If I come across as someone who is wishing her life away, please know that behind this Miss Trunchbull exterior, I still chase unicorns and rainbows – and the odd dragonfly. Admittedly, sometimes I get distracted by work, a pesky house purchase and an over-thinking approach to my personal life. On these days the effort required to see life as ‘exciting’ rather than challenging can feel overly ambitious.
Thankfully I am old enough to know that – with patience – this feeling will eventually pass, and that my ‘can do’ attitude will emerge before a dark storm cloud takes up permanent residency above my head.
I also realise how challenging January always is. It has never been my favourite month – I am not good with the dark and cold and that creepy way that the god of Janus looks backwards and forwards simultaneously – a great party trick, but also a recipe for confusion for a worry wart like myself. However, as the month finally limps to an end, I am gifted a counselling session through work and this allows me to focus back on some January rainbows that would have otherwise remained hidden behind all that rain and freezing fog.
My counsellor challenges me to ‘delight’ in who I have become – to acknowledge that I navigate family, work and friends with authenticity and that I can allow myself some credit for this even when I make mistakes. She asks me to say out loud, ‘I am a delight.’ She then promptly scolds me for delivering this assertion with a dramatic roll of my eyes and a sarcastic tone. I try again but I end up giggling. She asks me to delight in the life I have created, rather than the things I have yet to nail. I think she may have a point even though it feels uncomfortable.
I can readily acknowledge that I have the most delightful family and friends, so now I need to overcome a legacy of parenting that frowns on any personal big headedness. My eight year old self remembers my father calling me into his office (it was actually his bedroom, but my parents were less modest when describing their deluxe detached town house) and admonishing me for, ‘showing off’ in front of our visiting cousins. Looking back, in my defence, I can see that this loud, chattiness would have been my default cover up for being shy, but fair parenting nonetheless, dad; I delight in this legacy of critical feedback.
In no particular order, I will list some January delights. Shout outs to myself still feel awkward, so most of these items will be me delighting in my amazing band of brothers – I will just take credit for keeping them in my life:
- My kids:
I read somewhere that the most nauseating thing a mother can do is to tell other people how amazing their children are – worse still to say how good-looking their grown up children are, but I simply do not care. Mine are delightful both inside and out – I am sure your’s are too, so we can skip an arm wrestle and agree to be subjective.
The lives of my children are challenging and demanding and although they have little time for themselves, they are still so wise and generous in my direction. If I have any criticism it is that they have this parenting milarky the wrong way round – they parent me – but I am trying to show them that I can be the responsible adult in the room (perhaps not in the photographic evidence accompanying this blog; Mama J, a whisky chaser and some challenges involving paper cups, may not be evidence of my maturity, but I delight that my son and daughter can always get my inner child chuckling. I delight in a belly laugh and we need more of them.
- Meet Ups:
I have done so many of these in January – I apologise if you do not recognise yourself in anything I am about to write, but I delight in every chance that I have had to meet up with any of my friends during January.
We have all had to ‘delight’ in the fact that we are stone broke after Christmas, so together we have walked; we have drunk a lot of coffee; we have run (more later); we have met in cafes, pubs, garden sheds and houses and we have laughed and we have cried. I delight that my band of brothers instinctively know how to unravel my messy head and that I always leave having made a little more sense of my life. ‘Mate, climb back out of your head!’ is advice I delight in.
If too many miles separate us, I delight in our video calls and regular messaging and I cannot wait until I see you in person again.
I also delight in the busyness of your lives – your volunteering, your families, your careers (and even your retirements – where did they spring up from?), your crafting, oh and your new sports car Mr G! Having after-work meet ups in my diary has made January so much easier to navigate. Bookings are now being taken for February, get in early to avoid disappointment.
- Work Colleagues:
Just for the record, working in a school is really, really tough right now. Working anywhere is likely to be bleak in this economic context, but in a school there is nowhere to hide if a student or parent wants to come and vent in your general direction.
Save your thoughts on public sector holidays and strike days for another time, let us just delight in a shout out for school colleagues who turn up relentlessly, keep each other afloat with dark humour, do each other favours when we get overwhelmed (I am talking early morning gate duties, taking a meeting with a belligerent parent off your hands, leaving surplus chocolate on your desk) and always appearing with a box of tissues at just the right moment.
I do take credit for keeping my office jelly baby jar well-stocked during January (this is not one of my metaphors, there is an actual jar with real jelly babies in it and you are very welcome) and being able to use this as a barometer of how a colleague’s work day may be going. Shout out also to my dad for my legacy obsession with jelly babies – he must have known that this would come in useful.
- My Mother
It would not be a blog without a reference to my mum. Although she keeps reminding me, ‘not to get old,’ she has started January with a renewed vigour. Although sadly she can now hear very little of what you say (on account of fading hearing and her ability to keep throwing the controls for her hearing aid into the bin) she has restarted pilates, is back at luncheon club and stole the show at the funeral of her last remaining sibling last weekend, despite being reminded not to show off.
I delight in the fact that my 96.5 year old mother (she tells me that the half is becoming increasingly important) insisted on delivering this eulogy. ‘I am the last of my sibling dynasty and I just can not trust the rest of you to get ‘it’ right,’ she mutters before demanding a dress rehearsal, a rider for a flask of black coffee to be positioned under her pew and an agreement that I will understudy if she starts to cough. Naturally, mum aces this gig; she pauses dramatically for effect when appropriate, embraces the planned injection of humour – allowing the ‘audience’ to laugh and resettle – and then allows herself to be waited on hand and foot at the tea party afterwards. Undoubtedly, mum’s sister would have been very proud – but she would also have kept this information to herself for fear of over-inflating mum’s ego.
I can not say that I have delighted in all of January’s runs, but I have delighted in the company I have kept – it has distracted us from the miles, icy surfaces and relentless rain. I delight in the fact that various of my running crew haul themselves out of bed in the early morning darkness and still find the energy needed to chat us through any January woes.
Strangely I find myself not only agreeing to help one friend train for another marathon, but being persuaded to join him on my first ultra marathon later in the year. I know I swore to you that I would never do another marathon again, but technically I have not lied because this is an ultra (chop logic but not a lie). My feet are already starting to whinge, but I delight in the fact that I had my legs twisted on account of said friend promising me that, ‘it is flat, we can walk whenever we want and the food stops will be epic’. I predict that I will be delighting in these epic food stops (these are bound to involve jelly babies) and I will certainly not let the running spoil a good walk.
You know by now that I will get forfeit burpees for calling ‘it’ boot camp (It is Bristol Military Fit, people), but ‘it’ will always be boot camp to me.
My sister-in-law and I have been foolish enough to see in 12 Januarys with two bootcamp sessions a week (I promise that we have kept going through the remaining 11 months of each year) so I know that these sessions probably do more for my head than for my body (I still have bodacious hips and a plumptious derriere so technically I should be demanding a refund but then I do chat through each session…).
This January the crew have been rocked by individual health grenades, but I delight in the hugs, messages – and occasional tears – that will support each person through. There is no-one more prepared than a boot-camper to rise to a personal challenge – anything that the health service can draw to our attention will be small fry in comparison to a burpee and press-up circuit at the crack of a January dawn. We train as a team and we will delight in being good team mates until the baton can be dropped. We even have a side hustle of a book club for those needing respite care, and we are meeting around at mine tomorrow if you are a quick reader and want to join us.
I feel that I am at last hitting my stride with January – I realise that I have arrived at the party very late and that my grumpy face may have belied my inner delight on many occasion, but perhaps I can spill this valuable learning over into February and cash it in for some even greater delight ahead?Feel free to join me, for this approach may just be addictive. I will shortly be starting full clinical trials at meet ups, bootcamp, book club, running sessions, work – you choose. It is sure to be delightful.