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A Time to Be Peaceful


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There are four weeks left in the year -- the remainder of December, an odd month that reminds me of something about to happen, but never does. Everything is whirring and buzzing, people are in position, the lights are on and the doors are open, yet little takes place. There's a pause in construction, production, achievement; we hover, we wait.

The colorful lights tangled around downtown businesses and the neighbor's lamppost tell us it's Christmas, a time to be jolly and peaceful.

All eyes are on the consumer and our consumption. Ready, get set, go: drive, park, crowds, shopping malls, discount sales, gift purchases, cash registers, credit cards, stock markets, buy, sell, the economy. None of this is visited without liberal eating of the most common variety… dogs on a stick, pizza and big soft drinks. Celebrations, parties and homey get-togethers are anywhere two or more gather, Jim Beam or Bud legitimately counting as one of the two or more.

Furthermore, the first of the year doesn't sneak up on us any more than a stampede of wild elephants wearing church bells.

You could feel the earth move under your feet while eating Thanksgiving dinner, and hear an insane clanging off in the distance as you decorated the Christmas tree. By the very end of December, thunder and dust clouds fill the air, birds take flight and folks are frantically making resolutions, uncorking fizzy dark green bottles, singing, dancing, hugging, cheering and then, suddenly, silence -- stillness.

Another year is boxed up and set aside for occasional reference, memories to recall with an ironic smile, lessons learned the hard way, progress logged on pages of time and time lost that we never owned. There's hope for another year. There's hope for a better year. There's hope where there is no hope. A New Year is like that.

Before we close the box on this crazy year, what can we do to squeeze in some good stuff around the edges, wrap well and press in a few prizes among the common items in the center: achievements tight against the ordinary days of waste and error and miscalculation; last-hour repairs, strategies to regroup, endeavors to make up for the dropping the ball? This is the month to strive, to give and to accomplish generously, not a month to float like a party balloon or fizzle like a damp firecracker left over from July.

December is a month for sharp exercise, good food and big laughs. Shop till you drop (very aerobic), eat to build muscle (high-pro, low-junk) and have fun (starve stress).

Why would anyone approach the grand and sparkling month of holidays and delights any other way? For the bulges of pleasure, for the guilt of gluttony… because that's what we're encouraged to do and that's what everybody else does?

Go not where the herd doth go lest thou grow wool over thine eyes.

Slow down and look around. Put your arms around the last days of the year and draw them close. They will serve us well, add to our amazing lives and be remembered for being the special gifts they are. There's nothing more exciting than a clear view of how precious each day is.

It's up to us, you and me.

May we walk through December and into January with joy, aspiration and sureness. Here are 10 thoughts to think during the days that crown this year:

1) Be sensible. An intelligent assessment of this month and the early days of next year might give light to a plan you can schedule around work, events, holiday chores and family responsibilities. Write it down, knowing that flexibility is freedom.

2) Review my worn-out words with patience and commit to looking after yourself as the days go by and being swallowed by the holiday chaos becomes real. Once caught in the river, we might not see you again till spring. It happens.

3) Master the month. Every year during the holiday madness, there's a crop of early-morning training devotees who set their alarms an hour ahead to bombard the weights before the river rises. This is the progressive way to dominate the compromises December and January often present. Only the tough need apply

4) Be strong. Do you really want to eat excessively? Is it beyond your control to limit your intake of sugar? These practices are foolish. They are not good for the health of your system; they distress your digestive system, they play havoc with your hormone balance; they promise fat storage and lead you on a thorny path to disease. Keep your eye on your goals. Live it up as long as you can live it down. Indulge, but don't submerge.

5) I sound like a taskmaster whose face is lined with a permanent frown, whose voice is a shout and whose only satisfaction is telling happy people to lift weights hard and eat right or else.

Not even close. I want to see you wind up the old year with new, renewed or re-established winning habits while it's got some wind-up left. And don't you want to begin the coming year with bright eyes and self control, rather than a shadow of guilt and self-disapproval? You can do one or the other in the next weeks.

6) Many of you are sound in your discipline and in spite of the year-end turbulence, you will glide smoothly, confident and in control. Some might miss a workout, which leads to another and then another. Usually the same characters indulge and imbibe and imbibe and indulge.

Be honest, does this sound like you? What do your neighbors think?

This behavior can lead to the Gap, the incontrollable loss of control. This is a dismal place where stomachs grow large and muscles grow small, a wretched corner of existence inhabited by sorrowful souls.

Slightly dramatic, but you get my point.

7) It's easy to get caught up in the fun, the freedom of having good times with good friends when life can be tense and heavy, one battle after another, politics and natural disasters and crooks and jerks across the world and jerks in your own backyard.

Be careful not to escape too far into holiday bliss. Reserve time and energy for the workouts where you deal most successfully with the challenges and discouragements that sit heavily on your back and mind and spirit. Nothing at all like a great workout to restore your faith in mankind and smooth out the stress that warps your perceptions.

You want to double your burdens? Get out of shape.

8) Get to that place where the your iron work is done and blast it hard and in short bursts. Don't expect superlatives on the workout floor -- just get there and go. Don't scramble or flounder. Have an impromptu plan in your creative mind and put it into motion the moment you step on the floor.

It's okay to smile, but stop talking. Focus, push, pull, nothing heavy, no race -- just pace. You're in charge and everything is going to be fine.

9) For those of you who wouldn't mind losing some weight, drop five pounds of bodyfat by January 1st. There are a handful of belligerent warriors who have had it with weakness and submissiveness. Much easier to lose five than to gain five, they say. Amen.

10) For those of you who want to gain muscle weight, add deadlifts or squats or cleans and presses to your workouts in the remaining weeks of the year. Pick one of the enticing all-time great body, mind and spirit builders that you've caught in your peripheral vision and practice it with focus and passion. One last all-out effort -- one final achievement.

Time to jet, bombers.

Thank God... DD

*****

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