I never liked January. Do you?
As much as I enjoyed Christmas with the kids coming home from faraway, cold places, January hit me like a menopausal mood swing. I put the Christmas tree away early, packing it and shelving it, together with all those dreams and ambitions that didn’t find any closure in 2018. Ugh.
I have no reason to complain. I know people who have every reason to complain, so why am I such a whiner and why does this January feel like a month-long bout of indigestion? Actually, I can point at several reasons:
- The anti-climax after Christmas. We fill our house with lights and laughter during the darkest and coldest month of the year, but January is still cold and just as dark, so why don’t we extend the hols for just a bit, until the first daffodils and tree buds start popping up, getting us out of our funk and reminding us that life is never truly linear but a cycle, always?
- Total Trump fatigue. Am I alone in my outrage that Donnie Delusional gets away with murder while the GOP, who are the only ones who can stop him, just roll their eyes? The news cycle, the scandals that roll in at a frenetic pace and the denials and daily Twitter harassment of our malignant leader have worn me down. The Titanic has hit the iceberg, we know we’re going down, and yet we can’t bear to look away.
- Work. The last two months have been insanely busy with absurd deadlines and word counts. I take the work because it pays well but I realized that since I started freelancing in 2014, I haven’t taken a single true vacation in the traditional sense of the word (I vacation but work on vacation– the industry is so cut throat that if I decline or decline too often, the phone stops ringing) or a single sick day. Translating tech kills the soul and zaps your energy. I need to return to my Henry Miller project but when I get up from my desk at night, I can’t bear to spend more hours looking at a screen. Yes, first-world problems.
- Everything else under 4 starts with an M: menopausal weight gain and insomnia, midlife crisis, missed opportunities and that miasma of death staring us in the face. Since my father-in-law died, the wall of complacency, the notion of death being a foreign country you never hope to visit, let alone get stuck in, has started crumbling. Right before Caroline left, we were walking through San Francisco with grey skies overhead. We walked by the park in North Beach where the kids used to play, and now, anno 2019, I started talking to her about death. I told her that, as a child, I would run up to my mom, telling her I didn’t want her to die, like ever. And my mom related to my fear, because she said that she had done the same as a child, with her mother. Her mother had reassured her that when that time comes, most people actually want to go because your quality of life has taken such a hit that dying actually seems better than shitting yourself in the dementia ward of a nursing home. Ah, the sense of reality of the down-to-earth Dutch…
But that’s the rub. The giving up. The letting go. Since I’ve hit my fifties (where clearly, in this youth-obsessed country, your life is over or only suitable for vapid cruises, sensible, ugly footwear and endless games of bridge), I have felt a sense of jadedness, a feeling of not giving a fuck anymore and a lack of appetite for the books I’ve told myself I still need to write.
When I bring this up with friends, many of them own up to being totally burned out on work and wanting to retire early. As the years go by, the energy and youthful joy and optimism seem to be siphoned off, too. And I don’t want to have these feelings, because there are ways and should be ways that I can still contribute and work and write and be the kind of mother who doesn’t refrain from telling a dirty joke to her kids. I want to be irreverent and provocative and make people think. I want to tell people to not give up, but feel in the deepest part of my heart and soul that I’m beginning to give up myself, just a little, every day until there’s nothing left to give up. I don’t want to be that person. I want to feel and embrace life as I did in my twenties, thirties and forties. Oh my God, this has midlife crisis written all over it…
Or maybe this is just the Empty Nest hitting me later than normal… maybe we all feel redundant and old when our kids move out and really start their own lives with exciting new careers and opportunities that, frankly, I never had.
And yet, my mantra has always been that everyone should make it count. Every minute of the day. Make it worth the light and life you’re given. Tell yourself we’re blessed and that in order to inspire we need to seek inspiration. Every dreadful day. And seek the company of friends, because misery loves company.
It’s January 31st. Thank God.
I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine and toast to February and second acts. You might as well live.