. I can’t not do advent calendars at this time of year; it’s been a tradition since I was a kid. I remember distinctly that they would be hung right beside the front door of the house I grew up in, with door-opening duties shared, round robin-style, by myself and my sisters. We’d open the doors on the calendar as we left for school when the month began, and as it got closer to Christmas and therefore more seasonal and exciting, I’d become more and more impatient and start opening the doors when I came downstairs every morning. (Only when it was my turn, of course.)

My favorite advent calendars, to this day, are the ones with chocolate inside. It’s that small bit of sweetness that appears at the wrong time of the day — I think we can all agree that chocolate is a second half of the day treat, right? — that thrilled me then and thrills me now, and makes any advent calendar seem that little bit more magical. (Now, with added snacks is a hard thing to disagree with, surely.) But, no matter what, I’m happy opening cardboard doors daily for a month to countdown to a day off and some goodwill and, yes, some presents, too.

Last year, the start of December saw me move, and start to try to settle into what is now somewhere I genuinely consider a home, instead of a house. We got here with truckloads of boxes and nowhere near enough furniture, and everything seem scattered and unsettled and unfinished for weeks. But there was an advent calendar, and despite everything else, doors were opened, as the countdown to the big day took place. It was a tradition unbroken since I was a child, and something that proved to be grounding and peaceful even when the rest of the world was unpacking and unsure.

Maybe 40 Hours A Week Is Enough

Traditionally, I don’t like to take time away from work.

I mean, that’s not entirely accurate; it’s more that I don’t feel comfortable doing that for a number of reasons — really, just a big one called insecurity surrounding my sense of self-worth and a misguided belief that I can become more valuable as a person if I simply just work harder, but I go to therapy for a reason, thank you very much — but it’s certainly true that, historically, I don’t tend to take time off if I can help it. It makes me uncomfortable, antsy. I feel as if there’s something I should be doing instead.

(Mixed In with this is traditional freelancer panic, of course; the feeling that saying no to anything puts my livelihood at risk, which is an obvious no-no.)

My usual disinterest in time off is so usual that three different people have commented on it in the past week, in fact, each expressing something akin to sarcastic concern over how I’d deal with the four-day weekend that comes with the Thanksgiving holiday.

Reader, I craved it. Heading into that break, I felt this intense need, a hunger, for that time off. I almost resented everything that stood in its way, the deadlines and requirements and the everything that traditionally helped me keep working. Even after the holiday itself, I dissembled and found reasons to stop myself from doing work that, in theory, I felt as if I “should” be doing. From out of nowhere, I discovered and embraced the joy of relaxing.

I have feelings about why this should be the case, but I think the truth is simply that I’m at a point in my life where — say this quietly for fear of upsetting people, not least myself — I’m not hiding from my life by working anymore. Indeed, I might even enjoy not working, but instead just living.

It’s a new thing I’m trying, as surprising as it’s going to be to everyone around me. I hope you’ll all be patient with me during this obviously trying time.