A January Stretch

I am keen to see the back of January for it has stretched itself out, outstayed its welcome and I am totally done with it.

All my usual coping strategies have been flexed and toned to their limit. Because I am still standing, these tweaks must have worked to some extent, however I sense I am running on a leaky battery. Despite the number of high-fives I have given myself in the mirror this month (thank you for this advice Mel Robbins) and despite binge listening podcasts of positivity, it has been a battle to extricate myself from the duvet on these dark, dank January mornings.

To chip my way through this brute of a month I have started to keep a diary again. Thanks to some thoughtful seasonal gifting from Favourite Son, I am back with a diary that allows you to view the same day across five years. I had not realised such diaries were available until I complimented a dear friend on her ability to chirp up with comments like, ‘you have come so far since discovering that much needed waterproof mascara this time four years ago,’ or, ‘I can not believe it is a year to the day that we came to the collective realisation at bootcamp that your lycra leggings were completely see-through’. My friend was too modest to boast a photographic memory, and admitted that, thanks to some 5-year-to-a-page diary wizardry, every time she diarises she is able to have a sneaky look back at what she was doing on the same day in previous years.

In truth, I started on this ‘5-a-day’ approach to journalling some years ago, but then realised that a prolonged divorce is not something to dwell on. I threw my first diary away after 18 months; it felt like no amount of high-fiving myself in the mirror could counteract this daily step back in time. It was wasteful throwing away a diary with so many empty pages, but I planted a couple of trees and reasoned that if I needed to look over my shoulder, my fab friend would be able to tell me what I had been up to in the days of yore.

This January, with fresh vim and vigour, I started journalling again.

Four weeks in, I realise that January Me is incredibly robotic. I can predict what I am going to write before I write it. It feels like Groundhog Week. I could cut to the chase and fill out the whole of January’s entries in one sitting. Monday:it must be yoga, Tuesday:an early boot camp and long school leadership meeting, Wednesday… Sorry. I am boring myself just writing this. Perhaps, when I look back next January, I will realise how stoic my approach has been. Surely I can stretch my diary discipline out a little longer? My February Self may be grateful for my perseverance; my January 2026 Self could potentially be encouraged to trudge on through to February again.

‘Do not look backwards’, I write in my diary, ‘you are not going in that direction’.

On the positive side, this January has allowed me to spend a lot of weekend time with my mother. Unlike her daughter she has started the year like a whirling dervish, ensuring that I am on speed dial to rattle through a calendar of appointments to audiologist, optician and lingerie specialist. Ok, the last trip was just me trying to spice up a boring diary entry; mum only wanted to go to M&S to buy a new bra but this proved to be the highlight of my week.

As we drive back from one of these trips, mum tells me that she too has been feeling a little low. She is finding the dark nights long and her Christmas jigsaw uncooperative. She also insists that my brother has been booking her into the wrong Zoom pilates classes because she feels that she can no longer keep up. Understandably she prefers pilates in person at the village hall where she is regularly complimented on being the oldest participant (95). She just does not enjoy the same class adoration on Zoom.

Mum asks me if I will buy her a new exercise band because the one she has been using for the past 5 years has snapped. ‘Well, it was mangled actually; it is a long story.’ I ask to hear the tale because January is a long month and we have a long drive back from M&S. The night is drawing in and I need all the entertainment I can get. I am optimistic about a potential diary uplift if mum comes up to her usual high standard of anecdote.

Apparently mum has been participating in her Zoom pilates class from the comfort of her upstairs bedroom, but decided that she would have more room if she logged in from the warmth of her sitting room, downstairs. She reasoned that there would be plenty of room down there to roll out her exercise mat without knocking into the jigsaw table – but if she did upset the jigsaw she would have the perfect excuse to throw the pieces back in the box and admit defeat.

‘I threw the exercise band down from the landing, thinking I would collect it later from the hall. My overarm is not up to the high standard of my cricketing days and the band landed only half way down the stairs. I totally forgot that the band was languishing in the stairwell, and later – when I made my Stannah Stairlift descent – I heard an alarming, strangulated sound. My exercise band had become mangled in my motor. Thankfully the stairlift is fine (promise me that you will not mention this story to your brother) and I managed to cut the band free with my kitchen scissors. In the spirit of the ‘Repair Shop (fantastic programme) I now have two small exercise bands (I was able to knot the torn pieces together) . Although I now have a band for each leg, I have a feeling that they will not be pilates-friendly. I do not want to be the laughing stock when I come off Zoom and return to class.’

As the month draws to a close, at least my hunt for a new exercise band affords me a unique diary entry:
January 30th:
Have managed to source a new pilates band for mum, however she tells me that it will not cut the mustard in her pilates tribe; I am to send it back. I have now been tasked to find something substantial of industrial strength. ‘I am a fit and flexible mature lady in want of a resistance, not a pensioner looking for a rubber band,’ she scolds.

January 31st:
Mum phones me chasing delivery of her upgraded exercise band and asks if I can pump up her exercise ball next time I visit. (Mum is in fresh talks with Dyson about a hybrid stairlift with exercise ball seating and tells me that she needs to stress-test the original prototype). Mum also asks me to phone my brother about the loud clanking noise her stairlift now makes every time she descends to the lounge for her pilates class. She has reminded me not to mention the accompanying smell of burning rubber – she insists that this is unrelated.

February 1st:
At a stretch, I hope to journal about my mother’s impending Dragon’s Den appearance. In terms of last February’s diary content, this has to be a win; my fab friend tells me that our Covid- curfewed February 2020 entries would demand a huge stretch of the imagination to encourage anyone to read. We grant mum permission to ditch the jigsaw and offer to write her diary for a small ghost writing fee.

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