Goodbye Christmas, Hello Blues
This week I took down my Christmas tree, packing away its baubles and tinsel and two strings of twinkly lights for another eleven months. And I was surprised at how low I suddenly felt at its absence. The little tree had been a symbol of hope since mid-November when, having broken my own super-strict rules, I set it up two weeks earlier than ever before. This was accompanied by further rule-breaking as Christmas tunes blasted merrily out from my hi fi. Instantly I felt better. We were, after all, halfway through our second lockdown at this point and the promise of Christmas was the boost we all needed.
Of course, what really happened, or didn’t happen, at Christmas is a whole other story. Hopefully, most of us, despite being forced to alter our plans at the very last minute, were still able to grab a little fun over the holiday or, failing that, a generous slug of alcohol with which to numb any residual pain. I managed both (but then I’m a Christmas professional).
January, a Month for Making Amends
Now of course we find ourselves in January, arguably the most depressing month in the calendar. Even in non-pandemic times, it’s easy to get blue around this time of year. It doesn’t help that January has become the month for penitence after the excesses of the festive period. We start diets in January and take out gym memberships in our attempt to undo the inevitable over indulgences of Christmas. We embark on Dry January, believing that this will compensate for the hundreds of units of alcohol flushed through our kidneys during the last three weeks. We rebalance our metaphorical cheque-books and vow not to spend any more than is absolutely necessary for the foreseeable future.
Weather for Wolves
And as if that wasn’t miserable enough, then you’ve got the weather to contend with. According to naturalist Gilbert White (1720-1793) in Saxon times, January used to be known as Wolf Month, the weather being so bitter that it drove hungry wolves out of the forests and towards neighbouring villages. While it may still be bitterly cold outside, these days we no longer have wolves on our doorsteps.
“Yes, but this year we’ve got another bloody lockdown to endure…”
“Give me wolves any day…”
“No wonder I feel so miserable…etc. etc.”
The Stories We Tell
Well hang on a moment. Brexit and Lockdown aside, this is just the story we weave for ourselves about January, year after year. If you are feeling glum, then tell yourself a different story. January will continue as it always has done, regardless of the tale we superimpose upon it. January is simply 31 days, with daytime temperatures ranging between 2-10 degrees Celsius and nights imperceptibly getting that tiny bit shorter as we inch away from the winter solstice on the 21st December. It doesn’t judge us for the amount of mince pies we crammed into our gobs last month or for the stack of empty wine bottles still littering our recycling bins. The guilt and shame is our story, not January’s.
So how do we change our perspective? What could possibly make us feel better this month?
Keep The Party Going
In medieval times, the Christmas festivities carried on throughout January until Candlemass on February 2nd, a full 40 days after Christmas. So my first piece of advice to anyone with the January blues would be, don’t remove your decorations! Embrace some medieval magic and keep the party going.
Secondly, just to shake things up a bit, listen to some new music, something that you wouldn’t normally veer towards. For me, this was rap, immersing myself in BBC Three’s The Rap Game UK on iPlayer. It was an eye-opener, I can tell you, even if I had to watch it with subtitles just to follow what everyone was saying. I am blown away by these rappers and their supercharged, high-speed poetry (because that’s what rap is, ultimately). And while I feel a little too old to fully embrace this new genre, I have been left with a bit of a crush on Krept of Krept & Konan. Still, that’s another story again. Then, when you are done with your new music, reward your ears with Harry Styles’ latest single, Treat People with Kindness. If this pop song doesn’t cheer you right up, the video (feat, as they say, Phoebe Waller Bridge) will.
Thirdly, give your brain a workout. After those dreadful Christmas movies on Chanel 5 (that you pretend you didn’t watch but we all know you did), find something that will leave you with more than just a craving for egg nog. I would recommend Hannah Gadsby’s stand up show ‘Nanette’ on Netflix. Dealing with homophobia, sexism, abuse of power, ignorance and many other facets of the human condition, she is going to give you plenty to ponder. It’s amazing that there are any laughs at all, but there are! And you get a bit of art history thrown in as well for good measure. This isn’t just comedy. This is twenty first century comedy with a conscience. This is the future of comedy!
Finally, where better to find yourself a new story than on your bookshelf? Escape into a completely different world with a bit of fantasy. My particular preferred flavour at the moment is the world of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. I am currently wonderfully submerged in his second Book of Dust, The Secret Commonwealth, which sees Lyra as a uni student with the strange ability to separate from her daemon. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, start at the beginning with the original His Dark Materials trilogy. By the time you come up for air, it will be March at least.
Tell Your Own Story
So with all of these reasons to be cheerful, forget January’s hackneyed tale of blues and woe. That story only exists if it’s the one you choose to tell yourself. And remember, with lockdown in full swing, at least you have an excuse not to go to the gym this month. You see, already the story has changed for the better!