Day 154: The Man and the Home for the Holidays; ‘Missing’

Christmas Spirit.gifI bet you were expecting some melancholy story about the holidays weren’t you? You were wondering to yourself why the WP powers that be would choose such a heavily negatively charged word would be the prompt so close to the holidays. Maybe we miss our family or friends because of circumstances this year. Maybe we miss love and loved ones.

You might even be tempted to write about the inherent gloominess of the holidays, irreverent contrarian that you are. But you should take hope in knowing that contrary to popular belief, suicides do not increase over the holidays. Yes, it is common for some people to feel a bit depressed over the holidays, with whatever emotional or psychological baggage distance, or forced closeness, or extra glasses of eggnog, may bring up. Holiday stress is a very real thing. There are increasingly unrealistic and seemingly insurmountable pressures to make each holiday perfect and better than the last. The perfect holiday party. The perfect presents. The perfect way to avoid ‘holiday’ vs ‘Christmas’ talk. This year especially I imagine many families will have to be extra careful when dealing with politics or beliefs, as we continue to divide ourselves more and more each day. The holidays can also be a shock to our system, a severe departure from the norm. We suddenly have relatives popping in from all over the world and they may even be sleeping in your guest room already. There’s increasing amounts of socialization that can cause anxiety in some and the opposite, having to be away from familiar faces during the holidays, can cause feelings of loneliness. Either way, once you start hearing those Christmas songs on the radio, you know you’re entering a completely different world for the next four weeks.

its-a-wonderful-life

If you’ve seen It’s a Wonderful Life, I wouldn’t blame you for wondering how others are handling the yuletide season and assuming (though incorrectly) that others must feel miserable and dejected. After all, if it isn’t A Christmas Story on television you’re usually stuck with It’s a Wonderful Life. You may see George Bailey contemplating suicide in the beginning of the movie and imagine there must be plenty of others who feel the same way. But don’t forget that in the end he ultimately chooses not to end his life, realizing how good he actually has it. Somehow I fear that message gets lost in the cynicism that some of us arm ourselves with to counter the overly festive mood.

I have to admit, I am one who used to believe the myth that suicides and depression increase over the holidays. The truth is, and we should all work to spread this around, is that according to the Center for Disease Control, November and December have the least amount of suicides and/or suicide attempts. I do get a bit depressed usually around the holidays, often because of failed relationships and missing love. Between Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, and Valentine’s Day, it seems that there is some romantic occasion I am missing out on every other week. I admit to feeling lonely, sometimes unfulfilled, and my mind wanders to who isn’t thinking of me at the time. It’s a terrible way to be, and I’m working on that through this experiment after all. I’m also a bit of a contrary bastard, and sometimes I feel while everyone is jumping off the deep end on merry I need to you know, inject a bit of melancholy. We all have the right, even during the holidays, to feel a little down, to feel like something’s missing, but we do no one any favors by perpetuating and strengthening the idea that everyone feels like this right now and that everyone is contemplating something as serious and as heavy as suicide. Just take a deep breath, take a walk around the block when your relatives get on your nerves, either have that extra glass of eggnog or be a teetotaler completely, and you should be fine. We’ll all get through this together.

Christmas Tree.jpgI will tell you more about what I did miss while I was in Mexico though. Home for the holidays. I don’t think I could ever celebrate the holidays away from home. The resort had Christmas trees up with big fake presents wrapped up in giant gold bows, the staff at the resort and the casino and anywhere we went shopping were all wearing Santa hats, and they even played some Christmas music in the airport while we were waiting for our flight. But nothing really made me feel like ‘oh wow, it’s Christmas, I’m so excited’. I needed to be back home to really feel it. No matter where I am in the world, I don’t think anything would bring me into the holiday mood more than decorating our Christmas tree. We usually put it up on Thanksgiving, while we’re going crazy in the kitchen cooking we start the process of bringing the tree down from the attic and taking out all the decorations and lights. Aside from all the standard decorations we put up we have our own personal ornaments that we like to hide around the tree. I have a martini glass and a TARDIS. My brother has a shiny car and a Spongebob Squarepants ornament. My mother hides a Snoopy ornament and a Hershey Kiss. My father has a poker table and a golf set. That makes it our tree.

Every year we also put out a grand christmas-village-1Christmas Village display with pieces from Department
56 that we’ve collected over the years. You know we only started this because my brother fell in love with the displays back when they used to have actual retail shops. My brother was always very quiet and very reserved, but whenever we were at the mall doing Christmas shopping and we’d pass by the Christmas Village display his eyes would light up and he’d excitedly point at all the different houses and shops and the moving pieces. My mother wanted to give my brother something to look forward to every Christmas, so we started building our own. We had the moving track christmas-village-2with cars running in circles around town, a Santa flying over the village with his reindeer, and ice skaters moving gracefully over a frozen pond. We bought as many of the pieces as we could find. Toy stores, donut shops, houses, town squares. We had so many figures too and each year we love putting together different stories hidden throughout the village. We get to imagine where the carolers might go to, or who might be sneaking presents back home, and we even have a man we like to imagine has forgotten to tie down his tree to his car and is struggling to get it back!

Letter Hanger.jpgIt’s the little things that add up to creating the environment of home. Watching the decorations we have up all year-round transform to seasonal Christmas decorations. The stuffed bear we have on a rocking chair in the living room becomes a jolly old Santa. The tapestry we hang on the wall in the hall becomes a card hanger that we get to fill as the days go by with Christmas cards from friends and family. We’ve long since decided to be ‘that family’ who never takes down their Christmas lights outside so really I see the wires all the time but at least now we actually plug them in, which is nice.

Yes, it’s bitingly cold outside, but I like that. It’s part of Christmas. And everyone is extra cheerful because it really is a wonderful time of year, when we try our best to reach beyond that which divides us and focus on what makes us all one community. And for every person who might not be thinking of me anymore, I am surrounded by two more who are. I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t force the issue. That makes no one happy. We’re all allowed a few gloomy days. We are all allowed to feel like something’s missing. But the holidays are about home, and you just need to find whatever it is that makes you feel most like that. I just got back from a lovely warm beach vacation, but I could never Christmas there, away from friends and family and hopefully snow (yeah that’s right, I want buckets and buckets of it; let’s see who prays the hardest this winter). The holidays are an emotional rollercoaster, but at least I have my anchor in the storm.

Day 154

Man: 126 Loneliness: 28

Day 153: The Man and the Way Back Home

It’s…good…to be back…I guess? Hahah.

Well actually I got back yesterday, but spent most of the day resting and bringing my BAC back to a reasonable and livable level.

Cold Winter.jpgThere are a few things I definitely missed though. I missed the biting cold. It was hard to register that it was December and only two weeks before Christmas when it was so warm in Cancun. Everywhere we went there were Christmas decorations and the staff even wore Santa hats and I couldn’t quite understand why until someone had to remind me it was Christmas season. I guess I’m just too accustomed to cold, wintry Christmases. And honestly, I wouldn’t have them any other way. So while my family lamented the weather, I was glad to be back where I could bundle up.

I also feel as though nothing really brings you back home like a warm shower in your own bathroom. As soon as I was unpacked the first thing I did was jump into the shower and savor the sensations. Mind you, I wasn’t exactly wanting for a nice shower either. The hotel had a rainfall shower which was just, oh man, so luxurious. But there’s just something about a shower you know how to use, settings you’re familiar with, just the right amount of water pressure, your own soap and shampoo, and the comfort of your own bathrobe and towel that just reminds you you’re home.

The flight to Cancun was uneventful, which is kind of what you want out of you know, flying 35,000 feet in the air. There’s really no love lost between myself and United. I don’t have much to say about whatever it is they do with themselves. But just about the only Stroopwafel.jpgthing I look forward to when it comes to early morning flights with United is that I get to have a delicious, chewy, sweet, stroopwafel. If you haven’t had these yet, just order them from Amazon or ask your friendly neighborhood Dutchman. It’s much easier to get than to fly United for it. They’re wonderful thin waffles with a spread of caramel sandwiched in between. At room temp they’re chewy and sweet but if you place it over your coffee or tea mug for a bit, the caramel melts and softens and the waffles become warm. About the only thing to do besides sleep is snack on a stroopwafel for the four hours until we landed in Cancun.

The Resort

beach-view

The resort itself was fantastic. Absolutely gorgeous. In the center of the main building was a Japanese style garden with koi ponds. This is where Toji, their sake bar, and Bana, their Japanese restaurant, are located. A beautiful and fitting centerpiece to their resort. The other restaurants surround Bana, with Market Grill outdoors. They have three pools: a quieter adults-only pool, a family pool that is shallower, and a long sprawling main pool with a swim-up bar and little islets with water jets. They have a long sprawling expanse of beach right outside the resort.

pool-and-swim-up

I’d wake up in the morning and then either order room service or stop by the breakfast buffet. A sausage, mushroom, and mozzarella omelet on my balcony overlooking the ocean. Or maybe mimosas at the breakfast buffet while I loaded up on waffles, smoked salmon, freshly made omelets, cheeses, bacon, and fruits. Then I’d spend the day taking a paddleboard or kayak out onto the water and riding the waves. The Caribbean Sea picks up a bit of temper by the time it hits Mexico so there was definitely some action in the water. Lunchtime I’d go to the poolside grill and grab my body weight in guacamole and pico de gallo, seafood ceviche, burgers, hot dogs, and chicken wings. Then I’d laze the afternoon away in the pool, swimming up to the bar and shamelessly sipping on Miami Vice after Miami Vice.

day-view

Dinners we were spoiled for choice. Our first night we went to the Market Grill which is styled like a Brazilian rodizio, with skewers of meat traveling from table to table. Sirloin, filet, chicken thigh, beef short ribs, picanha, round after round as they brought it to our table fresh from the grill and sliced it in front of us. For meat, Scotch is best, so Blood and Sands were the drink of order.

sashimi-and-sushi

On the second night we went to Bana, their Japanese restaurant in the center of the resort. Best location, excellent food, terrible lighting and hot. Still. Dock and avocado eggrolls. Seafood shumai. So many pieces of sushi and sashimi. Octopus, scallop, tuna, salmon, soft shell crab, eel. And lychee martinis! They also had the best dessert, fried banana tempura with a chocolate sauce and green tea ice cream and black tea ice cream.

blue-corn-sopes-with-shrimpOn the third night we went to Mole, which to be honest with you I had the least hopes for. It was Mexican modern, and I’m not a big fan of Mexican so  I wasn’t too sure I would enjoy it. But man was I wrong! For appetizer I ordered these little blue corn sopes with shrimp and spicy sauce and mixed greens. Wonderful bite sized amuse bouches. I went all out for the entree. Entrees actually! All-inclusive after all. I had a goat canneloni with a cream sauce. The goat was tender and flavorful with the earthy spices of Mexican cuisine goat-cannelonibut stuffed into wondefully al dente pasta sheets and served with a rich creamy sauce. I also had the pulpo (octopus) roasted with garlic. Just the right level of toothsomeness and char. Dessert was a tres leches cake that they finished table side by pouring a tiny pitcher of condensed milk over and watching the cake absorb it all was definitely entertaining before digging in. I definitely wanted an appropriate drink but wasn’t feeling like margaritas so instead had caipirinhas. The lime was refreshing and helped me power through all those courses!

roasted-garlic-octopus

Our final night we ate at Fuego, which is the Paradisus’s Peruvian inspired restaurant. I had the highest hopes for this. I love Peruvian food. Of course I had to start with a ceviche of crab and shrimp. Then a bowl of mixed grilled seafood including squid, octopus, shrimp, and scallops. Followed by the thickest, richest, creamiest version of lobster bisque I have ever had. Then a pan fried sirloin with mushroom risotto and a parmesan tuile and then a roast breast of duck with sweet potato puree. Still room for dessert and drinks! I had plenty of Pisco Sours to keep me company and finished with a coconut creme brulee served with almond liquer ice cream.

The food was great but the luxury of eating whenever and whatever was just so freeing. I still feel new and fresh to the all-inclusive experience so any opportunity to order a drink at a bar or some food was always taken. Late night my brother and I would order room service. Buffalo wings, omelets, cheesecake, nachos, burgers, hot dogs, our poor hotel staff having to keep lugging everything! Because of my connections with the travel company they placed us on the highest floor with the best view so they really had a trek each time.

paradisus-cancun-room

Of course we couldn’t spend the entire time eating! On our second day we took an ATV tour of the jungle and got to ride them on Maroma Beach, one of the world’s best beaches. The ATV tour was fun but not as thrilling or challenging as the ATV tour I did in Cabo where we were riding on and over sand dunes and drifting in the dessert and going up cliffs. But it was just challenging enough for my family and the rest of our group apparently! There was one couple who were riding together. We hadn’t even left the parking lot, just going single line heading out, when you see them riding top speed streaking across the line turning wide. I think the boyfriend didn’t know how much kick these machines had. They ran straight. Into. A palm tree. Knocked it right over and they got stuck over its dead body. Luckily it was a young tree whose roots weren’t so deep yet. Then, as we were riding along the road heading into the jungle, my parents missed the turn and were headed into the highway. Our guide races in front of them and tries to signal them to stop and turn but my mother, riding as passenger, thought he was just being friendly and told my father to smile and keep waving back.

night-view

We also visited Dubai Palace, Cancun’s largest and newest casino. Cancun just recently legalized casinos so the selection is pretty sparse, unlike Aruba or the Dominican Republic. Still we had a good time, and in fact my father and I won around $1200 Mexican pesos playing some card games. It’s not much, around $50USD, but to them it sure was a big deal!

It was a great trip, with just the right amount of relaxation and activity. Most of all it was great to spend some time with my family. We haven’t had a vacation all four of us in a long while. My brother and I had the VIP room since it was under my name and my parents stayed in another room a few floors below. Still we were always together, either at the beach or by the pool, and we always ate together, though my brother and I would also have our late night snacks! We would even play cards in our room and play penalty games to punish the losers. I think I most cherish though the ability to just go bar hopping with my brother and drinking together.

It was a fun time and I think my family is hooked on the all-inclusive now. I still have a few more free rewards nights to use so I anticipate we’ll be back next year! Maybe a different place in the Caribbean though.

Honestly I needed this after finishing NaNoWriMo, and it was a refreshing restart. Ready to get back into things though! Missed writing, missed this community, and ready to start up again!

Day 153

Man: 125 Loneliness: 28

 

 

 

Day 146: The Man and the NaNoWriMo; By the Numbers

NaNoWriMo.png

We did it everyone! We survived November and we set out on a seemingly impossible task and we blew it out of the water! What an experience. What an exercise. While I am very proud of the result, I know there is still much left to be done.

But first, let’s look at the past month by the numbers shall we?!

Final word count: 57189.

Average words per day: 1906

Man days: 22

Loneliness: 7

Definitely a higher Loneliness count than perhaps any month so far, but I think that had a lot to do with the chapters I was writing those days. I had to bring up a lot of old memories and really dig up some emotions, and also face a few demons and mistakes. I’ve also never written so much on such a consistent basis. I’m all worded out.

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It’s ultimately fitting then that I am all set and packed and ready to take a vacation with my family!

Paradisus.jpg

We are all headed to the beautiful Paradisus Cancun in Cancun, Mexico. One of my company’s best-selling all-inclusive resorts. In fact they were kind enough to send me some free nights for me to use. We leave on Friday, Saturday we’re doing an ATV tour across the jungle and beaches of Cancun, and every day it’ll be eat and drink and play all you want. I want to windsurf and paddleboard and ride a hobie cat.

Evil Dead.gifIt’ll be a nice change of pace, especially since the last few days are really when I felt the strain of having to write out everything between Beautiful and I. I also realized how much I really want to share this story, and to that extent, even after vacation I want to spend the rest of this month away from the story to let it age and mature and so that when I come back I can look at it with fresh eyes. I want to keep working on this, improving it, beyond an exercise in word count and the cathartic benefits of throwing all these words on paper, and turn it into something real and wonderful and hopefully, helpful to others. In January and February I will be revisiting and revising what I wrote but right now it’s all about celebrating and being thankful to finish.

I want to thank everyone who has joined me along this journey. To those of you who were brave enough to take on this challenge, I’ve enjoyed sharing the battle scars with you and reading your stories. For all of you who have been so generous with your time and comments and attention, thank you for letting me into your daily lives and sharing with me your valuable insight and advice and wisdom. I’ve looked forward to hearing all your stories and comments. I’m glad to be done with it, but there’s a part of me that just can’t wait for next year’s NaNoWriMo. But first the break and first the relaxation. Some space and some time to relax.

Your regularly scheduled programming will return on the 6th! Adios y vaya con dios!

Day 146

Man: 118 Loneliness: 28