It’s that time of year again. The few weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day are piled up with shopping, overeating, more shopping, tongue papercuts (from one too many envelope lickings), guilt, regret, more guilt. The obligations that boil over each holiday season can create some of the ickiest feelings in the world. Feelings that stem from a gridlock of to-dos and societal pressures that can be difficult to outsmart. We succumb to sending holiday cards to people we hardly ever see. We travel far and wide to spend several days with abusive family members. We attempt to bake ambitious fruit and nut loafs. We light candles that smell like the ass of a pine tree. We illuminate our homes to the point where we are even more visible from space. We wear strangers’ christmas sweaters. We cut down trees and then throw them away. We do it all.
Doing it all
So what does “doing it all” do for us since most of what is done quickly fades into oblivion? Like those few seconds of bliss after a loved one opens a gift you’ve painstakingly sought out in the deepest depths of the interweb. Or the 5 or so minutes after devouring a fatty, salty, sugary meal where the brain basks in fresh endorphins. And listening to tiny children sing christmas tunes - on repeat. Also, the incredible zeal that comes with the mystery of santa claus, stockings, a rainbow of lights, snowmen, reindeer, advent calendars and presents. It’s intoxicating for a child. And we're their biggest drug.
There are christmas people. And stores dedicated to selling x-mas paraphernalia all year long. There are men and women who have red and green outfits dry-cleaned for annual celebrations with distant cousins. There are holiday red lipsticks and glistening golden eye shadows worn to drunken eggnog bashes. In homes throughout America, large spaces are dedicated to gigantic christmas trees and cozy ceramic villages that glow throughout the night. And let’s not forget the kind of creepy inflatable snowmen and santas looming over lawns.
My mind and body generally don’t like to participate in this holiday excessiveness. They’d rather sleep and wake up on January 2nd, fully refreshed and not as broke. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. So, to make this holiday experience more palatable, I’ve created a buffer for holiday over-stimulation that can be worn as little or as long as you like.
A pair of glasses
Two empty toilet paper rolls
Four pairs of earplugs
Tape toilet paper rolls to the front of the glasses. These will keep you from seeing anything that isn’t directly in front of you.
Insert earplugs into ears to keep unwanted holiday tunes at bay.
Carefully stick other pair of earplugs in your nostrils. These will prevent the smell of turkey, lamb roast or beef wellington from infiltrating your nasal passages.
Tape your mouth shut with duck tape. Using the razor blade, cut a slit large enough for oxygen and a straw. Keeping your mouth taped shut may help avoid unwanted arguments and will also keep you from eating too much.
Grab your smoothie. Insert straw into mouth and enjoy!
WHAT IS THIS?
Process Mundane is an ongoing series of emails - by Felicity Fenton - designed to help those who face daily drudgery take a more microscopic look at their drudge. Gleaning inspiration from self help evangelism, Allan Kaprow and Alan Watts, Process Mundane takes a deeper look into the roots of monotonous tasks, evaluates each task, and offers people alternative ways of performing each task. The end goal for Process Mundane is to give a sense of play and creativity to the particularly lackluster moments most people tend to forget about.
Thank you for taking the time to open this email. You probably have at least 73 other emails to open (or not open). I know I do. It’s a daunting spectacle every time I wake up and walk over to my phone or computer. 2 out of the 73 emails I've received today are worth reading. 50% of those emails are trying to sell me something I may want, but don’t need. 45% of those emails are work related, and though I enjoy my job, there is a large part of me that would rather dedicate that precious time to looking out the window and thinking about things I maybe shouldn’t be thinking about. Things like chocolate ganache drizzled with olive oil and sea salt, wishful trips to Africa, snorkeling with a parrot fish, etc..
How to chew unwanted mail with your teeth...
Junk mail. It lands in our inboxes every minute. It slides through our mail slots and fills our recycling bins. It's a pesky little reminder of all the things we could do, but won’t. All the things we can’t afford. All the credit cards we could apply for. The Lords we could worship. The home loans we could reduce or refinance. The clothes we could wear. The shows we could see. The money we could spend if we had it, and even if we did have it, the money we could regret spending because we did.
To me, one of the more icky domestic tasks is having to toss this stuff. Especially the paper version that accumulates on my desk until, eventually, I decide to get off my rump and toss it into the recycling bin.
The last time my junk mail grew into an uncomfortably sized pile, rather than tossing it into the recycling bin, I chewed it up into little soggy blobs. The experience wasn't totally satisfying (and to be honest, the taste of ink and China-printed paper made me want to hurl), but at least I now know what it's like to purge junk mail with my own chompers.
If you are interested in masticating your junk mail in the comfort of your own home, here is a quick and simple tutorial:
1) Compile your pile of junk mail.
2) Put one piece of junk mail in your mouth and chew until it turns into a ball.
3) Spit the chewed mail-ball out.
4) Continue chewing the rest of your mail until it's all gone.
5) Toss the wet mail-balls into the recycling bin.
6) Drink a tall glass of iced tea with mint, lemon and honey.
7) Call your mother (or someone like your mother) and tell them about the experience.
I hope this note finds you healthy and content. It’s a lovely Spring here in Portland, Oregon. There are few things more motivating than spring. Tropical beaches, my Grandma Dot, being chased by a tiger, and this email. Yes that's right, the email you're reading is more motivating than spring. And on this fine May day, it may just motivate you to grab a broom and sweep like you've never swept before.
Yes. Right now. Locate the broom in your house. Place it in your hand. Hold it like you would a child’s hand. Turn it over and examine its bristles. Notice the angle of the bristles.
Begin to sweep. Sweep in a way you're most comfortable with for 13 minutes. Set a timer if you need to. Sweep and sweep and listen to the sound of the broom's bristles moving across the floor. Notice the shadows you and the broom make together. Switch sides and keep sweeping for another 5.5 minutes. You may not have anything else to sweep up, but keep going. You're stronger than you think.
Now place the broom between your toes and sweep. Do this for 1 minute. Then get onto your belly and sweep for as long as you like. Then onto your back for as long as you like. Stand up, and again, sweep in a way that is most comfortable for you. Sweep things that don’t need to be swept. Sweep your shoes. Sweep your canned goods. Sweep your neighbor’s door. Sweep your cats. Sweep you partner. Sweep yourself.
Begin to slow down your sweeping. Slooooooooooooooow down even more. Make a single, sweeping stroke last an entire minute. And then two minutes. Stop sweeping. Hold the broom. Feel the warmth of your hand against the broom. Put the broom back where it belongs. Walk away. Smile. Give yourself a high five.