Last night, I did something that I had never previously done before. I took my slippers with me to a friend's house. For those of you who have New Year's Resolutions to try new things, remember, not every new experience need be flashy. I wore my biggest, cosiest cardigan, and between that and my slippers, it may have been the most comfortable evening I've enjoyed in recent memory. The company, the food, and the rain outside did help with the overall hygge. It was such a success, that I've decided to bring my slippers with me everywhere! It helps that I have a 35 going on 85 type of vibe. The senior citizen lifestyle really suits me. I love the opera, musicals, the symphony, reading, napping, Aqua Fit, comfortable shoes, organizing my cutlery drawer, and staying in. Did I mention that I love cats? This lifestyle has interested me since I was a child. Bonus, I am quite good at it!
Slippers aside, January is a rough month. Interestingly, I find it more difficult since I have moved to the UK. As my Canadian friends take delight in complaining about the snow and cold (you know you love it- the complaining part anyway), I find myself struggling with the gloom of an English winter. English winter is mud, overcast skies, endless fog, very few hours of "daylight," *windstorms, the occasional snowstorm (that absolutely no one is equipped for), cold rain, and gales that penetrate your damp clothes and settle into your tired bones until spring arrives to thaw your cold frozen heart. Thankfully, spring is early here, and I am sure that I will be posting pictures of cherry blossoms and irritating all my Canadian friends and family in no time. But for now, as we are stuck in mid January, let's discuss some ideas that will help get us through. By discuss, I mean that I will pontificate and you may read or not read, agree or not agree... as is usual with blogging. Please let me know in the comments, people who blog LOVE comments but we are not supposed to tell anyone.
In January of 2017, I was exhausted. My parents visited that month, we were all sick for most of Christmas break, but I don't think these were the reasons for my fatigue. I cannot even blame the random (extremely) early mornings with my 7 year old or the various late nights with the same child. I blame the sky. For over 2 weeks, maybe more, we did not see the sun. When the sun finally made an appearance, I perked up, full of energy and motivation. I got SO much done that day! The next day was back to gloom and I was back to weariness. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder subset in which people exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly in the winter. People may sleep too much or have little energy. I escaped this for 34 years living in Canada, it was the United Kingdom that finally did me in. After talking to friends who were experiencing the same, I purchased a light therapy lamp, we keep it in the kitchen and have it on every morning. On particularly dark days, we switch it on at lunch and suppertime as well. We have a dear friend who, at the age of 3, pointed in the sky and asked what that bright circle was. It was the sun. Welcome to England! Other things that have helped are increasing our vitamin D consumption and GETTING OUTSIDE AND ACTIVE. Fresh air is therapy for me (but not a replacement for actual therapy, should you need it). Step one to surviving January, and more important than the most comfortable slippers, is to take care of your mental health!
Why do we deprive ourselves of food and drink during the saddest month of the year? I understand the joy of New Year's resolutions and goal making. It's something that I enjoy very much. The most common New Year's Resolution is to lose weight, I would prefer if people would say, improve health, as weight is not always an indicator of health, and is certainly not the only indicator. Our English Christmas was made very jolly this year by the presence of 2 cheese advent calendars, one for my partner, and one for me. We looked forward to eating the cheese together each evening after the kids were in bed (but rarely asleep). There was also the occasional glass of wine, or various charcuterie items. It was delightful, and the cheese was portion controlled, so it didn't feel extravagant. We may have created a cheese habit, as each evening around 9:30 pm I find myself dreaming of cheese. And sometimes I have a piece. Even though it is JANUARY. I hope I have not shocked you all too much! Also, if I have a hankering for chocolate, I will have a piece, I always have some salted dark chocolate hidden away. PLEASE do not tell Mr. K, he will find it and eat it all! My point being, if you feel sad in January, and are also starving yourself... maybe take a moment to reevaluate. No one likes a martyr, and we all know that the diet industry is big business and big money. We are sold overindulgence in December and then sold shame around our overindulgence in January. It's a problem, but we can live counter-culturally and all just be reasonable. If we did this, eventually reason would become the new normal. This is my dream. I also ate this humungous crisp (potato chip) last week, and I was so proud of my accomplishment that I posted it to instagram in hopes of inspiring others to reach for the stars. I believe in you. Make January great again, eat food.
Friends have been very important to me this January. I have the loveliest friends here in the fabulous Burough of Cheltenham. I also have friends, whom I miss dearly, that text me regularly and lift my spirits with their stories. I am so grateful for all these people. As someone who has never lived near family and learned to create my own community wherever I go, friends really do become family for me. A true friend is someone that you are comfortable being your unedited self around. True friends are honest with each other, they help you with your troubles (sometimes all you need is someone to listen), they celebrate your victories, and they make you feel good about yourself. To have a true friend, you must be a true friend. It's an art, it takes practice, not everyone you meet is going to be your BFF. When you do find kindred spirits, hold on to those people, they are treasures. We have had adventures, day tripping around the Cotswolds, lunch dates, dinner dates, parties, relaxed times wherein moms sip tea and children draw pictures, park meet-ups, and more in the works. Thank you to my treasures. You are my favourites.
Lastly, what helps me in January, is music. I have not been playing the piano as much as I would like (I feel a resolution coming on), but I have definitely been listening to the tunes and singing. We had a house inspection last week- see things that do NOT make January pleasant. So as we scrubbed and cleaned, we listened to a lot of upbeat playlists. For some reason, I have been listening mainly to the Killers as well as the soundtrack of "Joseph and the Technicoloured Dreamcoat," by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The former, because Tom Power of CBC and host of Q, reminded me via an interview with Brandon Flowers, that I had not listened to the Killer's latest album (fairly Canadian sentence, let me know if you need a translation). Cue non-stop streaming of "Wonderful Wonderful," which is, indeed, wonderful wonderful. Listening to Joseph? I don't know. Perhaps nostalgia? I know every word to that album. I listen to the Donnie Osmond recording, because it is the best, and because I auditioned with my children's choir to be in the show with him when I was 10 years old. We made call backs, but, ultimately, I think we were not chosen because we could not dance. A show choir, we were not. But we tried. We were children who sang like angels and danced like newborn fawns wearing cement shoes. My parents took me to see the production of the show that I was almost in with Donnie Osmond. And I was okay. And maybe that disappointment and recovery shaped who I am today. I also had a day of listening to every song ever recorded by the Cranberries, because I was mourning and celebrating a beautiful soul and singer that the world recently lost. January can be quite cruel. Listen to music that makes you happy, listen to music that makes you feel, listen to music that makes you remember, sing, dance, show January that you are alive.
So, my recipe for a joyous January (2 words you do not hear together often) includes slippers, sunshine, food, friends, and music, in whichever order and amount pleases you. If you try all these things and January is still difficult for you, reach out and get help. Also, remember that February is right around the corner, and it is only half as bad as January.
*not that kind of wind