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Yule Appreciate This Later

As first light begins to break, I trick my eyes into believing the desert sand that makes up my backyard is, in fact, snow. It glows white in what’s left of the moonlight under a deep ocean of dark blue sky. I open up my laptop to Youtube and click on “crackling birch wood fireplace”. The city lights are now sprinkled with Christmas colors. My holiday tree stands lit in the corner. Peering out at this scene, the day reveals itself slowly before me (I live on a cliff above a car wash) as I sit on my two-person couch with Nate (and the dog shoved between us) sipping coffee with cinnamon and clove. 

I’m not braggin’. The weather is warm and the sun almost always shines in Tucson, but it doesn’t sit quite right in my soul in the winter. I feel a longing for things to freeze and be reborn so that I, too, can emerge from the blankets renewed; metamorphosed. I come from a lifetime of long winters. I guess you can take the girl out of the winter but you can’t quite take the winter out of the girl or something like that. Whatever. No matter how I feel about the weather, I have control over how I respond to those feelings. Rather than feeling bad, I make fake fires and wear sweaters when I hike in the canyon. I choose to thrive in my environment. 

How does any of this have anything to do with food? Food and the holidays go hand in hand. Eat, drink and be merry! Right? We develop nostalgia with our food traditions whether they are good for us or not. Our nostalgia usually revolves around brightly sugared home-baked cookies, pies, peppermint sweets, rum in things that don’t normally have rum, buttery potatoes, breads and cheese plates, golden-roasted-somethings covered in gravy. We come out of the most wonderful time of the year feeling less than wonderful with New Year’s resolutions often involving pledges to eat the opposite of the way we just ate.   

What if we responded differently to our nostalgia. What would it be like? If I may be so bold, allow me to paint a picture for you. The holidays are coming up. You give yourself the gift of a healthy holiday season. The idea doesn’t sit quite right in your soul, as you are offered hot cocoa and cookies at the Annual Christmas Thingy. You worry that your mom/brother/coworker will be offended when you refuse the cheezy tartlettes. You wonder if you will be a buzzkill if you say things like “health” during a celebration. You stick to your guns and remember that you are the same fun and cool-to-be-around person you were before, only now you have an edge. You know how to feel longing and say no, with a bigger picture in mind. You begin to think of more creative things to eat that are healthy. You bring said things to the party. People say they wish they had your strength. You aren’t even sure you have any yet, but that comment helps. The New Year rolls around and you are still making stellar food choices. You make a resolution, not out of guilt, but with a clear head. The new New Year’s resolution isn’t a generalization. It is specific and attainable because you weren’t driven by bad feelings. You were driven by a desire to keep the good feelings going!

Looking back a few years later, you can’t remember how you tricked yourself into thinking those roasted Brussels were the best dish on the menu. The smell of golden-roasted-somethings covered in gravy still causes a little ache in your chest, but it’s okay. It’s a memory and you can remember it fondly, as you thrive in your healthy environment. Maybe you put on a Christmas sweater and go for a hike!

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