Sunday, December 15, 2013

Slow holiday

It's the holidays. And even for a person who doesn't really "do" Christmas, it's frantic. The holidays are a particularly taxing time of year in my line of work, and several years ago I realized that in order to enjoy the season, I had to bow out of a lot of it. I participate in a few gift exchanges, but mostly don't give gifts anymore. I love receiving holiday cards and photos, but manage to send out my own maybe every two or three years. I muster the energy for a Christmas tree with about the same frequency. I love these activities in the years that I do them, because I have time to be present while writing the messages in my cards, and while placing my few treasured ornaments on the tree. And in the years when I'm particularly pressed for time and these tasks feel like mere items on a holiday to-do list, I scrap them. (No kids and a Jewish husband. The circumstances of my life make it possible to do so with only minimal guilt and hassle from other people. I get that.) This leaves me time for the "stuff" of the holidays that I really care about: visiting, eating, and drinking with friends and family. I do lots of this, every year, without having to sacrifice my presence at work, sleep, or the joy of running.

The only way I can tolerate shopping in a mall
anymore is in my running shoes.
As always, I'm a work in progress, and while theoretically I carve out enough time and space for what's important, in reality I frequently realize that the day is over and I got done only about half of what needed to get done. It dawned on me yesterday morning as I pored over my calendar and lists that it was really my only available day to get my holiday shopping finished. I didn't have a whole lot to buy (see above), but still the thought of giving up a day to battle the traffic and crowds at the mall filled me with dread. We had a gorgeous 70-degree, blue-sky day, and I'm one week out from my last marathon in Tucson, so really wanted to get in a nice recovery run. So, I mapped out my planned stops, packed up my backpack, laced up my running shoes, and went shopping.

I do a fair amount of what I like to call "errand running," in order to get some fresh air and exercise while ticking things off of my to-do list. Running to the bank, running to pick up a few items at the grocery store, and once even running to the dry cleaner (running home with the dry cleaning: not as easy as you might think!). Getting my holiday shopping done on foot was a much greater logistical challenge, but I got it done, and it was actually really fun. It took nearly four hours, and I covered almost ten miles on a gorgeous late-fall day. 

About three hours into this adventure, feeling smug at my resourcefulness as I passed a line slow-moving cars filled with exhausted and grumpy shoppers, it suddenly occurred to me: this is kind of a weird thing to be doing. I caught a glimpse of myself as someone in one of those cars would have seen me: frizzed out hair, sweaty running clothes, and dodging heavy urban traffic wearing a giant backpack. And what struck me the hardest: I hadn't even thought about how weird this all was, how gross I probably looked (and smelled) until I'd already made about seven stops, in busy and crowded shops all over town.

Have I become a weird person?

At my final stop, I got out my phone and checked in with my husband, since I'd been gone for several hours and thought he might begin worrying. I shared my revelation with him, and he provided me with the following helpful reality check:

Ah, well. Weird or not, the shopping got done, I got in a great run, and I got to enjoy a scenic and serene side of Mission Valley (the congested home of several of San Diego's biggest shopping malls) that a person rarely gets to experience:

Stopped to admire the sunset on the beautiful San Diego River.
(Nine out of ten San Diegans do not know that this river exists.)

However you're celebrating, and however you're "getting it all done," I wish every one of you a joyful holiday season!


  1. I never run with a purpose other than to occasionally get my scooter or car from wherever I left it the night before but this totally inspires me! I guess I am weird too!

    1. Yeah, you probably are! ;-) I love running with a purpose, and do a lot of it when I'm not training for a race. I tend to think I won't get in enough mileage doing these "short runs," but in fact, I usually end up running a surprising amount! And I am always reminded of how hilly my part of San Diego really is!

  2. Wow, running while shopping! I never thought about this. I do run 4 miles to get a pedicure though (and my husband picks me up on his way back home). You are not weird, but resourceful.

    1. Thanks, someone tell my husband! Ha ha ha. No, he's a pretty good sport. He's had to help out with a few of my "good ideas gone bad" through the years, but still just smiles and nods his head every time he hears the words "Okay, here's my plan for today ..."