Jessie Raymond: Momentum lost after starting on top

Picture, if you will, a spinning top. When first released with a twist of the wrist, it whizzes around upright at high speed, describing tight circles, occasionally bouncing off nearby obstacles, but retaining most of its momentum.
As time goes on, however, the top slows, growing more and more wobbly until, tracing one last dramatic arc, it falls onto its side, spent.
The top is a metaphor. (To be clear: I’m the top.)
I started off spinning, all right. I was raring to go in December. Under the glow of hundreds of tiny white lights, spurred on by a soundtrack of drummer boys and silver bells, I launched into turbo Christmas mode.
While Christmas shopping makes me want to hurt people I love, I don’t mind wrapping presents. And wrap I did. I also baked cookies, hung garlands, mailed packages, knitted hats and sipped hot tea. Our balsam-scented house hummed with Christmas prep like an outpost of Santa’s workshop.
Like the little top in my metaphor, I zipped around with purpose, hardly slowing from day to day, at least at first. And, because I lack a basic understanding of physics, I assumed I could keep on going indefinitely.
For the first time in many years, I had the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, and I intended to make the most of every free minute. I would maintain a normal schedule of taking care of myself and would avoid holiday excesses — particularly sloth and gluttony (my favorites).
Additionally, I would finally tackle my arm’s-length to-do list, which had been ignored for so long it was turning into more of a bucket list — if bucket lists include such life goals as mending and filing.
My old kitchen cabinets still needed painting. My dresser drawers, once Mari Kondo’d into tidy submission, were ready for another ruthless purge. I had empties to return.
“I’ll do all of this and more,” I said, spinning around the house in a flurry of good intentions.
My plan was to wake up early each day. I would exercise, eat a light breakfast, hop in the shower and get to work on that to-do list. As I’ve always said, the whole point of life is to overcome one’s innate laziness and impulsiveness in the short term to realize health and happiness in the long term.
I’m nothing if not zany.
Most of the time, I relish the challenge of a seemingly insurmountable slate of chores (more zaniness), but each day last week I found it harder to get jazzed to do anything. Like the spinning top, I gradually slowed, accomplishing less and less with each passing day.
On Dec. 26, I didn’t paint my cabinets. I had a glass of wine with dinner and two snickerdoodles for dessert.
On Dec. 27, I didn’t paint my cabinets. I also didn’t clean out my dresser drawers. I had two glasses of wine with dinner and eight snickerdoodles for dessert.
On Dec. 28, I didn’t paint my cabinets, clean out my dresser drawers or return empties. Having somehow run out of wine and snickerdoodles, I comforted myself by eating my volume, if not my weight, in caramel corn.
 And so it went, with me eating larger and larger quantities of whatever foods came near my face, sleeping in (well, till 7:30; I’m not a total degenerate) and letting go of any semblance of self-discipline I had had going into the holidays. By Monday, my last day off, my greatest achievement was changing out of my pajamas.
Like the little top’s last erratic circle before coming to a complete stop, I managed one final burst of activity, taking down the Christmas tree and replacing all the Christmas clutter with our everyday clutter. Then I fell onto the couch, where I lounged for the rest of the day.
On Monday night, I could have kicked myself for wasting my vacation and leaving myself totally unprepared for the week ahead.
But I didn’t.
It’s true that I don’t recall ever doing so little for so long. But I knew, what with the usual fresh-start mentality that comes with the New Year, I’d return to my old, dutiful, list-making, healthful, stultifying habits soon enough.
I’m no longer like a top — except maybe in one way: At the moment, I’m feeling disproportionately wide around the middle.

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