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Jessie Raymond: ‘Twas the season for slacking off

Well, I did it again.
For the second year in a row, I’ve had the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, and, also for the second year in a row, I got nothing done.
The difference is that last year I thought I’d use the extra down time to catch up on projects around the house and to focus on my health and fitness.
Neither happened.
This year I had no such expectations. And I did not let myself down.
Instead of setting myself up for failure, I gave myself permission to take a break from adult behavior and have a good time without worrying about the consequences. I figured I had 51 other weeks of the year to wake up early, exercise and not eat homemade caramels for breakfast.
I had actually started feeling my resolve weakening around Thanksgiving — not coincidentally the same time that I decided to get a jumpstart on holiday baking.
You see, if you fill your house up with molasses cookies, macaroons and brownies in late November, the chances of them lasting until Christmas (even frozen) are statistically near zero. Good intentions and willpower are no match for dark days and bitter cold. Add in holiday revelry and a long stretch of free time, and resistance becomes futile.
By mid-December, I felt pangs of guilt every time I sampled another one of the treats that showed up at the office. “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” a coworker told me. “It’s December. You’re supposed to enjoy the holidays.”
This was the same message the devil on my shoulder had been giving me several times a day. Now I had a second opinion. So I crossed “go to bed early, do squats, eat dark, leafy greens” off my weekly list of goals and replaced them with “eat, drink, be merry.”
Limits, I decided, were for losers.
I really hit my stride right after Christmas. I had seven wide-open days before returning to work. By design, I had no plans, no obligations, no pesky self-improvement goals.
As a person who loves nothing more than a good to-do list — how madcap I am! — I didn’t think I’d take to total passivity quite as readily as I did. But doing nothing, it turns out, is pretty easy.
I can’t even remember how I spent the week. I guess I socialized. I slept in. I watched movies. I surfed the Internet. I dabbled in hobbies. I managed one real achievement: I cleaned out the upstairs medicine cabinet — but I followed that up with a nap.
I wallowed in a glorious new sensation, that of not constantly feeling pressured to be doing something productive. (And, full disclosure: Sometimes I literally just wallowed.)
I knew I had mastered slacking off when I woke up on Friday and, for several minutes, couldn’t figure out what day it was.
I learned a couple of things from my Week of Sloth: namely, the less you do, the less you feel like doing, and the more junk you eat, the more junk you feel like eating. It sounds like paradise, but it gets old. I quickly found I was craving my routines again.
On Jan. 2, I’d be back to work, back to working out, back to not having dessert every night (or at least not after every meal). On New Year’s Day, in a final act of rebellion, I stayed in my pajamas until noon and ate all the remaining chocolate. It seemed like a fitting end to the week.
I could have done better. I could have chosen an apple, instead of apple pie, after dinner. I could have reminded myself that lying on the couch during the day is a sign of a misspent life. I could have thought about how, now that I’ve reached an age where calories count double, I’d have to work twice as hard to undo the damage I was doing to myself.
I said “yes” when I should have said “no.” I said, “More, please,” when I should have said, “Thank you, but I’m stuffed.” I said, “A bad Netflix movie is better than no Netflix movie,” when I should have gone for a walk. The bottom line: I indulged in fleeting pleasures at the expense of my long-term health and wellness goals.
Last year, this week-long detour from the dutiful, plodding path of moderation I try to walk left me feeling guilty and irresponsible.
This year, what can I say?
I regret nothing.

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