The best gift I received this year? My employer gave me December 26th off. Closed the business. A recovery day. Oh my soul, a recovery day. I work for people who value recovery days. Typing such a statement is a prayer of gratitude.
Yes, it was with pay but even so, closing the business makes a bold statement. It makes the holiday more of one, because we are given the luxury of rest immediately thereafter, so the next work day does not encroach upon our observances. No worries about how tired we will likely be the next day. No rush to prep for the next day’s tasks during the holiday itself. Nothing cut short. No mental scheduling of anticipated drudgery while we are celebrating. It imparts sovereignty to the day of the holiday.
Sovereignty, so we don’t have to ration or portion out our joy and energy. Imagine if nothing opened the next day; not just my job but every non-essential job. How free would we feel to give all on the day of, and the night of, knowing tomorrow is the equivalent of a snow day? No travel. No retail. No restaurants. Imagine. How would our holiday change if we knew there was nothing open the next day?
Even the parts we deem obligatory during the holidays; how might our personal investments in those things change if we knew there was a separate Next Day reserved for only our wellbeing? Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. A day set aside for the holiness of recovery. December 26th. The Holy Next Day.
It makes me want to look at the year to come and consider other December 26ths. Where might I strategically place holy recovery days throughout the year? The American calendar dictates I must exhaust myself either physically, emotionally, or financially (or all three) at least a dozen days per year. Count them. Count what we have to do for them. There are no next days. No recovery days. And planned vacations are generally not recovery if we travel and see and do and spend and come home just as exhausted as we left. Same if we cram the weekends full of stuff we didn’t get done during the week. You know the drill.
We don’t bother with December 26ths. We don’t value them. We value celebrations enough to give them full days of our lives or full weekends but we don’t value recovery. We don’t give recovery an equal amount of days. We think we just HAD a day off, ergo we can’t have another one, even if that day off contained no rest whatsoever. We spend our days off on activities, not rest. The day before we prep and pack and spend and decorate and obsess and create stress. The day after we have energy hangovers and cleanup and more debt and have created more tasks in addition to going right back to work. And yet we still revere our holidays.
If we are not going to change this ritual exhaustion why not create ritual recovery? Why not institute the solemn rite of recovery immediately following our rites of revelry? If this seems preposterous consider how telling this is about what we value. How telling this is about what we do not value? On the cusp of the new year we all observe the holiday rite of change and resolve and self-improvement so we are especially malleable right now, are we not? The iron is hot for striking, is it not? Why not ritualize recovery?
What in the world is more valuable than my life? Why would I consign it to forced ritual exhaustion and then deny it ritual recovery? Because it has never been suggested that I do anything else. Until now. A year of holidays has already been chosen for me by my society. A year of forced observances already planned for me. Ritual exhaustion. Ritual spending. Ritual return to business with a variety of hangovers. All of this already decided for me. Where is my sovereignty over my energy, my money, my mental health, my body’s needs? Where the hell are my values and why do I practice the ritual surrender of them year in and year out?
If someone else can create all of these rituals for me, why can’t I create them for me? When my employer created a day of recovery for me on December 26th I accepted this as a delightful allowance. Think of how many years I’ve lived through the ritual of December 25th and never considered it reasonable to give myself this gift; this delightful allowance. Why did it never occur to me to claim December 26th for myself until someone else did it for me? Values, dear readers. It’s a question of values. The Universe just showed me the truth that every year my employers’ values eclipse my own and I go along with it in ritual service.
The irony. 2019. This year my employer values my recovery more than I do. Me — a wellness enthusiast. Wellness is supposed to be my religion and I just got schooled by The Man. The Man said take the next day off for your own damn good and I treat it like a novel concept when I could have claimed it for myself at any time. Look who just woke up. Look who just discovered her theme word for the new year: Ritual.
My new ritual for the coming year is to question ritual. Holidays and all social rituals, weekly, daily, seasonal, situational, etc. Ask why. If I don’t like the answers I discover my intention is to create rituals to support my values — my actual values. Exercise sovereignty over habitual rituals I perform by rote a dozen times per year for a variety of reasons instituted and sustained in perpetuity by someone else. Why don’t I get to decide what these rituals should be? It’s my life, isn’t it? If I am going to spend my precious energy on the same things over and over until I die, shouldn’t they mean something to me?
I am baffled it took me this long to ask these questions, much less answer them with a Yes. Sometimes it takes the ritual of blogging to flesh them out though, and the gift of an extra day think about them. I went to work rested on December 27th and even as I resumed the ritual of a working Friday I knew something had changed. Something within shifted, rattled, broke free, lifted, began to levitate. My values, I think. The eyes beholding the 2020 calendar are new. Six weeks before the next holiday I’m scheduling the ritual of consideration. Question the prescribed ritual. No more holiday dread. What can I do to eliminate the dread?
Plan a year around my values. Mine; not someone else’s and not everyone else’s. Create rituals around my values, or modify rituals for authenticity. Create a sacrament out of paid time off. Opt out of exhaustion-based habits in favor of truthful, meaningful, beneficial rituals. Install traditions which are EQUAL parts revelry and recovery. Observe Holy Next Days. Include others. Be the change. Lead by example. Classic Mercy, now leveled up. I think this will be resolution enough.