And so begins January, that joyless season for packing away twinkle lights, tossing out leftover cranberries and carting empty champagne bottles to the curb.
With a final toot from its party horn, America crawls back onto the treadmill, back into the cubicle, back up the stairs of the school bus to face its bleakest 31 days.
How fitting that January, in all its dreariness, has been has been granted such designations as National Weight Awareness Month, National Be Kind to Food Servers Month and – most appropriate of all – National Oatmeal Month.
In England, cheerless Brits observe Dry January, in which no alcohol is consumed.
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“January, month of empty pockets!” wrote the French novelist Sidonie Gabrielle Colette. “Let us endure this evil month, anxious as a theatrical producer’s forehead.”
The biggest drawback about the year’s opening month is the shortage of revelry to look forward to. January offers Martin Luther King’s birthday, an important but solemn observance. Valentine’s Day waits in the distance, but a large slice of the population dreads its mushy arrival. Little but ACC basketball – again, not everyone’s brand of fun – can chase off the gloom of a Tuesday commute in the dark.
In half a normal lifetime, I’ve traveled in January exactly once, when impetuous youth combined with absurdly low airfares sent me to Prague, where I spent a frigid week drinking hot wine from street vendors. Otherwise, I tend to spend this month reading in the bathtub.
So, having cranked up the post-holiday malaise, I’ll offer a few suggestions, maybe even traditions in the making, for stomaching January. If they sound corny, forgive this feeble stab at enthusiasm and crawl back in your hole.
1.) Visit a new state park.
I’m a hiker, so my mind tends to drift this way, but it can’t hurt to make a list of all 41 and cross them off one at a time, year by year. Plenty of Triangle newcomers haven’t wandered as far as Raven Rock, where the icicles dangle from cliffs in the winter, let alone Merchants Millpond and its swamp trail.
2.) Cook something you’ve never made before.
I’ve been meaning to cook a whole fish forever. The prospect scares me. That’s why I should do it.
3.) Fix something that’s been broken forever.
For me, this could be the gate on the backyard fence, the doorknob on the storage room or the light on the upstairs ceiling fan. I’m no perfectionist, and I’m certainly a below-average handyman, but there’s nothing like flicking a switch and having light come on rather than a daily reminder that things fall apart.
So I vow to resist January. If I go slumming with a bowl of oatmeal, breakfast of the month, I’m throwing in peanut butter as a flourish.