It may be my birthday month, but January is my least favourite month of the year. It just doesn't do me well, and this year seems worse than most.
My birthday happens so soon after the New Year that there is barely time to draw breath before it arrive. It feels like the festivities and parties start in mid-December, continues on through Christmas, New Year and onto my birthday. Then, all of a sudden, reality kicks back in, and to top it all, I'm a year older. The weather and lack of daylight also play their part - it is no surprise that my best winters have been when we have had trips abroad to sunnier places in early January. It's not that anything bad happens, I just don't feel right.
I internalise a lot. This is partly out of habit; it's just something I do. I don't give the impression to those around me that anything is wrong. I'll still laugh and smile genuinely and seem fine for the most part. And the truth is, in part, that I am. But if were to have a emotional protective layer around me, I would say it wears so thin as to be transparent and doesn't offer much protection at this time of year. The word I'm looking for is fragile. Bits of me have felt like they are breaking off.
Things I would normally allow to wash over without a second thought become big issues. I don't know if I imagine slights, but I become hyper-aware of them in the things people say. I see bad things in them. And I believe them. You know that small nagging internal voice that tells you you're not good enough? For me, at times like this, it becomes louder and louder and louder until it's all I can hear. It kicks me when I'm down. It hates me. As a result, I start to hate myself. There have been times where I've been reduced to tears over it. Just typing that now and reading it back seems so ridiculous.
I get so cross with myself as a result. I have this big internal battle with myself - that nagging negative internal voice shouts down the bit that says "Well, actually, you're alright really and you know it". Deep down, I know that bit is there but I can't help myself - and the internal battle drains me of the ability to get on with the stuff I'm meant to be doing.
This year, it's come across in my tweets and I've found myself tweeting, much to my own horror, stuff I really shouldn't tweet, but I don't know why. Really, in the end, I lost patience with myself about all the whingey, whiney moany tweets. The folk of Twitter were, as ever, lovely but I didn't do it for that. So those went out the window. Not that I haven't felt different, I just didn't want to be that person.
Last week, I decided I didn't want to be like this any more. I am not going to pretend that I changed overnight but I had a light bulb moment, or maybe a couple of them. The first came when I realised that no-one else can except me can make me like myself. The second came when I had a "Oh stuff it" moment when I had a sore back and booked a massage at half an hour's notice. It was brilliant but halfway through, I had an emotional release when I found myself, spontaneously and silently, crying for no reason at all. I know it can happen, but it surprised me. It made me realise that I must be kinder to myself; do a few things just for me, enjoy things for the hell of it. I wanted to go out there and then for lunch. I couldn't, so I went and bought myself a nice sandwich and took it home to enjoy with a little peace before the onslaught of the school run and its aftermath.
Just a small change in attitude seems to have made a big difference. I'm sure some will say that it's down to the days beginning to get a bit longer and that does help a bit. But just that shift in my head - knowing that perhaps it's just this time of year, that I need to be kind to me, and listen more to the positive inner voice (I'm sounding like a crank here, but frankly I don't care) - is making me feel better. It's like a small twist in a kaleidoscope. What was disjointed and ugly has transformed into something colourful and beautiful. It's not perfect - what is? - but the seeds of hope have been sown and I'm more at ease with myself. I will not, will not let my own head drag me down any more. I don't need to be so harsh on myself. I don't need to look for slights in what people say or do - real or imaginary, they do not matter and I can't allow myself to care.
Still, I won't be sorry to see the back of January. Only a week to go. Get thee behind me, January. I'll be glad when you've gone.
(PS If you've made an effort to make me smile when I've been down, cheer me up, or generally make me feel better during the last few weeks, then thank you. You know who you are.)