The holiday break was both busy and relaxing: it was nice to disconnect from the businesses and spend time with family and friends for a couple of weeks. There was more work than usual this year in the run-up to Christmas, the convoluted tax and visa filings, and emerging issues in our product development programs, and I think that I was getting more run-down and stressed than I had realized. I tried to shut off the emails and phone conferences for the holiday and give everything a chance to settle on its own.
The US didn’t feel like a particularly happy country this Christmas. Folks were grim and surly in stores and restaurants, pushy behind the wheel on the roads and in parking lots. The stores, usually filled by end-of-year sales, remained pretty empty last week.
I suspect that it’s all a hangover from the election and worries about higher taxes and decreased benefits after January 1. The media seems full of false political drama and justified economic gloom, profiles of places (Greece, Spain) that America could become and indicting the people (the President, the Republican House of Representatives) thought to be at fault.
It can become an infectious atmosphere, and I already have enough work and life pressure without letting myself get sucked into it. I know that I’ve become more stressed, impatient, and irritable in December, and that I need to turn that around. So, in the spirit of getting 2013 off to a good roll, I’ll focus on the promising things happening in life:
I got my scores from the November Dutch NT2-1 language exams; A score of 500 is voldoende (passing) and I got a 537 to complete Lezen (reading) and a 494 to come within a whisker of passing Luisteren (listening). Schrijven and Spreken (writing and speaking) came in farther back at 438 and 459, respectively. I’m continuing my daily language work, but am looking for ways to kick up my expressive skills and see if I can get this behind me for 2013.
KPN ha finally gotten the internet and television working in the Maastricht apartment, and has refunded 100 euros in payment for services lost since October.
My travel companion, a 100-year-old teapot, survived it’s 10,000 mile journey. A Barrington neighbor had acquired it when her grandmother passed away, and she asked if I could carry it to her niece in Denver as a gift. I’ve had it on my lap through planes and trains, airports and hotels, for nearly two weeks. When we unwrapped it together, it was a beautiful piece of Chinese porcelain, happily intact: she was thrilled to have the memento.
My parents have successfully navigated November’s health scares. My father had a small stroke during diagnostic tests to evaluate his heart; my mother had a cancer scare that required surgery. These problems were compounded by medical errors and side effects of medications, so we’re all feeling like the program needs a re-think. There needs to be a better balance of risk with reward, a realistic assessment of balancing long-term benefits with short term quality of life. For example, should beta blockers be used to bring blood pressure down from 130 to 120 when it’s also causing lethargy and chills? I just feel like doctors need to let people live their lives at that age rather than play a 30-year game of risk reduction.
My numbers, on the other hand, were uniformly good from a physical exam ahead of the holidays. Blood sugar is down into the 70s, cholesterol is looking good, heart sounds fine, peripheral circulation is better than expected considering the ankle surgeries years ago. If I avoid stress, exercise, learn Dutch, I could live forever.
End-of-break, then: on to the airplanes, ‘back to the Netherlands, and into 2013.