Posts Tagged 'Post-Christmas'

January is the New Christmas: Beating the Post-Christmas Blues (and New Year Instagram Guilt)

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I feel immense pressure at this time of year.  The insistence of Social Media is that you must embrace the New Year New Me motivation, and make a brand new start on 1st January.  I have so much admiration for all of my friends who over the years have made powerful transitions at the start of the year, such as committing to a strict vegan lifestyle, embarking on a new gym regime, or yoga course.  They show incredible strength, and determination.  The OCD in me (I don’t say that in a light way) compels me to start with a fresh new page on 1st January; new shampoo, new pyjamas, new outfit for work, new diet, new exercise routine, everything fresh and sparking for the new year ahead.  I do always start reading a new book on New Year’s Day, and I always start a new diary, but that’s about all I manage.

Over the years, I’ve tried to find the enormous energy, and mental strength that it takes to make a new start, and have failed.  Last year was Ballet lessons.  This year, I am giving myself a pat on the back.  I truly admire all those people who are commendably starting Dry January, and making significant lifestyle changes.  It is a fantastic achievement to even begin.  However, I very rarely drink, and only ever a couple of glasses of wine.  I have smoked three cigarettes in my entire life (one for a Play on stage), and I have never touched drugs of any kind.  I have been a dedicated and strict vegetarian since I was 7, which will be 27 years this year, which is something I am passionate about, and incredibly proud of, because it has been a difficult road, and still is.  Instead of feeling Insta-Guilt and shame about all the changes that I really don’t have the emotional energy, or physical resources or strength to make, I am going to feel proud of the few things that I have actually done well.  We lose sight of the fact that we have already done things that other people are struggling and striving to achieve, and we should be grateful for that.  Instead of a new me, I want to love the me I already have.  Why does it have to be a new start, instead of building on what we have already struggled to achieve over the last year?  Knocking something down which was hard-won in order to start from scratch isn’t always better than building on what’s already there, because the strong foundations are important.

I am much more of the Bridget Jones school of thought, wonderfully articulated by Helen Fielding.  It isn’t fully explored in the films, but in the books, a great deal of time is given to Bridget’s belief that the New Year should not start on 1st January.  New Year’s Eve leaves most people feeling very hungover.  Even if you’re not lying in vomit, you are most likely very tired.  New Year’s Eve is a big night, for those that choose to go out and celebrate.  It also follows a very stressful December full of shopping, and parties, and writing cards, wrapping, cleaning, tidying, visiting relatives, eating, drinking, going to school plays, and church carol concerts, and then a period of almost two weeks of being cocooned on your sofa, in a warm, rosy glow of Christmas lights, and your Tree, eating mountains of food, living in pyjamas, drinking Snowballs, and being in a glorious bubble with your family and loved ones.  Then, all of that must end abruptly.  Instead of 1st January being a last lovely Bank Holiday to end the festive season with your family, it is filled with back-to-work terror.  Hangovers must be swallowed down, and we are thrust out into a bitterly cold January morning, bleary-eyed, disorientated, and exhausted at 7:00am.  After two weeks of not knowing or caring what day or time it is, and being blissfully unaware of the passage of time, or anything in the outside world, you suddenly have to remember how to get on a train again.  What time is your train? Where is the platform?  Where do you work?  What is your name?  You then go and join the queue of other Post-Christmas Shells in Starbucks or Costa, and can’t remember what to order on your way to work, because you spent November and December drinking Eggnog Lattes, and Caramelised Orange Hot Chocolates, and can’t remember what your usual pre-festive drink is.  2nd January is an extremely cruel day to go back to work.

As Bridget says, it is unreasonable to expect a person to start a new diet or lifestyle on 1st January when they have a house which is still crammed with cheese, and Christmas chocolates, and Advocat, and Pringles.  Unless you are one of those soulless people who tear the Christmas Tree down on Boxing Day, and post pictures of your tidy house while everyone else is still in a mince pie coma, surrounded by wrapper paper, the pressure to suddenly have an immaculate and sparking house, which is all spring-cleaned, and organised on 1st January, feels very monolithic.  I’ve only just done my Christmas Clean on 23rd, and my house is still full of Quality Street wrappers, and ribbon.  Still full of Christmas.  It’s exhausting to imagine having every last bauble swept away by 1st January, but Instagram makes me panic, and feel very inadequate that I haven’t done that.

I am a big investor in what Bridget calls Post-Christmas.  It has become part of my family’s culture.  Rather than a clean slate and fresh start on 1st January, it is more realistic to leave your Tree in-situ until the appropriate day (Epiphany on 6th January), finishing off all your Christmas food and drink, enjoying the last few days of the Christmas Decorations, and lights, catching up on all the Christmas TV Specials, and then making your fresh start in the second week of January.  Over time, this has become my own routine.  7th January feels a much more achievable fresh start.  Although, I am still painfully conflicted, and torn between wanting a shiny-fresh 1st January, and desperately clinging on to tinsel, and my Christmas pyjamas.  I have to slowly methadone myself down from pyjamas to socks, rather than go cold turkey, which is too harsh.

Every year I am always overcome by a terrible grief at the ending of Christmas; an actual physical pain.  It is a mourning for that particular period of two weeks, or even that particular December, and those special memories that I made with my family; the unique and particular way our house was decorated this year, and that specific individual Christmas Tree, which can never be replicated, or brought back from the grave once gone.  Every year, it feels as though Christmas actually dies, and each Christmas is an individual and tangible being that my family create together over the course of six weeks, and it can never be brought back, or felt again in the same way.  No matter how many photographs you take, you will never remember the specific way those lights caught that piece of tinsel over the fireplace at just that angle to make them sparkle, and fill your heart with joy.  Specific joy.

The World looks overwhelmingly, unbearably beautiful; the lights on the houses, the trees in the windows, the shop window displays, and the glorious, emotive packaging of everything in the shops which makes you compelled to buy every single exquisite package, and a year feels like such a long time until it all comes back again, and everything will be dark until then.  Glittering gold is replaced with sludgy grey reality for a whole year.  Well, 11 months.  To try and combat this grief at its passing, and to beat the January Blues, every year I try to make the best of January, and sometimes it can be just as festive and special as Christmas itself.

December is inevitably stressful.  An endless mountain of lists; shopping, wrapping, writing cards, buying stamps, making the last post, juggling parties, and social occasions, and commitments to schools, and clubs, and office functions; visiting relatives, and spending quality time with all the people you either want to, or have to see.  Lists on lists on lists.  On top of all that is also everyday reality; caring for elderly family members, looking after children, household jobs, putting the bins out, and then your actual daily work.  It is exhausting.  Plus, in between all of that, you want to fit in some enjoyable experiences as well; pantomimes, ice skating, and walks in the forest.  Christmas shopping.  There is enough time to do about a third of everything on your list, and it’s things that you can’t just leave.  You can’t decide to just miss somebody off your list, and leave a family member without a present on Christmas morning.   You can’t skip putting your Christmas Tree up.  You can’t skip the massive food shop to buy enough food to keep an army going for a month, when you have three shelves in your fridge, and one of them is taken up by the Turkey.  These things are non-negotiable.  Plus, aside from time constraints, there is also the massive financial strain of making your small amount of money stretch to buy everything you absolutely need, and then you start whittling the list down and down to what you can manage.

After all of that, January can feel like a cool breeze of relief (once you’ve stopped crying that your Mother has taken your Christmas Tree down.)  I try to arrange a few lovely trips out in January to do things which are still festive, and keep that golden glow alive, but in a culturally acceptable way; pantomimes are so special in January, or going to the Ballet, or Theatre, when you can still get dressed up and wear velvet dresses, sparkly shoes, and red lipstick, or lovely winter walks in the forest, or seaside, when you can still wear jumpers.  Sales shopping always feels like a treat after a month of spending every penny you have on presents for everybody else, and you can finally go rogue and treat yourself to something lovely and special; a Post-Christmas present to yourself, and the shops still feel festive and glittering with Christmas remnants.  Perk yourself up with some new perfume, or a pair of shoes.  It brings back that excitement of being a teenager and having Christmas money or gift vouchers to spend, and feeling like a millionaire in Topshop.

Every year, I remind myself that there will still be lights.  You can still have fairy lights around your house, and the crackling Fireplace in Your Home playing on Netflix well into February (March if it snows). You can still curl up under a blanket and read a beautiful book, and this is one of my favourite things in January.  I always have a massive pile of books for December; usually Charles Dickens, Noel Streatfield, and lots of other festive and seasonal reading, but I never get time to read them.  I am always so busy over December and Christmas itself that I always reach 1st January with panic and guilt that I have failed to even break the surface of my Christmas reading mountain.  However, in January I don’t go out anywhere, and I don’t have any presents to wrap, or jobs to do, so I have all the time in the world to curl up and read.  I always get most of my reading done in the first few months of the year.  It’s glorious.

We are ritualistic creatures of habit as humans, especially at Christmas more than any other time, and particularly in my family.  We are obsessive about traditions, and rituals that simply must be carried out every year.  There are particular trips we have to make; certain films we have to watch, special books we have to read, and specific foods that simply must be eaten, and all of this must be done at very particular times and moments.  Every September, I make an actual timetable.  It’s called The Planner, and it runs from September to December, covering Autumn and Christmas.  It’s in a calendar format, and it synchronises every member of the family and their commitments, and work timetables, with all of our activities, trips, and festivities, such as when our Tree will be put up, and the village lights being turned on.  It even schedules the annual viewing of favourite films, so that everybody knows when things are happening.  Everybody gets a printed version, printed double-sided, and stapled together, plus an e-mailed PDF, and a copy goes on the fridge for reference.  I’m not even making this up.  For the months of September to December, the entire family is organised and run according to The Planner, religiously, and uncompromisingly.  Any deviation becomes very stressful.  The Planner means that we have an enjoyable Christmas, and that we pack in all the things we love, maximising time to work around everybody’s commitments, and nothing gets missed or forgotten.  It makes us happy, but it also makes us very anxious, and tired.

Following all that ritual and rigour, and the panic that comes with feeling you may miss something, or run out of time, it does become a blessing that in January you can breathe a massive sigh of relief.  You have no timetable.  There are no particular books that you must read for this season, there are no rules about which films are viewed, or what you’re allowed to eat.  There is no requirement for which outfits you wear, songs you must listen to, or which places or people you simply must visit.  It is a feeling of freedom.  You can do what you want.   January becomes a time to look after yourself, and to indulge in what makes you personally happy.  I would use the phrase “self-care”, but I’d sound like a twat.  December is often referred to as a time of indulgence because of all the food we scoff, and presents we buy, and the sheer scale of expense, and consumption.  However, December is also an exhausting time of sacrifice.  We give up time, and energy, and money to make other people happy.  We look after those around us, or those who are in greater need.  We give every inch of ourselves to other people.  This is particularly true of women.  I really don’t want to be sexist, and this is of-course a wild generalisation, and there are many wonderful and hard-working fathers who make the magic, increasingly nowadays, but look at a mother at the end of Christmas.  Look back over December at everything she has done, and given, and achieved.  You may not see her wrapping presents at 1:00am, or basting a Turkey at 5:00am, or hoovering at midnight, but she did.  You may not see her crying in the kitchen, or struggling to breathe in the car, or counting the last of her money in the dark corner of a shop, but she did.  She fought off panic attacks, and made Christmas magical for her family with every ounce of strength, energy, and sweat she could find.

We give ourselves to other people in December by visiting people we don’t really want to, going to parties that we find boring, and spending all our time and money on finding the perfect presents for our loved ones.  So, in January, let’s indulge ourselves.  Eat your favourite food, wear your favourite pyjamas, light your favourite candle, and discover a new favourite book, or tv programme, or hobby.  Put whatever you want to in your bubble bath, because there is no anxiety about using the correct,  appropriate-for-the-moment Lush bath bomb.  There is new music to discover and fall in love with, now that the constraints of 24/7 Christmas music are lifted, although I never want to stop listening to Band Aid, and Greg Lake.  Go wild in January, and make yourself glow with happiness.  We may not have any money left, but we don’t need it!

* As I finish this very long Ode to January, I’ve made it to lunchtime on 2nd January, and it’s actually okay.  I’m back at my desk, and enjoying getting back into a familiar routine.  I can have whatever I feel like for tea, and watch whatever I want on TV.  There are no rules.  There are no queues in the shops.  The trains are quiet.  After six weeks of carrying so much shopping every day that my arms permanently felt like they were going to fall off, and making cheese and pineapple hedgehogs at 1:30am, I feel relaxed, and free.  It almost makes me forget how sad I am.

I also enjoyed at lunchtime two of the most important annual rituals of Bridget’s Post-Christmas, which have become my back-to-work stalwarts. 1. Spending 2nd January smiling at lingering streamers, and sequins, and party hats, and the still-strewn glittering detritus of New Year’s Eve parties which cling to lampposts, and pavements, and which I actually find beautiful.  2. Buying reduced Christmas chocolates and mince pies from the shops, and eating them at my desk with my sandwich and Diet Coke.

For now, I am going to wallow in my Post-Christmas, and make my new start on 7th January.

Happy January.

b3

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Sylvia Plath said; "Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences". My aim in life is to find things and people to love, so that I can write about them. Putting words together is the only thing I can see myself doing. This blog is an outlet, and I hope you enjoy reading it. Please feel free to comment on posts, or contact me by the special e-mail I've set up (vikki.littlemore@live.co.uk) with your thoughts.


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The New Remorse, Oscar Wilde.

The sin was mine; I did not understand.
So now is music prisoned in her cave,
Save where some ebbing desultory wave
Frets with its restless whirls this meagre strand.
And in the withered hollow of this land
Hath Summer dug herself so deep a grave,
That hardly can the leaden willow crave
One silver blossom from keen Winter's hand.

But who is this who cometh by the shore?
(Nay, love, look up and wonder!) Who is this
Who cometh in dyed garments from the South?
It is thy new-found Lord, and he shall kiss
The yet unravished roses of thy mouth,
And I shall weep and worship, as before.

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Music I Love (In no particular order, except that The Smiths are first)

The Smiths,
The Libertines,
The Courteeners,
Nina Simone,
Oasis,
Pete Doherty,
Gossip,
The Kills,
Amy Winehouse,
Arctic Monkeys,
Rod Stewart,
The Doors,
The Rolling Stones,
Etta James,
Babyshambles,
T. Rex,
The Jam,
Morrissey,
Guillemots,
The Kinks,
Jack White,
The Deadweather,
David Bowie,
The Winchesters,
The Cure,
Kaiser Chiefs,
The Kooks,
The Twang,
Kings Of Leon,
Pulp,
Blur,
The Housemartins,
The Ramones,
James,
Robots in Disguise,
The Klaxons,
Kate Nash,
The Raconteurs,
Regina Spektor,
Aretha Franklin,
Stereophonics,
The Contours,
Dirty Pretty Things,
The White Stripes,
New York Dolls,
Yeah Yeah Yeahs,
The Clash,
Style Council,
Velvet Underground,
The Horrors,
The Cribs,
Reverend and The Makers,
The Subways,
The Wombats,
Foals,
Elle S'appelle,
The Troggs,
The Beatles,
Echo and the Bunnymen,
Florence and the Machine.

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

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Will it ever be alright for Blighty to have a Queen Camilla?

One less tree from our window each day


Vikki's bookshelf: read

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
1984
Twilight
Of Mice and Men
Pride and Prejudice
The Hobbit
The Da Vinci Code
Lolita
Tipping the Velvet
Wuthering Heights
The Picture of Dorian Grey and Other Works by Oscar Wilde
Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Irish Peacock & Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde
The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman
Moab Is My Washpot
The Bell Jar
The Other Boleyn Girl
On the Road
Brideshead Revisited
Revolutionary Road



Vikki Littlemore's favorite books »

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