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it's the most horrible time of the year
how to beat post holiday stress disorder
by joe procopio (@jproco)

I don't know about you, but when I woke up on 1/1/12, I felt awful. My head was splitting, my kids were missing, and my body was screaming with pain that, on a lesser man, probably would have meant a series of bruises.

I don't bruise. I internalize.

Oh, and I found the kids. They were at Grandma's for the night. Just forgot. Man, that was a relief. The cops had a good laugh too.

But as I rolled out of bed at the crack of noon, I felt pretty good about the 2012. See, long ago, I discovered that life has a way of presenting you with patterns, and the worst and most frustrating times in your life can usually be boiled down to either dismissing or denying those patterns.

I knew that the morning of 1/1/12 was going to be a septic tank. It's always a septic tank. And strolling down that same path, the entire month of January usually sucks. Bad.

Once you understand this and accept it, you have a much better chance of not only surviving it, but actually thriving in it.

My February has my birthday. Your February is up to you.

Don't Make Any New Years Resolutions

Or, if you have already, feel free to tear them up. Go do it right now.

That felt awesome, right? Of course. That's because the vast majority of these resolutions are vague notions of self-improvement that 50% of the time have to do with losing weight.

I'm not kidding about that, I saw it in a poll. New Years Day is like Black Friday to Weight Watchers and Nutri-System. But to me that's like answering what you want to be when you grow up with "Spaceman!" I mean, it sounds cool and all, but are you really asking for a lifetime of mundane scientific education and military service so you can not go to the moon because we killed NASA?

Absolutely not. So are we really talking about going on some fad diet that's maybe going to last into the third week of January in an effort to knock a couple numbers off the right-most digit on the scale?

Hell no. We just want to feel better.

So instead, stop thinking about January 1, 2012 and focus on December 31, 2012. Set some goals, some solid, distinct quantifiable goals and let January be the exploratory month where you figure out how to get there.

Example: By 12/31/12 I want a million dollars. Solid? Check. Quantifiable? Check. Crazy? Probably. But I've got 30 days to figure out how to get it done.

You give me 30 days, I'll give you plans to build the death star. Plus I might not have lost a half a pound, but I won't be racked with guilt about eating a slice of cake.

Re-Do The Holidays

I can say without hesitation that whatever holiday you celebrate went one of two ways: Totally satisfying nostalgic wonderment or shitstorm. Either way, treat yourself to a do-over.

Buy someone a present and give it to them in person. No reason. And don't be like "Merry Second Christmas!" -- that's just a cry for help.

Host a nice dinner with a few people you really care about. If your holidays rocked, invite the same people. If they didn't, invite different people and publicly snub the original people. I'm not here to judge, so fire away.

Repeat New Years Eve all over again on January 14th, but this time without the stupid countdown and all the pressure and the breaking up with your girlfriend/boyfriend.

Ease Back Into Work

It's a well-established fact that the American workplace starts to atrophy a few days before Thanksgiving and completely stalls out by Christmas. We all fall for it too, no matter how disciplined we are, and we end up piling a whole bunch of crap into January, where the less jolly version of ourselves is left holding the bag.

It's like waking up with a hangover and trying to do a bunch of pushups. You're just going to puke on your new slippers.

Step back, take a breath, and look at your calendar again and reprioritize. I guarantee you half the stuff on there doesn't need to be done right away, so don't try it.

That goes for household stuff as well. Do you really need to repaint those cabinets right now? They're cabinets. They hold your dishes while you're not eating. Go play Xbox.

Stay Inside

It is a germ-covered, flu-crazy world, and somewhere, right now, some idiot is sneezing into something you'll handle this week.

Yeah. Happy New Year.

Also, if you're still planning on that crazy weight-loss thing, you're probably considering taking some form of exercise outdoors. Let me remind you now that we have officially touched down squarely in winter and will be hanging out here for the entirety of January.

Pile on the stress from the aforementioned work tornado, and you're going to get sick.

Play it smart this year. Your super-awesome physical program can wait until March, especially if you're thinking 12/31/12 and not 1/1/12. Get OCD about washing your hands. Keep sanitizer on you at all times. Stay away from the salad bar.

And if you do get sick, don't bitch about it. Suck it up, stay home, and bask in the dim flourescent glow of January. In fact, go out and buy a bottle of Jagermeister right now. It will help with three of my four advisements here, including this one. It's basically Nyquil but more fun.

The moral of the story is this. 2012 is a marathon, not a sprint, so use January to dip your toe into the water, realize how freaking cold it is, and make plans to emerge later in the year a better, smarter, warmer, and more sane you.

Now get on it. That champagne, chocolate, and the iPad2 I want for my birthday isn't going to buy itself.


Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.

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russ carr
1.2.12 @ 7:23p

This morning I took our last cat, the one that was "mine" of our pair, and had him put to sleep.

This evening, as I cooked dinner, my wife returned from swim practice at the Y and told me she hit another car in the parking lot.

As days - as years - go, this has been soul crushing.

joe procopio
1.3.12 @ 9:22a

Sorry, man. It can only get better from here.

katherine (aka clevertitania)
1.11.12 @ 3:11p

It's funny, but I honestly can't say I've ever done a NY resolution. Not that I've never set myself arbitrary goals I wasn't likely to follow through on, I've just never intentionally timed it with the 1st of the year.

And I have been thinking of joining a gym again, but that's just because both my jobs have picked up a bit, so I think I can finally afford it again. When I could afford my membership, I used it.

But I most definitely agree with finding your own reasons to celebrate and keep your mood up. For instance, in our house February equals income tax refunds, which makes us solvent for at least a month (yay!). And later in 2012 I am looking forward to rolling my eyes, in an I-told-you-so fashion, at certain people come December. :)

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