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Gonna Treat Myself, Not Trash Myself, This Holiday Season


'Tis the season for treats! Shopping! Cookies! Christmas music! Hallmark movies! Gay apparel! Tinsel! Mulled wine! Eggnog drinks! The gleeful mockery of Starbucks cups!!!

'Tis also the season for health crises, family feuds, financial disasters, glittery litter, and whole parties of people falling off wagons.

So how to enjoy the flames of Yuletide without burning your whole life down?

America, I wish you knew how to CTFD. This great nation is a young culture, the adolescent child of Puritan parents, who isn't quite sure yet how to rebel against fundamentalist martyrdom without getting smashed and falling out of a third-floor window. (Aren't you ironically just as dead if you kill yourself with excess rather than deprivation?)

But I think I have mastered the art of enjoying the holidays--actually enjoying them, not using them as an excuse to drown my sorrows--by thinking of myself as pregnant.

I'm not. Let's get that out of the way. Nor do you have to be--or want to be--pregnant to do this spiritual exercise. Simply imagine yourself pregnant with a divine presence. Like Baby Jesus. Or Baby Joy. Or your own inner child, ready to be healed and reborn.

If there is any part of you that *hates* the Christmas season, now is the time to work on it, because I guarantee you, you will not be able to avoid it. Start by finding some part of this time of year that soothes your senses--any of your five senses. Indulge in that--but only insofar as you would if you were pregnant.

For example. I love coffee, but I gave up caffeine when I was actually pregnant. On occasion, I would indulge in a small amount of decaf. Any more gave me diarrhea, so! It turned out not to be worth it. Other pleasures, however, became available to me and served my health and my long-term comfort, such as eating more food than ever before.

Listen to your body--not only to your cravings and desires but to how you feel once you've sated them. Do you feel better or worse? Adjust your indulgence as needed.

When I was pregnant, I also tried to avoid stress and negativity. I was gentle with myself, both physically and emotionally, and I accepted other people's nurturing and babying of me to a greater extent than I ever had before in adulthood.

If the holidays bring you anxiety, think of yourself as pregnant with your own baby self, and try to invite that kindness into your life.

If the holidays wind you up into a mania of exuberance, go ahead and lean into that--but not too far! Think of the (actual) children for goodness' sake. Take care to savor the magic of the season in a way that won't land you an episode of "Hoarding: Buried Alive" in 2019.

Again, think of yourself as pregnant. You'll need a few new things, of course. You're excited, of course. Let's not ruin that.

"Treat yourself" has come to be understood as a call to go shopping or unbuckle your pants to revel in a bit of guilty pleasure, but the word "treat" can also mean to care for one's health by dealing with an illness. If you have an addiction, it is folly to "treat yourself" by allowing yourself to slide backward into your sickness.

I'll go back to my personal example of coffee and diarrhea. I love my coffee. I am medically addicted to caffeine, but I don't consider it a problem in my current lifestyle. If I have to stop drinking it temporarily (as I did during pregnancy), I can wean myself off of it in a timely manner, with minimal discomfort and no serious risks to my health. And while I am able to enjoy a couple of lattes each morning, I am suffering no ill effects of my consumption. However! If I decide to "treat" myself with an extra latte, being sensitive to drugs, I am immediately "rewarded" with gut cramps, eyelid twitches, stinky sweats, and insomnia. It's not a treat! It's a trap!

My "treats" during the holiday season will be different from yours or anyone else's. Maybe you can have that extra latte (in a deliciously hateful Starbucks cup or not) without making yourself sick. We all have different preferences, cravings, and responses. So put your hands on your belly and get in touch with what that divine spark inside truly wants--and truly needs.

This year, I am treating myself by:
  • listening to Tinsel and Tunes (when my husband isn't home--he's allergic to Michael BublĂ©)
  • mailing glittery cards to a few loved ones
  • baking wholesome cookies with European-style butter
  • buying and wrapping thoughtful, practical, and carefully budgeted gifts for my daughter which I expect will thrill her on Christmas morning and also not end up in the trash by Valentine's Day
  • cleaning the bathroom with this spray that smells like a real Christmas tree and not a gol-dang Yankee Candle
  • taking a few basic lessons in tango technique, you know, just in case I need to know this for a holiday party, and also because it builds my muscles for snow shoveling and firewood chucking
  • building fires, cuddling with my furry husband and cat, and watching free movies on Hoopla
  • wearing my Christmas socks and knitted hat to work 
  • decorating my tree at home with cat toys instead of ornaments so we can all just have fun

None of the above indulgences will leave me feeling like (or literally creating large mountains of) trash afterward. I wish you, too, a season of comfort and joy that treats you well.


Happy holidays! If you like, here are some Yuletide tales to tell by the fireside.

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