A step-by-step survivor’s guide to January. Plus, the archive
Shock and denial No. no, no, no, nope. This is not… appropriate? It can’t be January – time has broken, has been dropped on a tile floor, much like that bottle of Champagne, oh God it’s coming back to you now. Wait. Wait, surely you didn’t then say, “DON’T WORRY ALL UNDER CONTROL” and, on top of the glass, sprinkle salt? It was shortly after this that time cracked and it became 2019. Which is no coincidence and which you object to.
Pain and guilt There used to be some quiet joy in a hangover. There used to be some comfort there, in clean sheets with suitable ibuprofen stocks and a series of the American Office, and Philadelphia on toast, and that sort of ripe peach gleam to the skin that sometimes comes from four hours’ sleep. But it’s fine, because the comfort of a hangover has been replaced by something far more interesting, a cartoon anvil wrapped in existential blackness. Sickness that remains two weeks later, having settled somewhere infinite near the heart. Sickness that makes itself known in myriad sly little ways – how you feel when somebody uses trigger words such as “wine”, or “Matthew”. Of course, that doesn’t make you feel good. Because it reminds you of the cupboard, and his married hand, and the dark power you felt at midnight, and the awfulness of daylight. As January crawls its way up your spine, this memory is nightmarish, stained, lodging itself within you like a stone in a shoe.
Anger and bargaining You will never drink again. Who decided it was a good idea to start every year with a party that destroys you? Who decided you would then arrive suddenly back at work as if dropped from a plane? You SAID you didn’t want to “go wild” this year. You TOLD your friends you wanted to do something cosy and grown-up, possibly in a cabin of some sort, with a lovely walk the next day. A borrowed dog. Why does nobody ever listen to you? Why do your friends treat you like a child that must be managed, must be coddled, must be told a fake meeting time to allow for your lateness? When in fact, IN FACT, you are a strong independent woman and if you say please don’t take me to a debauched party in case I do something regrettable in a cupboard then they should have heard you, and done the cabin walk dog thing instead. They are bad friends.
Depression, reflection, loneliness Unless, unless it’s not that they patronise you, it’s that they don’t like you. That they have seen the real you and so, turned away. Oh. Well. That makes perfect sense, you’re awful. Deleting Facebook, you see a status update from Matthew – he’s moving to Portugal. Which is… which is. Perhaps it’s time to reassess, in quite a fundamental way. What do you need from friendship? This year is all about leaving, so you add unfriendly friends to the goodbye list. Frexit, 2019. The solitude will give you space – to contemplate the year ahead, to stick to resolutions, the first of which is: no more cupboards, and so far you’re doing very well. If only there was someone around to celebrate with. The upward turn This morning it was light outside. At first you weren’t sure what was different. You padded to the shower, then to the kitchen and, standing by the sink having toast, you noticed you weren’t gobbling it with the same grim fury. Like a rescue cat that finally emerges from under the sofa, January is settling in with sulking acceptance. Downloading the Couch to 5k app you get an understated adrenaline rush. You feel almost… alive?
Reconstruction Why, every new year, does it feel like your life must be taken apart then be put together again piece by piece? And why, every new year, does it feel like you’ve lost another allen key, or small dowel? You have changed. But you are standing and that’s something. You stand partly rebuilt, having shrugged off your angst and resentment (hangovers have got harder since you were young, the opposite of exams) and had a radical-for-you haircut, and remembered how to be. Today you spent your lunch hour on AirBnb, browsing cabins.
Acceptance and hope A whole year in front of you, a buffet of possibility. January is not a beast to be conquered, only a sack of days lumped on top of each other – they will be recycled shortly, and you will emerge into February. Unmuting your Whatsapp notifications, you re-enter a warm bath of in-jokes. You felt bad because of two things, festive excess and the passing of time. And of the two, only the time thing remains and you can press that down with such coping mechanisms as buying stuff and improper crushes on unavailable people who may or may not one day follow you beneath the stairs. You return to your friends, your light slightly cooler but no less bright, and with small, almost imperceptible flashes of hope. Things might not get worse. Spring will come. ■