So while it is nice to see numbers trending downwards on the scale, and measurements shrinking, the biggest reward is being pain-free and being able to hop up the stairs two at a time from the basement to the top floor without being winded.
So I’m ready to hold onto that thought, and get back into the business of taking care of myself.
Because if I don’t take care of myself, how will I take care of my boys?
Go into your settings and look at your screen time report.
Earlier this year I finally turned off my screen time report notification when it kept telling me that my average weekly screen time was creeping up.
I looked at it today for the first time in a while, and it’s at 1 hour and 28 minutes per day on average. That’s down 29% from last week!
The truth is, picking up my smartphone has become almost a compulsive behavior.
Put Into Perspective
Let’s be generous and say I sleep eight hours a night. That gives us 16 waking hours left per day.
If, on average, I’m spending 1.5 hours per day on my phone, that leaves me 14 and 1/2 hours left in my day.
That doesn’t sound too bad.
But when I compare that to the time I spend doing my hobbies, that’s when it starts to seem like a lot.
Reading: I definitely don’t read 1.5 hours a day.
Knitting: if I knitted that long every day I’d have serious shoulder pains!
Exercising: it’s about 30 minutes every other day.
Playing piano: I play for max. ten minutes if I’m lucky.
And remember: 1.5 hours is down 29% from last week! What was I DOING last week??
Checking the Phone Compulsively
I wake up, I check my phone. (The first pickup today was at 7:35am.)
My phone lives in my back pocket or sits next to me on the counter. It follows me upstairs, downstairs, outside… To the bathroom…
(Don’t tell me you don’t do it!)
Any change in pace or activity, any lull and I whip it out.
Mostly I’m on WhatsApp and Instagram. On WhatsApp I’m at least interacting with family and friends.
But on Instagram, it’s just mindless scrolling. I shoot past post after post, pausing occasionally to unmute and watch a video, or to like something.
The worst part is, though, that I’ve clicked on some Instagram ads. And have even bought off of Instagram ads!
Each time it happens I get SO ANNOYED with myself! I’m behaving exactly as Mark Zuckerberg wants me to and making him money with each stupid purchase.
Gah! Damn the man!
Why the Compulsive Checking?
I’ve been wondering about this. What is causing me to constantly reach for my phone?
Why am I mindlessly scrolling? Checking for messages I know have not come? Looking for likes when I haven’t posted anything?
What does it give me? Is it escapism? Am I doing it out of boredom?
Maybe it’s just become a habit, like twirling my hair. It certainly feels that mindless most of the time.
Looking for Contact?
Or is it that I’m desperately looking for contact?
I’d have to delve a little deeper into my screen time data to see if the pandemic has had much of an impact on my phone use.
Since we’re not seeing much of anyone, the phone is my only point of contact with anyone outside my household.
Perhaps this compulsive phone checking is simply an expression of loneliness.
What To Do?
1 .Forgive myself:
It’s okay to be desperate for contact in these socially distanced times. I think we can all relate to that.
2. Set some ground rules for phone use:
Not at the table. Not when I’m spending time with my Chico or the kids. Never in the car. Leave it downstairs at bedtime.
3. Delete Instagram:
I’ve done this before, and it was good. I still used my phone a lot for WhatsApp and other messaging apps, but at least I stopped the mindless scrolling (and stupid purchases. Damn you, Mark Zuckerberg!).
4. Wear my watch:
One of the biggest reasons I pick up my phone is to look at the time. Wearing a watch precludes that necessity.
5. Forgive myself again:
Don’t get mad at myself for failing to do any or all of the above. Even being more aware of my compulsive phone checking is a positive step forward.
Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have won their Georgia senatorial bids (hooray!), and let’s give credit where credit is due.
Stacey Abrams and her organization Fair Fight Action delivered this victory for the Democratic candidates.
The U.S. senators-elect are strong candidates in their own right, but Ms Abrams’ activism and push to get out the vote for historically marginalized populations was the driving force behind this victory.
Why Stacey Abrams Matters
Ms Abrams is a Black woman in America. Voices (and votes) like hers have been historically repressed in this country generally, in the South specifically.
She matters because she will not be silenced.
She lost her bid for governor of Georgia in 2018, but she has not been silenced.
She saw that voter suppression was likely what cost her the governorship, and decided she wouldn’t sit back and accept it as “the way things are.”
The Work Isn’t Done
Stacey Abrams has proved that even the “reddest” states aren’t all that red. How many other “red” states are more purple than we think?
The work isn’t done until people all across this country–people who have the legal right to vote–are able to do so.
Fair Fight and Ms Abrams focus primarily on Georgia, but the organization is active around the entire country. There are also plenty of similar organizations in other states.
Let’s look them up. Let’s donate our time and our money.
Let’s ensure that voters of color and young voters do not suffer disenfranchisement.
It seems incredible in this day and age, but it is happening. And we must fight it.
Who will be Stacey Abrams in Virginia? Texas? How quickly can we clone her?
God bless you and your work, Stacey Abrams. Thank you for not remaining silent.
The Swamp of Despair. The Pit of Gloom. The Dismal Abyss.
You get the idea, yes?
John Bunyan’s Slough of Despond was a place where his protagonist (a rather obviously named “Christian”) wallowed in the weight of his sins and his sense of guilt.
My personal Slough is more to do with my feelings of failure.
What Brings It On
It’s hard to say what brings on these episodes. I find myself sinking into a gloom, as if the weight of something is sitting on my chest.
The smallest tasks become overwhelming. The slightest things become major irritants.
It’s a debilitatingly contradictory combination of numbness and hyper-sensitivity. It fixes me in a gloomy funk and can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, or in extreme cases, a few weeks or even months.
Focusing on Failures
This gloomy mood happens to all of us. Many people are feeling it more with the isolation that the pandemic has brought.
When it descends on me I tend to focus on my perceived failures. Which particular failures change from spell to spell.
This time my brain seems fixated on how I have failed to be as well-informed, well-read, thoughtful, spiritual, generous with my time as…
This is not a new way I have devised to punish myself. I’ve compared myself to her often enough in the past.
The comparison has also been made by others, and often times the expectation for me to be like her is very real. I’ve been told of it outright.
It’s unfair. It’s unfair for me to do this to myself. It’s also unfair for others to do it to me.
My mother was an extraordinary woman. There is no doubt about that.
I am also extraordinary in my own way. I’m a woman of remarkable abilities. However…
I am not my mother.
I’m not even all that much like her. I think that’s part of why we got along so well.
While she was alive, I felt no pressure to be like her (at least not from her). We shared the joy of our mutual love, our admiration and our capacity to push each other out of our different comfort zones.
Since her death, however, both I and others seem to have transferred a lot of what she was to me.
A spiritual mentor of hers writing to me as he would have to her. A friend of hers expecting me to share all my mother’s knowledge of literature. A family member expressing dismay that I do not take the same joy from cooking as my mother did.
And then there are my own feelings of failure at not being such an active participant in my community as she was in hers.
The list goes on.
Gloom or Grief?
It’s almost as if I knew better who I was and what my place was before my mother died.
Losing her, I have lost some of my sense of self.
It’s hard to say if what I’m feeling is a “depressive episode” or simply grief. More than three years on, it can still sneak up on me.
As he was going to bed on Christmas night, the Bug said, “Mama, now we don’t have anything to look forward to tomorrow!”
That pretty much sums it up.
All the build-up of Advent is pretty much guaranteed to ensure that Christmas day is somewhat anticlimactic.
We Did Our Best
The boys definitely got more gifts this year than they have previously. Since we’re usually traveling on Christmas, presents have traditionally been kept small.
This year, we had more time to think about it. The present ideas kept accumulating, and knowing that we didn’t have to fit any of them in a suitcase helped to remove almost all restraint.
Luckily, our budget ensured that we didn’t go *too* far overboard.
Presents Alone Don’t Cut It
Yeah, the presents are great. There’s magic in coming down the stairs to find presents piled under the tree where only the evening before there were none.
But I think it’s everything around Christmas, the other traditions and activities, that help to make it special and to make the feeling last through the whole season.
Here are some ways you can make Christmas last a little longer than our modern allotment of 24 hours.
Christmas cookies. Baked ham. Panettone. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious like I was this year, a bûche de Noël (aka a Christmas log cake).
These make the Christmas season so special. In Spain, it’s tradition to eat fish on Christmas Eve (Chico spoiled me thoroughly with a hake and green sauce dish with littleneck clams!).
Then of course there’s Christmas day with all its epicurean delights.
But the pleasures of Christmas food don’t need to end there. Panettone lasts for days, and Christmas cookies can last past Christmas (though they don’t often).
Baked ham makes for great leftovers, and there are other traditional foods to be eaten all throughout the twelve days. I’m looking forward to another spread Chico is planning for New Year’s Eve!
And don’t forget to make a King cake for January 6th! We plan to make a roscón de reyes. Soon we will have to have the perennial debate: stuff it with whipped cream or not?
Yeah, I know you’re probably sick of Christmas music by now. But I’m not talking about cheesy mall Christmas tunes.
There are a lot of beautiful albums inspired by the season, in pretty much every genre. You can go for a cappella, crooners, jazz (a favorite of ours is the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas).
If you’re into classical music, you can enjoy a little Handel. Or even look up traditional Christmas music from other countries and cultures.
In my books, we can listen to Christmas music through Epiphany!
In the States we generally limit gift-giving to Christmas Day. Mostly, it’s because we don’t have the vacation days to celebrate for the entire Christmas season.
But one way to keep the Christmas cheer going for a little longer is to extend the gift-giving over several days. Or you can celebrate Epiphany on January 6th, which is when many cultures exchange their Christmas gifts.
Today is Boxing Day (the feast of Saint Stephen), which was traditionally when landowners would give gifts to their tenants. It was a day for the wealthy to share with those less fortunate.
Today, in the spirit of giving, we took some old shoes, toys and puzzles we have outgrown to donate to a local shelter.
It’s important to do as the song says and “pause in life’s pleasures to count its many tears,” and remember those who aren’t able to enjoy Christmas like we can.
4. Playing Games
Games are a big part of Christmas celebrations around the world. Yesterday we enjoyed a couple rousing rounds of Funny Bunny–always a kid pleaser.
The boys got several new games for Christmas, and throughout the season we’ll take time to play them as a family.
Charades or Celebrity are great games for get-togethers, and Chico and I have had success playing them over House Party calls.
If your household isn’t big into games, maybe the festive season is the right time to try a few. So long as you can avoid arguments. Always a danger when it comes to games…
5. Lights & Decorations
Darn it, I’m keeping these decorations up until Epiphany (or until the very last minute for when our HOA is offering tree pick-up).
Having the extra lights in this darkest time of the year is really cheering. The decorations make the house feel cozy and inviting.
Since we’re spending so much time at home, I say the cozier the better.
The Magic of Christmas
It doesn’t have to end too quickly. I’m going to continue to advocate for celebrating right until the very last day.
After the dumpster fire of a year this has been, I think we could all use some extended partying.
Our county schools all reverted to 100% distance learning as of Tuesday because of rising coronavirus infection rates.
On Wednesday, we had a snow day. Today, we had ANOTHER SNOW DAY.
I don’t really see the logic of declaring snow days when everyone’s connecting virtually anyway, but whatever.
One Happy Dude
I know one person was DELIGHTED to have two days off from school.
Yup. He’s in kindergarten, he’s nearly six, and he’s our Winter Baby.
The Bug, our very own Canadian.
In His Element
I practically had to wrestle his snow gear on to him before letting him out of the house. He was dying to get out in the white fluffy stuff.
The boy who normally doesn’t want to get out of his pajamas on the weekend was dressed shortly after breakfast and ready to be out of doors in the falling snow.
It was delightful. We took an ambling walk and admired the flakes that landed on our gloves, caught them on our tongues, and marvelled at the accumulation happening right before our eyes.
I was taking photos, and in each one the Bug has an enormous grin on his face.
He’s making snow angels, making footprints, gathering up snow for a tiny snowball…
The Bear, on the other hand, looks less than amused in most of the pictures.
Ah, the difference between my Summer Baby and my Winter Baby.
Born To Cold
The Bug was born in early January in Montreal, Canada.
The day before he came it had been mild, only -17 degrees Celsius (hovering just above zero in Fahrenheit).
That night, though, the temperature plummeted to -34C (-29F) and every pregnant woman in Montreal near her due date went into labor.
The only reason I scored a private hospital room was because the Bug came in a damn hurry. Five hours from the first contraction to delivery.
The February after he was born was the coldest February in recorded Quebec history (a fact my mother never failed to point out to me when she was visiting that month).
We toted him around in a carrier with a special insert in our winter coats to keep him warm. We took him out in a stroller so bundled up that only his little face was showing (he needed his vitamin D!).
And since then, he has always loved the cold.
Two in a Row
So you can imagine his delight when they announced another snow day yesterday afternoon.
We’ve spent most of the past two days outside in the snow. Snow forts, snow castles, ice piles, butt sledding, ice skating on our frozen driveway… We did it all.
And though it was exhausting, it was magical.
It’d be nice to get a bit more snow for Christmas, but being in Virginia, we won’t hold our breath.
At least we’ve had this taste of winter wonderland. And we can confidently say we took full advantage of every minute.