I like to think of myself as a positive person, which is why I stop myself saying ‘I hate January’. There are lots of things to be positive about in January, the first snowdrops, getting to five PM and realising it is not quite dark yet, Spring is in sight. But I was raised under hazy desert skies, where my ‘Winter wardrobe’ may have meant chucking on a sweatshirt when it got a little chilly, but we were usually back in the pool by the end of the month. Therefore as I attempted my countryside dog walk on Sunday, to be met with horizontal, icy rain, my feet numb from wading through slush and a Baltic wind blowing my hood off every two minutes I couldn’t help but utter the words, ‘I hate January.’ This month has had a lot to answer for, the lurgy to start with has seen us cancel, rearrange or alter all of our weekend plans and cabin fever has begun to set in. I am so ready for February.
As the dog and I eventually returned home, bedraggled and both equally as pissed off as each other, we were met by an altogether more welcoming scene. The fire was lit, engulfing the room with a warm, orange glow. My poorly husband had risen from his sickbed and was engrossed in a game of Jenga with the minis and the room was filled with laughter (with only the odd cough thrown in for good measure). I was soaked to the skin, shivering, but I couldn’t help but smile at this wonderful greeting, my January blues melting to nothing.
It only occurred to me yesterday evening that actually, this month we have come a long way as a family and my husband and I a long way as a couple. I am not saying that we had become unhappy, we certainly had not, but life had become ‘fine’. When you ask how someone’s day was and they reply ‘fine’ you know that really it was uneventful, uninspired, unremarkable. Some of our days had become a little like that. We had stopped really appreciating the good things we had. He was returning home as I was sitting down to work, having just settled the kids. We chatted, sure, but small talk mostly, just going through the motions. Then the weekend rolled around and we had made ourselves too busy to properly sit and catch up. The kids have their clubs, we have friends and family that needed catching up with, and at the end of a busy weekend we were collapsing on the sofa with a glass of wine and passing out in front of the TV. Everything had become a little too much like routine.
January forced us to stop being busy. The kids couldn’t attend all of their clubs because they were sick. We called off dinners, lunches with friends, even cinema trips because someone wasn’t well enough and we were forced to stay at home. It wasn’t long before we hit a low point. In the past a sick day meant we all vegged in front of the box, but there had been so many recently we were bored of the programs, Netflix, even our DVDs. We began rubbing each other up the wrong way, I was getting snappy at tiny things and my husband became paranoid, the girls began literally tearing each other’s hair out. When we finally confronted each other as to what the hell was going on, it turns out, in reality, nothing was wrong exactly, but we, ourselves, had stopped it feeling quite right.
When you hit the bottom the only way is up. Well, I am glad to say we were not hitting bottom, but we were in a dip and we just needed a little shove to get things feeling good again. We embraced the fact that yes we were stuck at home, but instead of staring at a screen we could bring out the board games, introduce the little ones to Monopoly, Jenga, Pictionary. The run of the lurgy has encouraged the kick we needed to get back into shape. ‘Urgh, I feel so out of shape let’s do something about it.’ So the husband is on a health drive, we are supporting each other in exercising more, I have got my passion for cooking back, mixing up the same old meals with some new healthy recipes and we have, for now, ditched the alcohol. Yes I miss a glass of wine on an evening, but at least it is not aiding us passing out with tiredness at the end of the day. Most of all we are making sure we are not taking each other for granted. When he walks through the door, I close my screen, just for half an hour to discuss how his day REALLY was. He leaves a little later a couple of mornings a week so he can do the school run, just while I recover fully. We take the time to avoid the things that annoy each other and we have started surprising each other again, just to ensure everything doesn’t have to be routine.
So the month isn’t over yet and the weather will, no doubt, piss me off again. I suspect we haven’t seen the back of the lurgy and am sure the kids will have at least one monumental argument a day between now and the time they leave home. But, I will not be writing this January off as a disaster and I hope it has taught us from now on, not to take a good marriage for granted, even a happy one needs a little TLC to keep it that way.