Definitely not another pretty face
Ah, January. Why do you plague me so? You make me feel fat, you are dreary and cruel with your vacationless horizon. I would like to strike you from the calendar and move from Christmas festivities straight to Valentine's Day planning. Other than being the namesake of a very pretty actress, what purpose do you serve? In my head, you don't look anything like Ms. Jones.
The word January comes from the Latin word for door: ianua. It is the doorway to the year. The original Roman calendar year actually began with March. January and February weren’t added until later. I wonder why they bothered.
January is on average the coldest month of the year in the northern hemisphere. Another reason to despise it.
For me, any given calendar year gets busier as the months progress. In late winter and spring we’ve got our heads down, buried in work trying to finish everything by the time summer hits. Then summer is filled with comings and goings and piling as much fun time on top of any work that needs tending to.
Labour Day is when the real year begins for me. I still buy a new school outfit (in honour of my grandparents, who always bought me a new pair of cords for the first day of class) and it’s when I realign all my professional goals. September seems to evaporate in a haze of Indian Summer and then suddenly it’s autumn and we’re in a panic to finish everything by the end of the year.
December descends into downright chaos between finishing work, traveling to see family, sending Christmas cards, putting up lights (ok I get someone else to do that), and celebrating the holidays. There is always so much to do that there’s little time to wallow in whatever is missing or not quite right. December is relentless in the way it delves us into a fantasy world where we have more money, nicer relatives and endless feelings of good will toward others.
And then, like plunging my head into frigid waters, January hits.
It feels like the world went somewhere and forgot to invite me. Is everyone in a cave? I hear, nothing. My calendar is blank. Right on schedule, every January 2nd my anxiety settles in. Anxiousness about big things like money, the future, work, and idiotic things like the importance of having proper socks, and my messy car.
And this year, Lola the dog is recovering from a terrible case of the runs. Picking through her number twos is not something I anticipated when I pictured myself with a pooch. But in a way, her diarrhea perfectly illustrates the reality check that is January. Like the truth that hits on those early morning, dark walks in the rain with a dog who’s making cleaning up after her difficult – having a dog is not all about play time and never ending loyalty. January, too, is a reminder that play time comes to an end, the bills have to be paid, and the desserts and booze of last season have got to have a rest.
Every year the January headlines are filled with the same fun-killing tips on how to lose that holiday bulge or pay off your Christmas debt. Have we learned nothing? It’s like we’re a bunch of frat boys who forgot last weekend’s blistering hangover as we dive headfirst into a keg of beer.
A 2007 study by the University of Bristol using 3,000 participants shows that 88 percent of those who set New Year’s resolutions fail. I’ve learned following a few simple guidelines might help you beat those odds:
First, try goal setting. That is, set small, measurable goals on a timeline rather than one big, daunting feat. Instead of making a resolution to “get out of debt”, try “shop only with cash for a month”, “make all meals at home this week”, and “pay off my Visa card by March”.
Also, tell your friends about your resolutions for the year. Including peers in your plans will help keep you on track. (They have an irritating way of keeping you honest, don’t they?)
And finally, while I don’t tend to make traditional January resolutions, I’m a big believer in goal setting and I like to keep them positive. I like to work on “achieving” rather than “stopping”. I focus on getting the contract, beating my time to the top of the mountain, or getting creative about increasing my earnings so I can take that dream vacation. And nothing works better for achieving said goal than visualization. If I visualize myself on the beach in Belize for long enough, eventually I actually get there.
And here’s an idea – why don’t we all spend and eat a little less in December, and then January won’t hurt so much. In just a few months together Lola has taught me so much. Like the importance of buying large waste bags for cleaning up her runny bowel movements. But also, everything comes with a price. If you’re going to blow your wad in December, January will make you pay. Perhaps January would have been an appropriate name for Lola.
Here’s to a little more moderation in 2012. Like my father used to say: