Why ‘Survive’ When You Can Thrive?

So often this time of year we hear people talking about “surviving” the holidays. And it’s not just the media — it’s coworkers, friends, family members, cashiers at the grocery store. It makes me sad. The holidays — if you celebrate them — are supposed to be about love and celebration, family and friends, hope and warmth.

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. ~Charles Dickens

Granted, everything’s not always ideal. There are sad times and memories brought to life — brought into the spotlight — more so during the holidays than at other times of the year. But, still, for the most part, this time of year should be about celebrating and spreading love.

Look, I’m not super religious. Heck, honestly, I don’t know what I believe. But I do believe in the goodness of people and the kinship of humankind. This alone is enough reason to celebrate. (Though, I think we should do that all year long. But I digress.)

People are so busy hurrying, scurrying and worrying to really enjoy these things. They’re buying presents, cooking (way too much) food and counting down. And, honestly, they’re making themselves too busy to enjoy the peace of the season — no wonder they’re just trying to hold on, trying to survive.

This survival goes further than trying to “get it all done.” And in the world of someone who blogs about health and fitness (until she falls in love …) and trains with fellow fitness enthusiasts, it’s pretty common that this “survival” talk turns to food and treats and goodies.

christmas cookies

The annual "Cookie Table" at our family Christmas party.

But in my last two-and-a-half years on this get-healthy, live-better journey I’ve learned that it can’t be that. The holidays cannot — and should not — be a fight for survival. They should be a time to enjoy family and friends — and, yes, the treats that you don’t get throughout the year. (Hello, daiquiri cheesecake.) They should be a time of moderation and enjoyment. I’ve found that if I focus on all the things at these parties that I can’t eat, it does more harm than good. Rather, for me, a happy, healthy holiday means choosing the things I want to indulge in, enjoying them and moving on. There is no dwelling, there is no guilt. There isn’t even obsessive calorie counting.

The holidays also mean staying active. A trip home doesn’t mean I take the weekend off from running or training or working out. Yes, my workouts may move around and shape-shift. But on every day, I try to be active. This year I’m in marathon-training mode. That means I’m due for a 10-mile run on Christmas Eve. I’m hoping to get it done after the service at Mom’s church that evening. It’ll be a tight fit, but when I signed up for this marathon, I agreed to make my training a priority in my life. So, once the gifts are unwrapped, the goodies are tucked neatly in Tupperware containers and the carols have been sung, I’ll lace up my running shoes and hit the dark northern Michigan roads for a good, long run.

For me, the holidays are all about balance. Balancing indulgence with diligence, fun with work, want with need. Because I refuse to simply “survive” this season. I will thrive this season. Even if it means I come back home a couple pounds heavier. Cuz it’ll probably be from the ridiculous amount of love filling my heart.

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