Holiday Happiness or Helplessness?

I write to share, I write to vent, I write to provoke, and sometimes, to self sabotage, I write to confess…

I sit here in front of my computer, after a long hard holiday day of sleeping, watching movies, opening gifts, and eating to my heart’s content, I am writing in search for sympathy. I am confessing to my sins of laziness, sluggishness, and lethargy. Or should I be?

As always, it comes down to a matter of perspective. Are my “sins” actually good deeds to my well being? Am I adding years to my life by chill-axing? Am I actually catching up on all the sleep I’ve lost out on during the year? Is the holiday also referred to “the break” for a reason?

I believe that laziness, sluggishness, and lethargy can also be mistaken synonyms to rest, relaxation, and recreation. The body and mind need to be in these states of R&R&R in order to repair, restore, and rebuild. I believe this negative undertone to the holiday break is a result of my overly active lifestyle, highly conditioned career-mindedness, and obsessive compulsive work-life attitude. This mindset prevents me from fully indulging in this rewarding holiday lifestyle. But how do I prevent the feeling of holiday helplessness? How do I prevent this lazy lull feeling and only feel the benefits of restorative relaxation?

George Orwell says, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” The answer is with me every time I engage in exercise!

Because I think in terms of exercising and training, the answer is as simple and best explained as the necessity of warming up and cooling down, before and after a workout. In order to reap the benefits of the exercise workout, we need to conduct a thorough warm up before starting. It must be progressively intensifying and just as mentally stimulating as physically. When we finish our workout, we need to conduct a thorough cool down before exiting the exercise state of mind. It must be a decrescendo of intensity whereby a restful heart rate must be stabilized.

From the days leading up to the holiday, we take on more work, we go above and beyond, and we overstress ourselves because we know the break is near. Then, when we finally finish, we enter the holiday high strung, anxiety ridden, and ready to binge. It’s like jumping into a super intense workout without any warm up; increasing our chances for injury, relapsing into injury, and creating more potential for consequence than benefit.

My introduction to my suggestions on how to avoid such a rollercoaster behavior starts with my inspiration. Movies affect my mood greatly. I experienced such a surge of motivation and energy after watching The Dark Knight Rises (a Xmas gift of course!) that I put myself through an upper body workout during the last quarter of the movie while simultaneously thinking up the foundation of this entry. The following quote from Bane underlines the epitome of this struggle I believe we all need to overcome.

“Peace has cost you your strength, victory has defeated you!” – Bane

During their first confrontation, Bane patronizes and mocks Batman for putting up a weak fighting effort from being out of the game for so long. Batman’s comeback is lackluster, without strategy, and rushed. Just like how we rush into the holiday break without any preconceived plan, Batman rushes into his comeback against Bane, and gets what he deserves. I am speaking to this lack of transition time from one mindset to another – the sense of acting without thinking.

Batman’s “peace” and “victory” time has made him lazy and has put him out of practice. He has fallen off the bandwagon of being the caped crusader, that his abilities have dulled and his tools have rusted. This behavior reflects our need to keep our positive habits consistent. We must not look at the off-season as a time to rejoice in self-sabotage, nor self-enlighten with extreme change, but aim to maintain so we do not lose on all that we have gained during the season.

We must not regard the holiday as a celebration tied to extrinsic rewards. Yes, we do give and receive gifts, eat and drink like kings and queens, but those celebratory actions should come secondary to the main purpose of the holiday season: spending time with loved ones. We get lost in the tangible traditions that we forget the intangibles; love, connection, unity, harmony, and happiness. It is the intangibles that give rationale to the tangibles.    

 “Deshi Basara!” (translates to “RISE!”) – Crowd of Prisoners 

As the crowd of prisoners motivate and cheer on the unmasked Batman to climb up and out of the underground prison, they chant “Deshi Basara!” The successful climb is the warm up to his return to Gotham city and the big battle ahead. We must engage in our own version of the Batman prison climb with the holidays, so that we are ready and fully warmed up for the events ahead. The chanting echoes his attitude and drives his momentum, as do the Christmas traditions and our spirits.

As we push through Christmas and into the future, we come full circle; we must face the beginning of the end. It is New Year’s Eve and we have plans for the New Year. The beginning IS the end and the end IS the beginning. There is unknown, there is change, there is a whole New Year ahead with different goals ahead. It is a contradictory time that brings nervousness, anxiety, and fear. The key is to not resist nor ignore these feelings.

Blind Prisoner: You do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak. 
Bruce Wayne: Why? 
Blind Prisoner: How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death. 
Bruce Wayne: I do fear death. I fear dying in here, while my city burns, and there’s no one there to save it. 
Blind Prisoner: Then make the climb. 
Bruce Wayne: How? 
Blind Prisoner: As the child did. Without the rope. Then fear will find you again. 

With a rope harness, Bruce Wayne aka Batman, is fearlessly set to climb out of the prison, after many failed attempts. Bruce’s previous failures are due to a contradiction in his mindset and efforts; Bruce says he does not fear death, yet he still attempts each climb with the rope harness. The Blind Prisoner explains to Bruce Wayne that this contradiction is what is holding him back from succeeding. He now understands that he needs fear as motivation.  Sometimes, we need to release ourselves from the comfort of the rope harness in order to experience something spectacular.

Lastly, an outside perspective, whether from a blind person or not, is what we need to realign our path. Ironically, the Blind Prisoner sees what is blinding Batman, he identifies Batman’s fear factor and forces him to rethink his strategy. This Blind Prisoner acts as a metaphor to the ‘cool down phase’.  The cool down should be a time to reflect and think. Once thoughts have been processed, plans must start to take shape, fear must continue to motivate, and thus leaps are no longer made from faith, but from strategy. Just as we finish one year and enter into a new one, our minds must be open to change. As one year ends, we experience a cool down phase which is integral to the mindset of the future.

The helplessness that some of us may experience during the holiday is untimely, but to our dismay, by our own doing. The recognition of this holiday helplessness may simply be the fear that we need to spark a change. Therefore, with a little more emphasis on warming up and cooling down, transition phase planning, fear as motivation, insight from an outside perspective, and some Batman in our back pocket, we may experience happiness over the holiday, without the helplessness.