Teuila Fuatai: Pace yourself for the Christmas home run


Congratulations! We’ve made it to the home stretch. Schools are out and Christmas Day is less than three weeks away.

The end-of-year cheerleaders are at their loudest, using their relentless positivity to provoke comments like: “Yes, I know the date too. It’s also just a Wednesday, so can you please focus on getting that done so I can get on with my work too.”

Without sounding too grinch-like, here’s a few pointers to power through the rest of the advent calendar.

Be super-selective about commitments

At the end of November, one of my mates signed up to a 100km Christmas challenge. To complete it, you have to walk and/or run 100km between December 1 and 25. Overall, it averages out to an achievable sounding 4km a day. Totally doable, right? Wrong.

This festive season, I’ve brought my expectations and ambitions closer to reality. I’ve made peace with the inevitable last-minute shopping scramble, and the fact that my gym membership has become more of a donation this month. I’ve only made it to two Christmas functions, with most catchups delegated to a less-frantic January.

Back in November, when my friend was looking for fellow participants for the challenge, I also suppressed the urge to commit. Instead, it was a steady stream of enthusiastic nods and bland comments like: “Wow, that sounds great”. It’s made for a much-smoother December, and meant I’m receiving rather than sending messages asking people if they’re up for a 100km stroll of the city on Christmas Eve.

Add two extra hours onto everything you do

My timekeeping skills are haphazard at the best of times. In December, this takes on an extra layer, with some messages beginning with: “I’m sorry, I’m running a few days behind at the moment”.

Rather than cram everything in, I’ve decided to add two hours onto any event that is:
1) At someone’s house.
2) Allocated a two-hour time period in the afternoon.
3) Involves anyone who probably should be on annual leave but has to finish their “work year” anyway.

Classic red flags are afternoon barbecues from 4pm to 6pm, a quick after-work drink, and a quick debrief meeting. Essentially, anything that features “quick” should be flagged as likely to take ages.

Spare a thought for retail and hospitality workers

It’s been a few years since I’ve been on the shop and/cafe floor, but Christmas was always the worst. From November, you’re subjected to a stream of Michael Buble “classics” and renditions of Christmas songs that should never have made it to the recording studio.

Some customers also think you’re better placed to find a gift for their loved one than them. Clues like “I don’t want to spend more than $50” and “she likes a lot of colour” inevitably resulted in me pointing to anything I could see that was colourful and in that price range. Note: This is not a good way to find gifts.

Another phenomenon was watching fully grown adults behave like children. One Christmas Eve shift at a cafe, a woman stomped her feet at me because we’d run out of sandwiches. She then stomped out of the cafe. Takeaway thought: write a list before going to the shops and have an option B if you’re planning to eat out.

Feeling rundown? It's probably not hay fever

This year, we’ve been bombarded with messages about staying home if you’re unwell. At certain points, I’ve taken that to the extreme, giving evils to anyone who coughs around me in a public space.

A few weeks ago, it was my turn to face the inevitable after overdoing things. For three days I was in denial about catching a cold, putting my runny nose and progressive miserableness down to hay fever and the change in weather. By Saturday that week, I was knocked out in bed and barely had a voice. A generous selection of cold medications and antibiotics meant I was back on my feet after a few days.

Christmas is hectic, so if you’re feeling off and are able to – take a day out. And for those concerned, I did get a Covid test and it came back negative.

Xmas is not the time to launch your arts and crafts gift-making career

Finally, unless you’re under 10, or have a genuine hobby in making items from scratch, do not do this. You’ll be doing a gigantic favour for those of us who have zero acting skills and are genuinely confounded when unwrapping homemade gifts of junk.

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