Callie Feyen is doing a series about hermit crab essays over at Tweetspeak Poetry. Her first one is titled How to Do a Switch Leap. She describes the essay in this way:
A hermit crab essay, described by Suzanne Paola and Brenda Miller in Tell It Slant, is a lyrical essay that takes the shape of an existing form, such as a recipe, a how-to manual, a sewing pattern. The rationale has to do with the essay’s content — it could be too vulnerable (like a hermit crab), needing a “house” to inhabit, to shelter it and help it makes its way.Callie Feyen
She’s invited readers to write along. Here’s my first attempt.
Mental (and Physical!) Wellness Package. Special Holiday edition!
The retail affiliates associated with my indoor cycling trainer have been sending me offers. They know the holidays are coming, and they know I may be in the market to buy myself a little something-something.
Yesterday a friend and I chatted in the grocery store, beside the organic grapes, about the hardnesses of the holidays. She and I both, it seems, are in the market for tools, tips, and tricks to make it to the day after New Year’s. If only there were a retailer who could sell us what we most need.
Shop now! Stock up!
Tis the season, and now is the time for pros like you to prepare for the grueling race ahead. Grab our highly reviewed extras, before the supply chain further deteriorates. Because you, dear hardy soul, are worth more than the basics. Upgrade now and save (yourself)!
- water bottles–You will need several to sip while you hold your tongue. Stash them in your purse, carryall, and bathroom for easy access. Pro tip: water is the preferred filler, either sparkling or still. Coffee or tea are acceptable substitutes if you don’t mind the stains and jitters as you get into your 11th cup. Resist the temptation to fill your bottles with vodka. Just don’t.
- custom sweat towels and headbands–You’re gonna sweat, and not just from the heat of the oven. Once the conversation gets political, as You-Know-Who will ensure it does, your absorbent (and attractive!) absorption tool will help you maintain a healthy glow without becoming sloppy.
- mirrored sunglasses (with UV protection!) –Who says cool people only wear their sunglasses at night? With these beauties, you will see all and none will see you. The specially formulated UV coating protects you from the stink-eye. Don’t meet and greet without them!
- steering block–When cutting insults spring from the conversation like obstacles on a cross-country race, this advanced tool will help you steer clear. Curb your enthusiasm with quick turns at sharp angles, away from danger.
- clever T-shirt–At some point you will escape to the bathroom to wash away the tears or the anger from your eyes. When you look in the mirror, what do you want looking back at you—the handknitted sweater you received last year from your ex-aunt? No! You need a shield, with a message decipherable to only you, and possibly, your partner. Or the aliens you pray have landed in the backyard, ready to whisk you to parts unknown aboard their spaceship.
- heart-rate monitor–Your ticker will get taxed—trust us. Watch your highs and lows in real time with this app that syncs to your phone or smart watch. Shout wahoo or &*%^#!, as needed.
- playlist upgrade–Don’t settle for just one! Give your streaming service a workout it won’t soon forget. Useful categories may include Rev Up, Ride On, Tears in My Beer, and A to Zen. (Note: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer may stir up childhood trauma, which might be considered “piling on” during an event as potentially contentious as Christmas dinner.)
- snack essentials–Nutrition is key, so get on that gut health in advance! Begin preparing with such staples as nourishing broth, hearty salads and soups, and fresh bread. Then have plenty of cut-up fruit and veggies to munch while keeping your mouth shut. The bones you might like to pick with that special someone, save them until the Big Event is over. Then bury them—along with your sorrows—under a bush, in the dead of night, beneath a new moon.
- ugly art–You know they’re going to talk about you, so let’s give ‘em something to talk about! Visit a garage sale or resale shop and purchase the biggest, gaudiest, ugliest piece of art you can find. Make sure it is the first thing your partner’s family sees when they enter your home. Tell them with pride that you paid only $1 million. This technique is offensive, rather than defensive, so only deploy this tactic if you are 1) hosting the party, and 2) in the mood to poke the bear. (Note: Do not bring ugly art to your sister’s brand new custom-decorated condo.)
- escape hatches–You may discover, 37 hours into a 3-hour event, that your tried-and-true coping mechanisms are inadequate to dealing with these people, and you just have to leave. Plan your exit strategy beforehand. Have the map downloaded. Fellow travelers have attempted arrange with local deer to jump in front of the car at just the right moment so as to render them incapable of coming to the party without actually needing medical help, but deer are notoriously dumb and may forget the terms of the agreement. (Note: Do not negotiate with feral hogs: They don’t parlay.)
- lucky rocketship underpants—Calvin had the right idea with his lucky rocketship underpants, even on a day when he didn’t feel very lucky. But you are not a precocious 6-year-old child; you are an adult! Make your own luck! Visit your favorite intimates retailer and purchase whatever makes you smile. (Or, as Hobbes would say, whatever makes you feel Yowza!). Make sure you’ve done all you can do.
- LBD (or black suit, as suits you)—Let’s be honest. Some of the family members you find so trying are going to pass away before you do. You won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving at the nursing home forever, and at some point you may actually miss the chef’s banana pudding. You won’t always go caroling down hospital corridors, but you’ll remember that experience with more fondness than caroling downtown. Let’s be practical: Have your little black dress or suave black suit ready. Just in case.
- get recs–The worst-case scenario is actually the one you long for—to be alone. As difficult as the holidays may be with your unloving loved ones, the day is 1,000 times longer without them. Prepare for this eventuality with an alternate plan, based on recommendations from those you trust: perhaps a Friendsgiving, serving dinner at a homeless shelter, attending a service at a house of worship, or taking a walk in a state or national park, or maybe booking that trip to Hawaii you’ve always talked about. As Jane Kenyon says, “If it’s darkness we’re having, let it be extravagant.”
- dark night of the holiday soul (with treats!)–Whatever wellness tools you stash in your overnight bag, leave space to embrace your dark night of the soul. After everyone has gone to bed, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate or herbal tea, sit outside, and watch for Santa. Even if your phone never rings and your emails never ping and you remain blocked on every social media platform, Santa will come. And he will be so happy to see you. (Hint: Don’t forget to bring cookies and carrots for the reindeer!)