As a world-weary sexagenarian, (why does that sound better than it is?) I feel fully qualified to give the advice in the title. I no longer make resolutions of any kind – it just puts too much pressure on poor old January and me. It’s a dark and miserable month unless you live in the equator or upside-down world beneath. Many of us have struggled through dysfunctional family get-togethers or excruciating company parties. We need to give ourselves a break in January.
I had an otherworldly experience when I was working a corporate holiday event in December. It felt like Christmas Present looking at Christmas Past. The executives had the lackluster expressions of people who had been to one corporate function too many, aspirational middle managers were wearing expensive togs and eager to please faces, the bottom rung looked nervously excited but ready to party. There were spray tans, tight fitting outfits revealing too much flesh on a perishingly cold evening and the inevitable Holiday Sweaters. Some were not ugly at all…and at least they were warm.
When Teddy and I first moved to Houston, he was on the aspirational ladder. Our first company ball was downtown and it was formal dress. We floated in a sea of unfamiliar faces until someone we knew appeared. They seemed eager to interact with us until a more important executive appeared. Then they rudely ditched us like hot potatoes. We sat at a table of strangers, drank too much and had fun. That was the last Holiday Formal that we ever attended. When Teddy retired, we donated his tuxedo and my long dresses to the thrift store. I hope they made good Halloween costumes.
This Christmas I watched the folks at this fancy corporate event blithely drink until they reeked of liquor. The wee devil on my shoulder thought, ‘enjoy that hangover’ but the angel said, “Merry Christmas!” I write with the smugness of a newly converted Catholic (substitute Mormon, Buddhist or Wiccan) who has signed the pledge. Too bad it took me until now to figure out that alcohol is not my friend. Ever since Teddy’s various cardiac events we have been on the straight and narrow. Our regime has been so successful that our black work outfits were hanging off us like elderly crow feathers.
I still cringe with memories of drinking or eating too much, then feeling terrible. Sometimes I said something deeply inappropriate or blacked out (don’t take alcohol with psychiatric medication). Every January I would sign up at Weight Watchers or at least think about it. Lists would be written with instructions to myself on how to make my life better. If only I could be slimmer, prettier or smarter then life would be perfect. Next year I would find the right career (substitute house, partner or friend) for me.
Who says that January is the start of the New Year? Pope Gregor has much to answer for… We could celebrate Persian New Year, Nowruz, in March. January is a good month to just – BE. Relax, eat a few more chocolates and have that glass of wine. Allow yourself to wallow a little. In Scotland we embrace maudlin thoughts of Auld Lang Syne on New Years’ Day. Use January to slowly form embryonic goals that are realistic. Read a book and listen to old records.
By the time it comes to February you might feel ready to embrace a new routine. A planned vacation might inspire some language skills. My least favorite phrase is ‘hit the ground running’. It brings back terrible memories of the colleague from hell who also plastered our office walls with those ridiculous aspirational posters. There is no rush in life; it all ends the same way so why hurry?
The last thing I wanted to do in retirement was cook meals from scratch. I envisioned long boozy lunches with other retired friends, sometimes in exotic places. Then the Pandemic happened. Life seemed to stop and after a while I stopped drinking too much, ate properly – and felt much better. Who knew? Some years ago, I wrote and published a book. It was my lifelong dream but I still felt dissatisfied. But life’s good enough. For the first time in ages, I feel content. I went to a tiny holiday party in our street and probably talked too much but who cares? ‘I yam what I yam’ – quoting Popeye, the great philosopher.
I am thinking about learning to knit properly, use my sewing machine and painting Christmas cards for next year. If I do any of those tasks, it will because the psychiatrist suggests a fancy new drug that makes me as high as a kite… I will settle for trying new recipes, a couple of short trips away, a contract or two and life will be good. Look after yourselves in the deep midwinter and may 2023 be gentle on us.