Jessie Raymond: ‘Nothing’ is best Christmas gift ever

Between noon on Thursday, Dec. 25, and 8 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 29, I accomplished nothing.
I therefore count this as the best Christmas ever.
Unlike most families, we don’t do much after Christmas morning, which we spend opening gifts, drinking coffee and devouring a braided cinnamon Christmas bread like zombies eating brains.
When friends hear that we have no plans to go anywhere or see anyone over Christmas, they frown and say, “You poor things.” But the pity in their words can’t mask the envy in their eyes; we’ve got it easy.
Not that we’re antisocial. Earlier in December, we took care of plenty of cookie baking and visiting. We even hosted a large Christmas party at our house on the 19th. The final preparations for Christmas carried us right up to Christmas Eve, and we coasted into Christmas morning with no obligations other than to eat ourselves into a long winter’s nap.
For me, this year was particularly delightful, what with the holiday falling on a Thursday. I was looking forward to a four-day weekend with plenty of down time. As usual, I forgot one thing: I don’t like down time.
I wish I did. For instance, I love the idea of slipping into a warm bubble bath in a bathroom lit only by a dozen candles, like you see in the movies. But I tried this once and the sheer monotony of it got to me in about four minutes.
Typically, if I have free time, I feel like I should use it to get things done, whether that’s rearranging the medicine cabinet or pushing a giant boulder up a hill and letting it roll back down, ready for the next day. As long as I’m doing something — anything — I’m happy.
Under normal circumstances, therefore, I would have used Christmas Day to briefly recover from the craziness of the preceding weeks, then woken up on the 26th with the burning desire to refinish a large piece of furniture.
This year, however, I honestly did nothing — and liked it.
I’m hardly exaggerating. I’m an early riser, but for those four days, I slept in — once until a record-breaking 7:45 a.m. I would have slept even later if I hadn’t been awoken by my husband holding a mirror under my nose.
I did fold some laundry. And I emptied the dishwasher. A few times, I seriously considered cleaning out the fridge, though nothing actually came of it. I couldn’t resist taking a shower and getting dressed each morning, but most days it didn’t happen until after 9 a.m. (And my friends say I don’t know how to loosen up.) But mostly I just lazed around.
So why was this year different?
I’d like to say it’s because as I get older, I’m learning to appreciate the quiet, reflective moments as much as the busy ones. But that would be a lie. In high school I was voted Most Restless, and I haven’t changed.
The truth is, I got sick.
I came down with something bigger than a head cold but smaller than the flu. Whatever it was, it convinced me that loafing around was actually the most effective use of my free time. I think I might have even enjoyed a nice bubble bath, if I’d had the energy to find the candles.
The timing was perfect. I started sneezing on Christmas Day and spent the subsequent three days shuffling from bed to couch to loveseat, curling up for a rest whenever the mood struck. Sure, I had to put up with fatigue, body aches and a runny nose, but I considered those a fair price for learning to embrace low-key living.
Had I been well, I would have woken up at 5:30 on Friday morning, cranked out a 56-item to-do list — starting with “Find giant boulder” — and raced to get everything done before returning to work Monday.
Instead, I relaxed.
Looking back at the long weekend and thinking of all the things I didn’t do — the knitting project I didn’t start, the oven I didn’t clean, the car I didn’t vacuum — it’s clear: I had more free time than I’ve had in months, and I don’t have a single thing to show for it.
I’ve never been more proud of myself.

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