The holiday season is upon us. I spent the last couple of days driving up from Dallas to St. Louis to spend time with my partner’s family, and the next week or so is going to be filled with a whirlwind of family, food, and travel. To be honest, I was kind of stressing out about all this. I felt like I had finally settled into a healthy routine of exercise 4-5 times a week, eating right, working on learning German, reading regularly, and taking a couple of courses on Coursera. Now, all of that is disrupted and it really frustrated me. Luckily, I had kind of a drunk epiphany last night and my attitude changed.
Instead of worrying about how behind I’m getting or how that cookie is going to effect my waistline, I’ve decided to view this time as a reward. I deserve to be gluttonous and lazy and slack off for a few days. I’m going to spend some time enjoying all the sinning that is excused in the name of holiday cheer. If I find myself with some spare time I will work on Coursera and reading, but that is unlikely. Instead I can play Hearthstone, take naps, and try to sneak in some banging even though the family is around.
I think a big part of this drunk epiphany has come from my meditation practice, which I’ve really started to make an important part of my day. Mindfulness has made examining my thoughts without judgement almost second nature. When I was feeling stressed or bummed I was able to take a step back, look at why I was feeling that way, and analyze if there was anything I could do to change the circumstances. I couldn’t really change the travel and such, but I could change the way I viewed their impact on my life. Instead of a disrupting obligation they became a welcome reward for being awesome. So, now I’m looking forward to a week without work, chores, or concern over my fitness. That stuff will all be waiting for me in January.
After about six months of biking across a good chunk of the country my partner and I are taking two months off in Dallas. This wasn’t part of our original plan, but plans are meant to be broken. As we used to say about mission plans in the Army, “The enemy gets a vote”. In our situation the “enemy” is weather, the holiday season, the environment, and our own mental and physical power.
After taking everything into consideration it made sense for us to stay in one place for a few months and ride out the holiday season, and luckily our dear friends have offered to let us stay in their spare bedroom during this time. This should give us an opportunity to get some work done to earn some money, travel to see our families for the holidays, and just mentally relax from life on the road. It’ll be really nice to be able to cook healthy meals and change up the exercise routine.
Though, the exercise routine is probably my biggest concern. It is super easy for me to get fat and lazy when exercise isn’t a necessary part of my life. I do plan on using P90X while here, which has been successful for me in the past. I had recently plateaued with my fitness from cycling and had implemented some more work outs into my day, but I think a real change of pace is needed. I’ll still get some cardio but I won’t be in the bike saddle for 4-6 hours a day anymore, though I will occasionally hit up the bike trail near the house which is 26 miles round trip (I think).
I’m really excited about the opportunity to cook. Our diets are healthy enough but they kind of lack variety. You can only do so much with “cooking” while biking without a stove or the ability to really keep things cold. We are able to stay vegan pretty easy and we get all the vitamins, minerals, and calories we need, but the meals are basically the same each day. Being in an actual home for a while will let us cook more and experiment and face some fun challenges. My friend has celiac disease so we will be cooking vegan and gluten-free. It’ll be a blast.
Anyway, we are excited to explore Dallas for a bit and change up our life. The plan now is to leave in January and head down to Houston and Austin before heading east. After that we are biking up the east coast in the spring and summer of 2016… but who knows? Maybe life will change our plans again and put us on a new adventure.
Well, I am finally over the bug I started feeling on Saturday. I had planned on holding a winter solstice Pagan ceremony on Sunday but I could barely get out of bed. My wife and our roommate were both in St. Louis for the holidays so it was just me and Higgins for a week. Luckily I was able to call in sick and take the time necessary to rest.
Anyway, on the 24th I decided to hold the ceremony anyway. One of my favorite things about Paganism is the level of customization for the individual. What matters is a pursuit of bettering your life and the world, the particular ceremonies and holy books are simply tools to use if they work and discard if they don’t. It even works with me being an atheist.
This was my first real spiritual move in a long time, and it is something I hope to do more of in the new year. The way Americans celebrate winter religious ceremonies is kind of interesting. While Christianity is certainly the prominent force, most Christians acknowledge (Kirk Cameron excluded) that many/most of the symbolism involved in the modern practice has come from Paganism and other faiths. But not all symbols, the pentagram has, incorrectly in my opinion, become a symbol of evil and Satanism, but a Christmas Tree or Easter Bunny are perfectly fine to embrace and the even overshadow the religious icons in a home. Even the most Biblical literalist seems okay with Pagan symbols when they are part of “tradition”.
For myself, I held a simple ceremony based on some research I did online, stuff from a book that was recommended to me, and what I could remember from the ceremony to the god Pan that I participated in a couple years ago. Because my ceremony was solo and I wanted to focus on the upcoming year much of it was geared towards self-improvement, eliminating expectations, and learning to “row with the flow”. There were candles, some chanting and prayers, meditation, and a ceremonial burning. Nothing too hardcore, but it was perfect for me.
Exploring my spirituality and uniting that with my scientific and atheist side is becoming more and more important to me. It looks like my wife and I will even be able to attend a Pagan festival in Indiana next summer. I am not sure exactly what form my spiritual path will take, or if I will just cast part of it aside because it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. All my premises should be tested often as I learn and grow, but I am excited to jump into holy texts from around the world and see what they can teach me.