Everything that I am about to say is totally not what January is about. Absolutely not. No way. January is the month I dread. We all do. It’s the month of being a doer. It is the month where social media is cluttered with self-congratulatory health and well-being gubbins and where we see a tsunami of fitness DVDs re-emerge from the reduced bins and the backs of understairs cupboards, ready to blast and burn fat and other, frankly, violent-sounding bodily ordeals.
One fad (yes, I’m a league behind the rest of you) that really frightens me, and which I have tried (shamefully), is those teas. You know the ones. The ones that claim that in order to shed those Christmas pudding-tops that peek playfully over your skinny jeans, all you have to do is the thing that Brits love the most: drink tea. Halleljuah! The marketing teams surrounding that are really out-doing themselves. How do we solve the problem of those lard-arsed Brits? I see suits ping-ponging ideas around a shiny metallic table in a businessy highrise green house looking thing in London, ‘Uh, can we do something to do with drinking, they love that…no alcohol? huh, okay, well what else do Brits love? Hmm… got it! Tea!’ The process was an utter ordeal and made me feel rather sick, in honesty. I probably did it wrong. It was wrong. Totally wrong. And I’m still fat.
We’re getting it wrong. We’re doing too much. January is the month in which to chill. For me, it is the calm before the storm. The bleak midwinter where we are totally allowed to let ourselves relax before we face the rest of the year. Plus, it’s my birthday month. Let’s face it, Christmas is just utter shite. It is lovely to spend time with loved ones, don’t get me wrong. But, I can do that the whole year through, without the hassle of urgency and Christmas panic. Suddenly, seeing friends and family becomes hyper-important. Got to see aunt so and so before Christmas. Got to get one last pack of toilet roll before Christmas, just in case. Best stock up. Best rush to see everyone we’ve ever known, for God-forbid we wait until New Year. It’s like the imminent threat of the Millenium Bug is still on the horizon, ready to shut all systems down at midnight. Zap! And we missed out on seeing the lady down the road? You know the lonely one who one kicked your cat in nothing but pure malice. Well, shit. Now I’ve lost my appetite for dry turkey and an anti-climactic Christmas pudding. Then there’s the money, the goodwill, the pressure of perfect gifts and expertly basted turkeys in whichever dress Heston advocates this year, stocking fillers, delicately-timed viewing schedules, Downton-bloody-Abbey, The Queen’s Speech, the question of who is going to be the sober one, who is going to have a tantrum first (always me)… phew! It is exhausting. A true marathon. So why in January do we decide to push ourselves further?
I have goals, by the way. I am not against furthering myself, or being nice (surprisingly) or getting slimmer (much needed). I like vegetables. I adore Pilates. I know where I want to be by the end of the year and I completely will do all that I can to achieve my goals. But I am not, absolutely no way, going to ‘resolve’ to do anything. How limiting. The dictionary tells me that a resolution is synonymous with tenacity, doggedness and firmness. That is far too inflexible for me. Far too much pressure and expectation. We cannot in any way say that ‘2016 is going to be my year’. It isn’t everyone’s year. Not at all. And I am not putting myself in the position of disappointment.
One thing I am going to pursue doggedly, however, is the art of relaxation. To be mindful of the experiences that I often used to miss. The other day, I just sat and sighed with pleasure at the sound of rain. I must have looked crazy. But it was okay, no one was there because I was in bed, on my own, enjoying the comfort of a hot water bottle. Work-free. Taking the time out of my life to live my life. I am currently enjoying bath time. Often a chore for me due to chronic illness, I now just sit and luxuriate in bubbles. I have started collecting lots of delectable smellies for doing this and sometimes I read my book to fill that time. But more often than that I lie in the warmth and sigh (again, weird) and enjoy my existence. I notice the warmth on my skin, the scent of Snow Fairy (Lush) and I am thankful that I am alive, and importantly, that I have let myself take time to be in that moment. Then. Now.
Being mindful is kind of my thing at the moment. It used to scare me, silence. It used to make me afraid to stop and force myself into thinking about ‘the now’. Whatever that was. I would often wonder at the start if I was doing it right. Is this mindfulness?, I would wonder, forgetting to focus wholly on the sensations that I was feeling, letting my mind be clouded by insecurity.
And sometimes the negative does set in. Those work thoughts, family thoughts, the negatives that don’t just magically disappear at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. New Year, New Me, #squad goals, being on fleek… are all empty words which are designed to make us feel like crap. There is no Godmother with a wand to whisk the shit of 2015 away. Sorry, pumpkin (and shit and whisk should never be paired in an analogy.) When the clock strikes midnight, you are still you. But a little more wise, a little more prepared for the year ahead. Don’t brush it under the carpet with vacuous slogans that make you forget what you have learned. When those rubbish past thoughts enter my head, I acknowledge their existence and I play, What’s the Worst that Could Happen? Dr. Pepper style. I follow the problem down all of its possible avenues and I come up with a solution for each one, and my mind gets ironed out. I accept that I am being negative, and that I have a chance to change this behaviour. No pressure, no resolution. Not everything has a cure. Not everything has a neat solution. And so, when that is the case, I sigh, am thankful for the here and now, and let tomorrow take care of itself, today firmly in my mind. And I top up the water again, letting the warmth surround me, as I listen to the rain beat down outside, welcoming me into the new year. Same old me.