I hate January. It’s not the winter part I have a problem with. The darkness doesn’t bother me much, nor the spareness of the landscape. I don’t like to be cold, but I have a thermostat and a teakettle and I use them. It’s really not the winter season. It’s just…the month. I mean, does anyone really like January? I understand how some are relieved to leave behind the forced festivities of December, though to be honest, I generally enjoy the excuse to be festive, forced or not. But do those who detest December really look to January as their end goal? Even lifestyle magazines seem to have pretty much given up on the entire thirty-one days, with their pitifully skinny issues, half-hearted tributes to wellness and fitness, and recipes for steamed fish fillets with crunchy winter salads. No one makes the recipes in the January magazines. No one. What I want from January is gentleness, but what January is in a social sense is a sudden and obnoxious command to get to work, improve oneself, and make changes. Is it possible that there is a worse time of year to do these things? Who in their right mind wants to do anything but hibernate during the deepest winter month?
What I need from January is to not have to try very hard. I need to have the peace to sleep a lot, or at least lie around a lot. I need my kids to be calm and undemanding so I can do those things. I need PBS to come out with some new Molly of Denali and Daniel Tiger episodes and minimize the amount of Pinkalicious in the line-up. I’ll go to work, but I need us all to understand that in January, we do not make big changes, we do not go above and beyond, and we do not have meetings unless the whole enterprise will burn if we don’t. All that can wait until March, with its green sprouting energy, is on the horizon. For now, we do what we need to do, and then we go home to sleep. I will grade my students’ assignments, but I need to wander aimlessly around the house after each one, as the length of my attention span reflects the length of the days. I need household chores to do themselves, and if they will not, I need lots of breaks for hot tea while I do them. And I need the tea to remind me to drink it before it gets cold. I need the meals to be warm, and well-seasoned, and fragrant, and somehow miraculously easy to produce. There can be an occasional crunchy salad, but someone else needs to chop the vegetables and explain to my family about fennel bulbs. I need no pressure to improve myself, or get fit or moving, because that’s not happening in January. I need the weather to be normal, January weather, by which I mean cold is okay, and snow is nice, but extremes of temperature and windy unseasonal storm events that portend imminent doom are not allowed. Nobody needs to deal with doom thoughts in January.
What I need from January is for it to pass peacefully, without great demands. No resolutions, no change, just a pause, and maybe a crackling fire, until, eventually, I notice the light changing, the days lengthening, and feel ready to leave the cave again. Slowly. Very slowly. Because February is still a terrible time to attempt a new fitness regimen.