I probably minimize Christmas more than anyone you know. I like to decorate the house a little bit, but I do that anyway. I love the seasons and generally seize on any opportunity to add twinkle lights to the inevitable holiday darkness. I have one glass Christmas tree pin that sits on the lapel of my grey pea coat for a few weeks. I buy a handful of gifts. That’s it. All in all, I am not a victim of Christmas’ icy grip of consumerism. So, that’s not why.
But if everything is a cycle, then there must also come a time when growth shifts into darkness, when it comes to a screeching halt and refuses to budge, like the checkout lines at Costco on Christmas Eve. This year, that day for me was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Gary’s reaction to the impending darkness of winter is far more productive. He chops wood, closes the vents under the house, disconnects the hoses, fills the pantry and the chest freezer with red meat and wine, drags out the snow shovels, puts on his favorite polar fleece shirt, and tunes his skis.
But one too many Facebook posts told me I was a bad person if I said “Happy Holidays!” instead of “Merry Christmas!” (and vice-versa). I was forced to listen to Elvis singing Christmas carols while trapped in the dentist’s chair. And to add insult to injury, Gary ceremoniously tossed one more gigantic tin of those damned Belgian butter cookies into the Costco cart. It’s a well-known fact that these are gateway cookies. My eye-rolling, sighing, and threatening had no impact on his decision, as usual.
In case you find yourself irritated at everybody and everything without an actual cause this time of year, I offer these personal symptoms as a public service, as you also may be a victim of:
SAEDD or Seasonal Affective Eating and Drinking Disorder
Counting to five makes you swear like a sailor. OK, this requires a little explanation. My friend, Maureen, and I decided to start learning Italian a few months ago. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, mostly so that I could finally learn the right way to pronounce Italian food, like gnocchi and bruschetta. Both of us are really enjoying the small-class setting, even though our dedication to studying isn’t impressive. We’re in that boring phase of learning important verbs and nouns, how to conjugate irregular verbs, and memorizing numbers. There’s a lot of Spanish in my brain from years ago, so I have to go down that pathway first before shifting over to the new, Italian version.
My problem is, for the life of me, I can’t remember anything five-ish – 5, 15, 50, 2:55, you name it. Cinco or cinquenta? 555 in Italian is cinquecentocinquantacinque. What the hell? It’s deeply embarrassing. Can I succeed in speaking Italian without saying anything with fives in it? I poured myself a glass of chianti and tried again. Counting to ten under the influence doesn’t help, just so you know.
Your coffee consumption skyrockets. A few years ago, I got a great deal on a Nespresso machine at Costco in Phoenix. I am embarrassed to admit it because this sleek and sexy contraption involves pods, not K-cups, but they’re just about as bad, ecologically speaking, and even more expensive. You have to buy the damn pods online, unlike K-cups, but I’ve adjusted. And I parse the little darlings out carefully. I’m not sure what my coffee “budget” is, but it clearly has doubled lately. I hardly ever go out for coffee, so that’s how I justify it. But I just realized that I bet I’ve spent the same amount on pods this last year as my new gym membership.
Your gym bag stays in the house and collects holiday dust. This fall, I decided to bite the bullet and join a gym, in spite of the fact that I have a roomful of workout equipment upstairs from the 1990s which, I should mention, is not worn out. But since I haven’t been able to run for several months now, I decided to take up swimming again, for the first time in decades. I quickly realized that I spend as much money each year on Nespresso capsules (see #2) as this cheap gym membership costs. Memories of George in the shower on Seinfeld notwithstanding.
Since signing up in mid-November, I’ve swum once. It wasn’t even awful, except for the fifteen-minute workout I had while just trying to get the damn cap on my head. And lest you think I’m a complete slacker, I went a second time to try out the elliptical machine. “It’s just like running,” the membership guy said. No, it’s not. There has never been a time that I’ve gone running while being forced to watch Fox News or Jeopardy at the same time. Just a few weeks earlier, before Black Sunday and the SAEDD kicked in, I found an old bag and stuffed it full of whatever I’d need to have at the gym. I put it in the back seat of my car and there it has stayed, until now. It’s now on the couch in my office because the dogs wanted to go for a ride. I can’t even pick it up and put it in the car.
You fall asleep at 8:15 pm on the couch, while binge-watching The Americans. In order to see the TV screen these days, I’m bundled up on a nearby sofa by the fire, covered in polar fleece. Something must be wrong because I’m nodding off during the sex scenes and waking up terrified when the gunfire starts. I don’t know what this says about me, but I’m pretty sure it’s not good.
I’m also finding that because this show deals with 1980s Cold War dynamics and contains many scenes with Russians, my vodka consumption seems to be skyrocketing and I’m considering buying a vintage trench coat from Etsy.
Any summer issue of Sunset magazine pisses you off. I love Sunset magazine, but when I ran into the July issue the other day, its perkiness, colorfulness, and general positivity really pissed me off, more than holiday road rage and almost as much as those stupid half-paper-towels we have to buy now. So, my fuse is much shorter than usual, and can only be sated by some heavy stew from the October issue and a hearty cabernet.
You suddenly find stale Halloween candy to be irresistible. Just a few weeks ago, I was in charge of the office Biggest Loser contest and was actually succeeding. Life was good, I felt great, and I was so full of enthusiasm that I started a second contest through the holidays, feeling that I could stick to the plan six days a week and eat whatever I wanted the seventh. For weeks, I had easily snubbed the excess foodstuffs that found their way into our office break room. Double-stuff Oreos? That 10-pound bag of pretzels from Costco? Not this girl. But then he-who-must-not-be-named brought in THREE bags of stale, off-brand, mallocreme pumpkins. And they are now calling to me. I indulged in a couple from each bag until I read the ingredients…did you know that they contain carnauba wax? Do you not remember this wax from the Turtle car wax in your garage? ‘Nuf said.
It’s hard to try new things, especially if it’s cauliflower. In spite of a reasonably soul-crushing workload, I tried a few new things in the Fall, for once. In addition to Italian classes, I went out on a limb a tried a new shampoo from Costco. And then, as I mentioned, I joined a gym. But when it comes to food and beverage during this SAEDD season, I want the known: Heavy food, stews, red wine, cheese, and for heaven’s sake: No damn salad. But in hopes of breaking through this seasonal funk, I forced myself to try a new Anthony Bourdain recipe for Cauliflower Sesame and yes, even though we’re talking about cauliflower here, it was fantastic. I have made it four times since Thanksgiving. Bourdain said “This shit is compulsively delicious” and who am I to doubt him? If you want to try it, here’s the link:
Your dream space offers no relief. I don’t know about you, but driving to work in the dark and back home in the dark makes me want to pull the covers up over my head before dinner. But some spouses seem to think dinner is important, so my half-hearted attempts at sustenance force me to stay awake a while longer, drink some red wine, and eat things that I shouldn’t. After my mid-evening nap during The Americans, I eventually fall into bed and hope for comforting dreams. But, alas, I am wrong again. Tropical beaches and donuts fill my dream space; the former, I understand…the latter, I do not, since I am not a donut-eater.
According to one source, this is what these dreams mean:
“To dream that you are relaxing on a beach signifies that the coming weeks will be calm and tranquil for you. Your stress will be alleviated and you will find peace of mind.”
“To see a doughnut in your dream represents the Self. It suggests that you may be feeling lost and still trying to find yourself and your purpose in life. Alternatively, it refers to growth, development and nurturance. You are not yet completely whole.”
I take no comfort in these interpretations whatsoever. I believe it really means that I will grow and need a larger-sized bathing suit to be on the beach. This thought leads to increased caffeine consumption in the morning and increased guilt about not going to the gym. Increased guilt, in general, is another sign of SAEDD, but merits a more in-depth examination than I can explore here.
Well, that’s about all I have to say about the subject of SAEDD. I hope this information will help you get through this time of year with a bit more clarity, as you now understand some of its complicated signs and dynamics.
If you happen to see me between now and New Year’s Day, you probably want to avoid the usual pleasantries, such as: “How are you?” Instead, be grateful that I have pants on and impressed that I have left the couch. Just hand me a glass of wine and everything will be okay.
I’ll be back to my normal self on January 1, just like you. In the meantime, I plan to spend my few waking hours searching online for polar fleece underwear.
Thanks for reading. I know how busy you are.