What Are You Doing For Dead Week?

It is the only time of year when the days feel slow to me, when the time outside of whatever tasks I have to do does not somehow vanish into further worry and busyness. It is the only time I don’t feel like I am perpetually late to my own life, and that easing of guilt offers a deeper rest than any vacation would. Helena Fitzgerald

I have been in nonstop holiday mode from the beginning of December to now, but I’m not in first class, and no one is wearing seatbelts! I’m not complaining. Much. There have been crazy traditions, champagne toasts, lots of white elephants, delectable food, and an overload of good cheer, but I’m feeling my age. I’m weary from all the frantic shopping, late nights, multiple festivities, and all those young people with more energy than PG & E.

What the hell?

Are we ready to retire 2022? With all her skyrocketing inflation, a strange surge of illnesses, deflated stock market, and now she’s throwing a historic hissy storm. I have this urge to turn around and embrace 2022 as if a naughty child who is overtired but resisting sleep, but I could be describing myself. 

Richelle Goodrich says, “past and present I know well; each is a friend and sometimes an enemy to me. But it is the quiet, beckoning Future, an absolute stranger, with whom I have fallen madly in love.”  

I admit to being overcome by the familiar desire to summarize the past, make some lame-ass resolutions, and lay out a complicated schedule of implausible plans for 2023. Resistance is futile, as if denying myself popcorn with a movie. It’s going to happen, but next week is soon enough.

I feel a little like Cinderella. My time is quickly dwindling while I dazzle my prince. All too soon, the clock will strike midnight, everything will return to status quo, and I won’t be able to find my damn shoe. 

The last days of the year are filled with returns, not only the clothes that don’t fit and bright blue yeti mugs, but my daughter is returning to the other coast, my kids are returning to work, my grandkids to school, and I’ll be left behind to define my return from the complexity of one indistinguishable day from the next.

It’s called retirement, and I’m not sure we thought it through.

I have the best of intentions, but more often than not, life has a way of derailing me, but that could be because we just watched Bullet Train, and the image of a commuter train crash landing in the center of my life is branded on my mind.

The period between Christmas and New Year is strange. I’m both pleased and relieved to have Christmas behind me, but now the days seem to stretch out before me as if a long and winding road (the theme song from our high school senior ball). I can’t remember the day of the week, let alone what I am supposed to do with all this unbudgeted time and no dinners to host? 

I have the desire to dedecorate the entire house but not the energy or inclination to actually do it. I want to write, but my thoughts are scattered like the leaves on the ground. Rake them, I say. But I sit and ponder the weather instead.

What in the world are we supposed to do with these days? Helena Fitzgerald says the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a time when nothing counts and when nothing is quite real.

It’s as if the entire world has taken a deep breath, a communal pause if you will, even the light narrows to a sliver as if a door closing. I envision the opportunities I will encounter or miss in the new year. I consider the unexpected demands on my emotions and time. And I acknowledge the bombshells that will throw me off course or, at the very least, toss me in a new direction. Will I use these moments to prosper or allow them to stigmatize my growth? 

The grandkids have been lounging at our house most of the day, that’s why we live across the street, so they can slide back and forth with ease. I built a fort with the twins and their new Lincoln Logs, after which I helped Audrey with her Harry Potter Lego Land, but the kids seem to understand that these days are meant to be wasted, to run, giggle, and wrestle with each other. I watch them with both envy and dismay. 

The house has been crammed with people for weeks, and Grammie might not be handling it so well. Could it be my countenance? I guess it’s rather obvious because suddenly Kelley decided to take Audrey to the grocery store, Julie took the twins to play at the school, Larry went to visit his parents, and Dante headed down south to work for a week.

I want to sit and bask in the silence for a while, but I opened my computer for the first time in weeks and allowed my fingers to lay down a few words, search my muddled brain for a new idea. I know. Who am I kidding? Everything has already been discovered, and I feel as if I’m stuck in the Truman Show. 

Kelley and Audrey return with a huge bag of groceries. Kelley starts chopping lettuce and such while she’s watching an episode of Fraiser on her phone. I’m listening to Roz storm into Fraiser’s apartment and demand a drink. He says, “I’ll get the sherry,” and she says, “don’t waste your time. I’ve got grown-up problems.” Oh, that’s rich.

We’re planning to eat all the leftovers crammed in the refrigerator tonight with Kelley’s salad, a smorgasbord of sorts, and I admit I’m anxious for an empty refrigerator, one that is ready to accommodate my healthy new diet plan that will be well-intentioned, but short-lived and unsuccessful. I know. Just allow me my ridiculous fantasies during dead week.

Maybe these days are just what they seem, buffers before the New Year descends on us, and we’re once again imprisoned by our patterns, our obligations, our wayward goals. As Helena Fitzgerald notes, “we celebrate it all the same, by eating cheese and cake for breakfast, getting drunk at inappropriate hours, not looking at calendars or clocks, forgetting what day it is, wearing outfits that make no sense, ignoring our phones, and falling into a pointless internet rabbit hole for hours. Lots of people have either just returned from family visits or are still there, stuck in the half-familiarity of being an adult in the spaces of childhood. We celebrate Dead Week by having no idea what to do during Dead Week and, within that confusion, quietly luxuriating in what might be the only collective chance for deep rest all year.”

So I’m going to embrace the confusion and disorder for a few more days by not trying to put everything back in place, ignoring the hands on the clock and the interior scoldings that keep urging me to accomplish something. I’m going to be late on my blog again, but if dead week is anything, it’s forgiving. These meandering days offer us a moment of grace, no rush, no worry. Spending the day in your pajamas, watching reruns of Fraiser, and avoiding all mirrors is enough.

I’m aware that time can be stingy. There are no refunds or exchanges if you don’t like how things look at the end of the year. This year maybe I won’t add any new resolutions but make a commitment to stop doing the things that are a waste of time in exchange for the things I love. Like writing, reading, playing with the grandkids, traveling with my prince, and watching the sunrise on the other side of the world. The sun has the potential to bring all sorts of things to light if we can stop the madness for a while and take notice. This is the fruition of dead week, when we toss 2022 in the recycle bin, observe the dawning of a new year with our feet up on the barcalounger, and the Christmas wrap still scattered on the floor.

Happy New Year!

I’m Living in the Gap, enjoying Dead Week, and you?

46 Comments

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    1. Thank you Terri! I think being retired makes these odd little days between Christmas and New Year even more obscure. But I do appreciate the time for what it is, a period of rest, quiet, and no runs to the grocery store! Hugs, C

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  1. I’m loving dead week! Just me, Phil and the cats rattling around doing things we like doing and not much else. A liminal space where we can leave behind the turbulence of 2022 and gear up for whatever 2023 throws at us. Take it easy Cheryl and Happy New Year to you and your family xx

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    1. I’m with you Fraggle, it is so lovely to have some time to relax, no obligations, and I get to putz around and do what I want. It’s priceless. I love how you describe it as “liminal space,” the space between the old year and the new. A time to catch our breath. Wishing you and Phil, and the cats a most Happy New Year, hugs, C

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    1. Hi Keith, I agree with your observation. When I worked I was designing lesson plans, grading papers, and updating the grade books during dead week. Now I get to relax! It’s heaven! Happy New Year! Hugs, C

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  2. Nice post Cheryl!
    Our family Christmas had to be cancelled because of weather last week, so we’re having it tomorrow night. I feel like Christmas never happened, but I need it to be over anyway! So all the food I made went into the freezer and I need to remember to take it back out today.
    Somehow, something is going to be lost in translation.
    I loved watching the Long and Winding Road. They all looked so sad, and so many losses.

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    1. Hi Dorothy! I’m so sorry your Christmas got postponed! It is very difficult for me to pivot when life throws me a curve ball. I love how you observe, “something is going to be lost in translation,” undoubtably so, but also something new will appear, and it will delight you. I’m grateful that you survived the severe weather and are still able to celebrate! Happy New Year, hugs, C

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  3. Our dead week is all about recovering from Covid this year. The previous week was actually the real ‘dead week’, with Christmas written off completely. So we have had a ‘dead fortnight’.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

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    1. I’m thinking we might need to revise that term, “dead week.” It has a lot of dire reverberations. I’m so sorry to hear that both you and Julie came down with COVID during the holidays. The description of your illness and cough sounds harrowing. I hope you’re feeling better and able to return to your normal routines! Sounds like Ollie enjoyed his Christmas! Happy New Year Pete, hugs, C

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  4. I feel exactly the same way about this week. We had so much going on until we drove home yesterday. I slept at least 10 hours and haven’t unpacked yet, which is a first for me. I’m enjoying laziness until the New Year. Next week, with Southwest willing to cooperate, I’ll be nursemaid to my son post surgery in Berkeley. Happy 2023 to you and yours!

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    1. It feels a little like stepping off a roller coaster still dizzy from all the twists, turns, and loppie loops of Christmas! I for one, am enjoying the quiet. So glad to hear you slept 10 hours! That’s fabulous! And I wish you well as you nurture your son after his surgery! Wishing you and your a delightful New Year! Hugs, C

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  5. Your description of dead week is like my everyday life, and I love it.

    From an Atlantic article entitled “How Much Alone Time Do Kids Need?”:

    There’s a reason adolescents are famous for hiding in their room; they’re in a period of great self-exploration, and alone time helps them figure out who they are apart from peers or their family unit. Virginia Thomas, a psychology professor at Middlebury College, told me that teenagers start focusing more on the big questions: “Who am I and what do I believe and where am I going with my life and what does it mean?” They also tend to be sensitive to social pressures, and solitude can help them breathe and recharge.

    Who are you apart from your peers and family? Do you need more alone time?

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    1. Such astute observations about the benefits of solitude. I totally agree, it allows you the time to focus on “who am I and what do I believe and where am I going with my life and what does it mean.” All great things to consider regularly but especially at the New Year when we’re all considering what might lay ahead for us. I savor my alone time. It restores me and enables my passion ~ which is to write. Happy New Year Cheerful Monk. Hugs, C

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  6. To get me over this hump, I start organizing things. Puts me in control. I dropped off two bags of stuff at salvation army yesterday and got rid of twelve unmatched socks. I swear the organizing makes me feel better

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    1. This is the thing, I need you to come to California, and organize my mess, it’s for your health. You’ll feel like a million bucks! And by the way, I only have mismatched socks? Happy New Year LA, hoping 2023 is sweet on you, and with a little planning I’ll get to see you again in the new year. Hugs, C

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    1. I so agree Ivon, the blurring of time in retirement is a real thing, and you’re lucky to have Kathy working from home! I’m enjoying this week with few responsibilities and lots of grandkids around. Wishing you and yours a spectacular New Year! Hugs, C

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  7. Everyday is a blur for me too. It’s crazy how as soon as I retired my health went to pot! I only pray that by the time my husband retires next December I am able to travel. Enjoy the grandkids, so much fun! Happy New Year Cheryl!

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      1. Something like that Cheryl. After finishing my drizzle of Scotch that were the remains of a lovely evening watching the Chosen, I advanced to prepping some of my rare and antique firearms for sale. . . at a ‘very’ leisurely pace, thank you very much. 🤠 Am looking forward to a lovely New Years Eve Grey Goose Martini served up by the best Bartender in Scottsdale, Susie. And that’s not just my opinion btw 😁 ( Well. . . Though, I by no means, have been to everyone bar in the state, just every bar that matters in Scottsdale Okay, Maybe she’s the best in the State 🙄) at the Famous White Chocolate Grill in Scottsdale and then retreat home for Prime Rib and Lobster. That wait for Midnight and split a very nice bottle of French bubbly with my beloved, thank you very much! Hoping your evening plans are simply hanging with your offspring and their offspring and it is simply a spectacular evening neighbor! 🍾🥂🎵🎶🎵🎉🎊🎉

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        1. Your plans are simply decadent Chris! Larry and I might have to take a field trip to your famous White Chocolate Grill for one of those Grey Goose Martinis! Happy New Year to you and Terrie! Cheers, C

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  8. I spent Dead Week doing as much fun stuff as I could because I’ve been sick for the last one and half months and couldn’t do much. I hope you have a great New Years Eve and that 2023 is a wonderful year for you.

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    1. I’m so happy you’re feeling better and able to do “as much fun stuff,” as possible! That’s wonderful news. Happy New Year my friend, I don’t know about you, but I’m so ready to move on from 2022, and say welcome in 2023! I say bring it on! Hugs, C

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  9. We were just about through with the goodies in the fridge–only during Dead Week does it feel like it’s an accomplishment to eat whole meals consisting of fat-laden bits of food found in Saran wrap. But then I went and bought pate and french bread for a party last night. Then, I snuck it back home. Because no one eats pate but me! So, there’s dinner. Tomorrow, I’ll get my act together, maybe. I have a closet to clean, a car too, and also an office that looks like it’s been hit by a bomb. Maybe I’ll feel like I can begin again, then. My one 2023 resolution is to get back to some exercise besides walking the dog. I have an open tab on my computer containing a Pilates workout. I’m not allowed to close the tab until I do it! Here’s to a year of resolutions that last at least one day. And plenty of book and writing success all around, Cheryl!

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    1. Okay, full admission, I just threw every leftover in the garbage yesterday. The refrigerator is bare and I couldn’t be more pleased. There is still a lot of excess chocolate around the house but that never goes bad and is even better when paired with red wine. You might be the only person I know who eats pate? I’m perplexed as to the greater meaning? We’ll just savor that tidbit for a while. The only thing I’m determined to do in January is return to the bar class they offer down the street from my house. It’s still in the yet to be accomplished stage but making great progress. I am excited about 2023 and the open slate it offers for growing as a writer. Let’s hope we have been appropriately fertilized by 2022! Hugs, C

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      1. I could eat my weight in pâté, actually. Chocolate’s pretty great, too. But I know that good feeling of emptying the fridge of all the weird leftover bits. Oh, a bar class would be good. I’ve got two YouTube pilates/stretch/HIIT videos under my belt so far this year, and I feel pretty good about that. (Becuz I’m much more interested in growing as a writer than otherwise.) We’ll have to cheer each other on in all the creative things!

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  10. Felt every word of that, well except retired part! Lucky lady!
    The dead week feels so confusing and my brain is dead too. You feel slow and hopeless and wandering into the kitchen for more snacks.

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    1. Well, it appears we have been resurrected from dead week, and we’ve somehow stumbled into 2023! I finally emptied my refrigerator of all leftovers! And I’m off to the store for greens, fresh produce, and bacon! Here’s to a fabulous new year with lots of writing opportunities and exciting adventures. Hugs my friend, C

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  11. Love your ode to 2022 Cheryl. You surely summed up that year perfectly – like a naughty child. I know I for one am praying for a better year and more of an inflated stock market, lol. But for now, I wish you a beautiful new year with new beginnings to look forward to, and of course, good health and happiness, and success with your new book. Hugs ❤ xx

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    1. Thank you Debby. I hope you are on your way to Mexico for your annual get-away with your beloved friends. I hope you return rejuvenated and ready to take on 2023! Let’s just imagine the very best opportunities, unexpected joy, health, and way to much laughter. Love you. Hugs, C

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      1. I like your optimism for the year Cheryl. I will happily share that with you. 🙂 I’m not leaving for another few weeks. And I am so looking forward to too much laughter, lol. Thanks so much Cheryl. Love you girl. Hugs xox

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    1. Oh my, Sue, we need to shake things up in 2023. Maybe something to look forward to, something new to learn, and a surprise or two along the way. I find that writing helps me to process my life, to find the hidden jewels, and consider perspectives that are not my own. Wishing you a lot of laughter and joy my friend, hugs, C

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      1. I am not sitting idle by choice as the year begins but will be heading to Nashville this weekend for 2 procedures that I hope will make it easier for me to get back out there, both literally and figuratively. Keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer that one or both has the desired result!

        I am also in the middle of a lot of writing and struggling a bit to figure out what I want to finish first! Some of this WIP is/was intended to be posted on the blog and the simple fact that I have not given up on those pieces is an encouraging sign in my book. I decided, however, to do a 2022 wrap-up memo and 2023 plan email for my far-flung friends (and maybe a few relatives) and for my use as well. It will include, and I hope to finish it today, the news that I will be attending a writer’s retreat in Taos at the end of April. Since I have your email address, would you be interested in being a recipient?

        If not, no worries. Either way I just want to tell you how much I appreciate your words of support and encouragement.

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  12. I think I played about 20 hours of Candy Crush on my phone between Christmas and New Year’s. There was too much chaos to sit down and be productive, let alone focused! I loved your conclusion: “This year maybe I won’t add any new resolutions but make a commitment to stop doing the things that are a waste of time in exchange for the things I love.” That’s what I’ve been doing this week. No letting life slip by while I play stupid games on my phone. Great post, my friend.

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  13. “but my thoughts are scattered like the leaves on the ground. Rake them, I say. But I sit and ponder the weather instead.” These are the kinds of lines that I can’t wait for when reading your blog 😉

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