A post from regular contributor @verbisan , Lynn Bair. Lynn is a lecturer and writer based in Ayrshire and home-educates four girls
January, with its ice and mists and the need to wear three jumpers, feels like home. Like many in Scotland, I grew up with ice on the inside of the windows, with a paraffin heater being used to let us dress in the morning without shaking, and with enough – but only just. January, with its darkness and its abundance of less, makes me feel, if not happier, then more myself . I’m familiar with the feeling of my back being against the wall and slightly suspicious of those times in our lives when we’re forced into joy because the date demands it. Real joy is capricious and unexpected: you’re more likely to experience that elation of pure happiness one summer morning when you have a mug of good coffee, the birds are singing and you’re hanging clothes on the line, than you ever are on the first day of an overpriced holiday or at a party.
Resilience training started early for me. I was expected, lovingly, to walk and walk far into the countryside from a young age. I was not allowed to complain about the rain. I carried my own bag and took responsibility for my kit. It’s how I bring up my own children. They walk, get wet, get cold, but find a way to laugh. It’s my attempt to inoculate them against the inevitable obstacles, high winds and tsunamis they will encounter. It’s equal parts love and a voice saying, ‘Come on, get on with it, you can do it!’
This is what I think about right now and it’s what I tell them when lockdown head begins to creep in: don’t make the mistake of assuming that because that wall is at your back, that there’s no movement to be had. Life can be simpler and contentment easier to find when your choices are limited. We can’t go anywhere. We can’t plan anything much. It is difficult not to drift off right now, not to become increasingly abstract, gently absenting ourselves from life and losing ourselves in easy box sets and bad food. The world has become wearily unstable and unpredictable. But we have a choice. We can give ourselves a shake. Our minds are still ours and we know that anything wonderful must begin in there. Our homes are our safe place and there’s no walls better to kick off and out from. We have all we need to make good days, okay days, well-at-least-we-got-through-it days.
Walk in the rain. Dance in the kitchen. Read like it’s your ticket to elsewhere. Listen to weird podcasts and strange Scandinavian music and feed the birds. Bake. Draw on envelopes and that wonderful brown paper that Amazon pack round your parcels. Have an Irish coffee at 4pm or stand in your frozen garden at sunrise. Surprise yourself. Do the thing you don’t want to and get it out of the way. String your Christmas lights round the house and eat biscuits for breakfast. Walk. Walk every day, in every direction and hold a conversation with yourself inside your head while you do it. Sleep. Nap. Rest. The world out there is temporarily out of control, but these are our lives and we’re in charge of making it as good as we possibly can. Make January, with its ice and mists and its need to wear three jumpers, your home and not something to simply endure. This is what we’ve got. We can make this work. Happy New Year!