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I had a lot of trouble getting into Christmas this year, almost as though my mental calendar was not at all in sync with the one that kept counting down to December 25. Isn’t it still September? Why is Johnny Mathis always on the radio, and why does the circular section of my Sunday newspaper weigh more than a phonebook?

Neighbors strung lights and hung wreaths; coworkers baked an abundance of cookies; family sent cards and photos. I didn’t scorn or bah-humbug; for me, it all just seemed to be participation in an event I simply didn’t “feel” this year, much like the way I care (or lack thereof) when coworkers draft their March Madness brackets or neighbors bust out nachos and beer and inflatable football players on their lawns the week leading up to the Super Bowl.

I certainly wasn’t Buddy the Elf, yet I wasn’t the Grinch or Scrooge, either. I just … was.

I followed the routine the best I could, ordering gifts online; braving Bed, Bath, & Beyond on December 23; trying at least one of every treat that made its way into my office; wearing festive red; drinking my fair share of gingerbread lattes; head-banging in the car to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Eve Sarajevo”; making my annual donation to Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health; doing my usual crappy job wrapping presents (note for next year: anything larger than the size of an iPad box will be gift-bagged); and overindulging in my dad’s traditional chocolate chip cookies.

In movement terms, the holiday season this year has felt like choreography in a year that was otherwise predominantly improvisation. I had been conscious dancing my way from spring to summer to fall; suddenly Thanksgiving happened; and then the month of December turned into one rushed preparation for the big annual jazz-tap-ballet dance recital. My heart wanted to keep dancing barefoot with my hair a wild stringy mess, but the standards of the season forced my feet into pointe shoes and slicked my hair back into a tight bun.

Life went from 5Rhythms to 5-6-7-8!

But, just as I started to feel myself slip into Black Swan territory, my clever and crafty sister Carolyn reminded me of my roots. Her Christmas gift to me this year was a collection of five gifts—

Carolyn's 5Rhythms gifts

each representing one of the 5 rhythms. (These are GREAT gift ideas for fellow dancers, by the way!)

Starting on the left is the rhythm of Flowing, a handcrafted work of womanly beauty, which itself also represents all of the rhythms. (This could have been the only thing Carolyn got me, and I would have been content.)

Flowing Women

My sister has never even danced the 5Rhythms, but she seems to get the gist.

Next is Staccato, a book, specifically, The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images. The book is thick and heavy and packed with information about symbols—Boats and Feathers, Mandalas and Bridges—bam! Staccato. The practice of 5Rhythms is based heavily on archetypes of the soul, so this book is more than appropriate.

In the middle is Chaos, which Carolyn depicted via forthcoming tickets to a Philadelphia-based burlesque show. Let go, let loose—Chaos!

Carolyn’s gift of Lyrical is similar to the Flowing artwork in that it is also representative of all the rhythms. Here, she decoupaged five ceramic tiles, one for each rhythm:

5Rhythms tiles

Finally is the gift of Stillness, so fittingly represented by a spa gift certificate, which I already declared I’d use toward a reflexology session. What better way to close a metaphorical dance practice than with a therapeutic massage of my feet?

Feet in Sunlight

I got some really great gifts this year, but my sister’s was a gentle push from the frenetic feel of the holidays back into the flow. And so, even though I’m a day late, this afternoon I celebrated Christmas in the way that felt most comfortable. Barefoot and with loose, stringy hair, I danced to the sounds of the season:

Warm-Up/Flowing:

Oh Holy Night — Enya
Angels We Have Heard On High — Josh Groban, featuring Brian McKnight
The Holly and the Ivy — Medieval Babes
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year — Johnny Mathis

Staccato:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer — Chris Isaak
Carol of the Bells (Dubstep) — RawHardcore

Chaos:

Gettin’ In the Mood (For Christmas) — Brian Setzer
Christmas Eve Sarajevo — Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Lyrical:

Sleigh Ride — Leroy Anderson
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas — Sarah McLachlan

Stillness:

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy — Tchaikovsky
O’che Chiun (Silent Night) — Enya.

**Did you incorporate movement/dance/5Rhythms into your holiday this year?
Please share how you continued to flow through all the go-go-go!**

I usually go to bed on Saturday night feeling guilty about all the errands/chores I never got to and all that I’ll need to cram into Sunday, but ya know what? NOT THIS WEEKEND.

It was 60-something degrees this Saturday, a rarity in the Northeast in January. After a few days of an “Arctic blast” in the region–complete with snow on Thursday morning–this kind of meteorological surprise was permission for anyone with Christmas decorations still up in their house (::cough::me::cough::) to just let it go. Tree in the living room, stockings still hanging? Let ’em stay…I’m going outside to play!

Inspired by Meg from Spirit Moves Dance, yesterday I gave myself permission to:

• Wake up naturally, without an alarm clock.

• Do yoga in my pajamas for an hour.

• Cut back on the chaturangas in the yoga podcast when my sore scapula began speaking to me.

• Feel ever-so-content standing in a super-steady and grounded dancer pose, even if my lifted leg doesn’t go as high as it did 5 years ago.

• Add not just almond butter but pumpkin butter, raisins, prunes, banana, and a handful of Kashi GoLean Crunch to my bowl of oatmeal.

• Sit on the computer for two hours, but do so writing meaningful blog posts.

• Download Foursquare on my new BlackBerry, use it to check into a handful of places, decide that I hate the application/concept, but then later reconsider its usefulness (i.e., to remember what I did/where I went over the course of time, because my memory sucks).

• Go on a long and leisurely 5-mile walk with Bryan, occasionally bumping into him as I stared skyward to look at planes.

• Decide to take the “long way” on our walk home, because it was just that nice outside.

• Stop at the Pooch Park to watch strangers’ dogs frolic and romp, secretly hoping someone would come along with a pug. (We’re satisfied with the two puggles we saw, though.)

• See the giant orange sun set on one side of the sky as the nearly full moon began to glow on the other.

• Go to California Pizza Kitchen for dinner, even though I swear every dish must have bacon fat folded into it, considering their calorie counts. (Roasted veggie salad = Amazing, and probably not so bad if you get the dressing on the side.)

• Ask my dining companion for one of his pizza crusts to fulfill my need for some kind of carb to accompany said salad.

• Use my new BlackBerry for entertainment/diversion when waiting for a table at CPK, even though minutes earlier I had blasted society for being so obsessed with their smartphones.

• Spend an hour at a music store that’s going out of business listening to/selecting discounted CDs (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides soundtrack, Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, Radio Retaliation [Thievery Corporation], Empires, Automatic [VNV Nation] <— thanks to Meg for introducing them to me!!).

• Get frozen yogurt in January from our favorite self-serve place.

Honestly, that last one is the most accurate barometer of them all. If I’m OK eating a frozen treat in the middle of winter…yeah, it’s probably a good day.

Dinner in China, 2006.

Yesterday afternoon I ate my weight in Chinese food, gorging on the greasy contents of those familiar little white take-out boxes until I began burping after every bite.

I felt guilty for about 5, 10 minutes. But for the most part, the overindulgent feast warmed my heart as much as it did my belly.

I don’t normally chow down on take-out food, and if and when I overeat, I usually fall into a depressed slump and berate myself for the next several hours, slapping my bloated belly like I’m a disgruntled Santa Claus. But yesterday was different: Several of my family members were gathered at my grandparents’ house, and just when everyone was about to leave, my grandmother, trying to keep people nearby for as long as possible, suggested going out to lunch. I shrugged OK; my sister had to run out for a few minutes but said she’d consider returning; and my parents turned down the offer and said they really needed to go.

That said, “lunch” started out as just me and my grandmother, sitting on the couch, deciding where to go to eat. Then my sister eventually returned, and we contemplated a “girls only” outing, just grandmom and her two granddaughters, leaving grandpop at home to watch the Army/Navy game. Soon after that, my mom called and said she was just about done with her errands and would be able to return for lunch. My sister suggested staying inside and ordering take-out instead; my grandfather, who just moments ago denied being hungry, chirped in that some beef and broccoli would be nice.

So, what started out as no one really wanting to hang around for lunch turned into my sister and I returning from the neighborhood Chinese restaurant with $60-something worth of food and a house full of salivating relatives.

In the few minutes we left to pick up the order, my grandmother had reconfigured the breakfast room table to fit everyone, setting the tabletop with Christmas-themed paper plates, napkins, and silverware. We unloaded the greasy brown paper bags, filling the center of the table with cartons stuffed with shrimp, broccoli, beef, rice, and lo mein. Everyone got a shrimp roll; a Chinese pizza–something I haven’t eaten in a long time–was passed around the table. My sister allowed others to taste her General Tso’s seitan, which everyone admitted really didn’t taste much different than chicken. My “I’m-not-hungry” grandfather devoured everything he spooned onto his plate. Midway through our feast my father entered the room, making a surprise return to the house. We pulled up a chair for him, and everyone began loading his plate with various carton contents, exclaiming how great everything tasted: “This garlic broccoli is amazing!” “The shrimp are really tasty!” “Here, take some of this lo mein!”

My family gathers for the holidays, but the impromptu and informal nature of yesterday’s at-home buffet gave this gathering a different feel. We weren’t dressed up in our nice Christmas clothes; the table was set with paper plates, not china. There were no champagne flutes or fancy wine glasses; we cracked open cans of soda at the table, and we jostled with the various boxes between us, trying to figure out which contained the shrimp and broccoli and which contained the broccoli alone with that really good garlic sauce. We snapped fortune cookies in half for dessert, reading our messages aloud and attempting to read the Chinese words on the back. Clean-up was easy, with no dishes to wash or silverware to soak. No one had slaved over the stove for hours; no one slunk into their seat exhausted after having been awake since 6 a.m. to baste a turkey. It reminded me a bit of that scene from Home Alone, the night before the family leaves for the airport. There is take-out food spread everyone over the table; everyone is digging in, chowing down, laughing. Good times. As my sister said earlier in the afternoon, “Let’s just get take-out. I don’t want to have to sit down at some restaurant and look nice. I just want to kick back and burp at the table, you know?”

Aside from some gas and indigestion, there was something else bubbling inside of me after I left my grandparents’ house: contentment. I walked the three miles back to my house, the chill of the December evening air giving me a bit of a buzz and the Chinese food lining my arteries keeping me relatively warm. There was a full moon that night, and when I began my trek home, it hung low in the sky, huge and golden. When I crossed over the creek, the moon shined directly above, its glow lighting up the ripples in the water like a spotlight. I couldn’t take my eyes off it! When I finally entered my neighborhood, I passed houses lit with reindeer, Santa Clauses, LED snowflakes. The smell of burning fireplaces complemented the Christmas visuals. When I arrived home–after popping a Tums–I found myself doing something I’ve longed to do for quite some time but had never actually got around to doing: napping under the Christmas tree. I pictured myself as a cat curling up in a warm spot; in reality, the configuration I worked myself into looked more like a burrito.

Secret snapshot of the sleeping burrito.

Burrito, Chinese…OK, so it wasn’t the healthiest of foods we indulged in that afternoon. But we don’t eat like that every day, and one afternoon of some take-out–and yes, some burping (and farting) at the table–may actually have done our hearts a little more good than harm.

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!

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