December is such an ugly month, full of darkness and too much temptation in the form of booze and sweets. I surf even less, drink even more and generally undo all the good I’ve done the previous eleven-twelfths of the year. Despair-tinted images begin to dominate my thoughts. Although not one to put a gun to my head (I don’t own one), I nonetheless understand why people believe the suicide rates jump around Christmas (not true). For those of us prone to both the morose and a fair bit of self-flagellation, the combination of holiday requirements and end-of-year accounting weighs heavily.

Fortunately, my self-preservation instinct (optimism) tends to kick in before the self-destructive habits (pessimism-inspired) fully take hold. And, as always, deliverance lies in either writing or getting outside – or, ideally, a combination of both. And so I started journaling again, chronicling the current attempt to rein in impulse, forestall implosion, reorient myself to the desired path. Stuff too personal to post here (I prefer to err on the side of undersharing than over-), but lacking anything else to write about at this moment and reading too much Chabon and feeling like I should post something, here’s an excerpt:

(With a quick preempt! Christmas was fabulous, really good, one of the best ever. The melodrama in my mind is not reflected in reality. Let’s stay clear on that.)

A la Bridget Jones:

Dec. 30 (day of triumph!)
Net calories: 948
Wells Fargo account still overdrawn by $47, but paycheck arrived in form of direct deposit in Chase account – with an extra few hundred dollars due to a payroll adjustment. Perfect timing!
No booze, several mugs of various herbal teas.

Started the day with near-tragedy: the screwing up of my iPhone, on which I depend as if I’m a six-month old with a binky. Music wouldn’t sync and in a fit of frustration, I decided to restore factory settings. But the phone stuck in restore mode making it completely useless! Panic! OK, not panic – I am not a panicker – but irritation and some under-the-breath swearing may have occurred. Whole thing turned into a massive time suck threatening to ruin my beautifully planned day. Fortunately, I solved the problem in time to cajole the kids out to the dunes for a game of Frisbee.

“Please? There’s no wind and it’s not cold and we live at the beach and should take advantage of that!”

“We’ve lived at the beach for seven years, Mom. We’ve seen it.”

“You should see it every day! Especially a gorgeous, still, dramatic day like this! Please! Just 15 minutes?”

(Deep sighing ensues.) “Fine. I’ll go if she goes.”

“Will you go? Please? Just for 15 minutes?”

(More sighing.) “Fine. If he’s going, I’ll go.”

After trudging woefully through the dunes aka The Trail of Tears, we stopped in “the bowl,” the sort of high dune valley between us and the final stretch. Gunmetal gray sky with bits of blue and patches of white and everything so still as to be a painting, the only motion an exploding white as swells rose and broke on the distant sea.

“Wow, look at it!” I marveled.

“Yeah, same old ocean we’ve been seeing for seven years,” they smirked.

Nonetheless, they tossed the disc around, quickly becoming bored with regular Frisbee and opting to play keep-away, which, since it involved a great deal of shoving and racing, provided much more fun. Laughter, even. At some point, over 25 minutes into playing, I heard one tell the other the time and add, “Let’s stay for 10 more minutes.” Ha! Sweet triumph!

I tried to impress them with some attempts at diving catches. That was stupid. I failed the catching part, but the slamming of their mother into sand at least cracked them up further.

Then I made a quick-and-yummy stir fry with our farm share bok choy, tofu, tamari, garlic and toasted sesame oil, and double-checked the kids’ plans for the evening. (Bobby was working, so I had the day solo parenting.) One kid off to a friend’s house, the other having friends over.

Hit the gym for a killer cross-training class. Ow. Weighed myself while I was there – an act I’ve been avoiding for a while. I used to look forward to hopping on the scale and seeing how much more I’d lost. Ancient cultural taboos will not allow me to reveal the actual numbers, so I will work around them. When I started at Praxis a year ago, I’d inflated up to XYX, an all-time high equivalent of being several months pregnant! Then over the course of several months, I worked my way down to a respectable weight of XYX-minus-14 lbs. with hopes of losing another 10 lbs. and being back at fighting weight. I lost inches. Fit into old jeans. Saw my ass defy gravity and shift north. Put my hand on my hip and was started by the hardness of my obliques. December threatened to erase all that. Hence, my fear of the scale. Before stepping on, I slid the counterbalance weights to XYX, fearing the worst and praying I wasn’t more than that.

The weights stayed down as I stepped on. I scooted them back a bit. Still too heavy. The magic number turned out to be XYZ, depressing certainly, but at least I haven’t thoroughly regressed. Not a victory perhaps, but not a complete loss and therefore cause for hope.

The teenagers were making peanut butter cookies when I arrived home – what torture! I couldn’t help but eat a couple. Stopped at a couple, though – another not-exactly-a-victory-not-quite-a-loss moment.

Ignored the two, count’em, two bottles of lovely red wine people’d brought for Christmas and made mug after mug of tea instead. Some Earl Grey as I had to pick the other kid up at 10 p.m. way up a hill, some Celestial Seasonings Sugar Cookie tea so I could feel smug about not eating any more cookies.

(First world problems, baby! I know, I know.)

Drove to Arcata to get movies for the kids. They wanted the extremely violent one, which was checked out – for which I was grateful. I don’t monitor their movie watching so much any more, but I do get weary of all the war and torture and twisted sorts of bloodshed. So they asked for this other one as a backup. “Strong sexual situations,” it read. I asked them if they were sure they wanted that particular movie. They were. OK, fine. I am not a prude and some sex would be at least better than Tarantino’s crazy-violent Nazi film. Or so I thought.

After about 20 minutes of listening to them say, “EW!” and “OH MY GOD!” and “What is he doing?!” and “Ick!” I heard K announce, “We are stopping this!” Apparently “strong sexual content” means “essentially pornographic.” Yikes! At least they opted to stop it, because I was itching to stroll in, turn it off, and force them to watch Mary Poppins or something to clear their minds and return them to an age of innocence.

In between, I’d driven back to Arcata to pick up Nick, who keeps doing this thing where he’s telling me what his social plans will be instead of asking me if what he wants to do is okay. Because apparently all other parents don’t bother keeping track of where their kids are and who they’re with and what time they will be at what place. I am the Meanest Weirdest Mom ever. Damn teenage attempts at independence and autonomy. Sometimes I really miss age 10.

Finished the evening off with yet more tea and Chabon‘s “Manhood for Amateurs.” A certain vanity bubbles up in some of his essays, but many express life’s finest sentiments in the artful prose for which he is known. (How’s that for meaningless review-speak?!) Slept really, really well.

So, here we are, New Year’s Eve, 2009. The examination and necessary adjustments to my vices will hopefully continue as vacation ends and work days resume.

Key words for 2010: surf, repair, build, excel.