A guest post by Lynn Blair, a Glasgow-based lecturer and writer who home-educates four girls. She has been published in numerous anthologies by the Scottish Book Trust and Mother’s Milk books. You can follow her on Twitter @verbisan and Instagram @verbisanpix.
At about 3am, once everyone else has gone to bed, when the bubbles have fizzed and the stars from the confetti cannon have turned the floor into an unlikely heaven, I step out into the garden in my bare feet. It doesn’t matter if it’s snowed, or if it’s frosty, or if the rain is pounding into puddles – indeed, it’s better that way. I want to feel January. I want to find myself in the middle of winter and fix myself at the centre of all this darkness. Happy New Year universe – not that you care, thankfully. I finish a glass of prosecco and go to bed with freezing feet, carrying the steel of January in my toes.
Our culture has turned January into some authoritarian task master that we resent, yet still listen to: don’t spend money; lose weight; go to the gym; take up Mandarin; give up cheese. Punish yourself for having enjoyed December, and oh, by the way, we have all of these must-have products to help you turn your self-hatred into love. Buy yourself some self-respect with a new gym kit, there’s a good girl.
It’s nonsense, a fabrication. Blue Monday was invented by a travel company to sell more foreign holidays. Our consumerist society doesn’t know what to do with the real space and silence and calmness of January, so it’s turned it into a month-long festival of your faults.
January is wonderful. It’s a sparkling, frosty, star filled gift of a month if you take the time to know it. When it’s cold and dark, and the wind is roaring, I don’t know about you, but I want blankets and tea, chocolate and soup. There is nothing wrong with ignoring voices that urge you to get off the couch and go for a run, instead opting for the occasional walk to fetch coffee and a pile of fat books. It’s the perfect month to build a fire, to watch a box set, to cook a stew that takes three hours and half a bottle of wine (the other half being the cook’s treat).
You’re not being unambitious. You’re doing what you are meant to do in winter – staying warm, taking stock, resting. Why must we always be told what to do by people who don’t know us and whose only interest is the financial bottom line? Why must everything be labelled and named and planned for us, our every pleasure analysed to see if it’s ‘improving’? Humans are complex and messy, and January, if it must be about anything, should surely be about knowing what makes us content and doing plenty of it?
This is the white month, a shining, crystallised blank bit of time, where it’s okay to hibernate if that’s what you feel like doing. January is cold and remote and empty – yes – but not to provide an appropriately austere background to the quest for perfection that we’re all supposed to be on. It’s made that way so that you can fill it up with what gives you fire and nourishment and huge amounts of joy. Often, that’s a nap. Sometimes it’s a kitchen disco.
I’m going to listen to Mahler, read too much and go to the ballet. You have your own bits of glitter that make you smile. You might fix things, paint a wall, eat a takeaway in the bath. I hope we get snow. I hope we see stars. And I hope you breathe easy into the start of your fabulous year.