So, like the rest of the nation, I have been going through New Year, and found to my surprise that it DOES mean something. In fact, it feels as though New Year has gone through me, like an extreme weather event, or a bout of food poisoning.
New Year is something visceral – a kind of terror in the body, gut-clenchings of nameless fears and monstrous brain creations, pulsing in the dead of night. All your evils come back to haunt you, and to cleanse you.
In the daytime it has felt little better (having not been able to sleep, I have been an inzombiac). I have felt tearful, hysterical, irritated, anguished, furious, desperate, seared, flagellated, exhumed, empty, slackened, throttled, murderous. All these things at times; at points, all at once.
In the days following Christmas and then New Year, the wastelands of yesteryear and the bleak untried plains of the coming year have blown through me. It has been difficult to locate handholds in amongst the rushing grains of what took place last year, it seems to cascade through my fingers. Aspects of last year that were mountains to climb have dissolved into lost time as they've represented themselves in my mind's eye. What did all that mean? What was it for?
Part of it is having those wretched healthy eels of children, who keep on developing and growing, enriching themselves, damn them, feeding on us, like pet Ouroboroi. They are the experience thieves – it's all them! As they individuate themselves, they are slowly shedding us like discarded skins. The house is pregnant with their growingness. Resolution: make them cook own food, do own washing, do own school run, etc. Sigh as realise this is not legal.
Then there are the moments of complete serenity, in which I grasp, for a sliver of a breath, that all is good. All, outside my poor brain, is actually fine, at least for me, for my immediate family. We have not been invaded. We have not died. We are not ill. We, for the moment, are alive and well, and go to shops to buy food, do homework, get ready for work, have showers, watch television, write thank you letters. Capitalism is still twisting up our thinking about our lives into impossible pretzels of nonsense, and we are still happily falling for it. There is pleasure to be had on the John Lewis website. We are still grasping, competitive, insecure and cruel, as we ever were. Some of us (them) aren't like that, and we look at those happy few and are slightly irritated – who are they not to lack for anything? What's wrong with them and their nasty consoledness? Smug gits.
Then it's back to the lacerations of anxiety.
I know, from having been alive for nearly forty-eight years, that these emotions are peculiar to the opening days of January, and indeed have been so ever since Julius Caesar introduced the solar calendar in 46 BC, and invented Janus-faced January as the first month of the year. Those Romans. (Apart from the bit when celebrating New Year on 1 January was considered pagan, and abolished, say between 567 AD and 1582 if you were Catholic, and 1752 if you were Protestant. Apart from those bits. Those Middle Ages people).
I know that if I hold on, the children will go back to school, I will do a food shop, I will go back to yoga classes, and start teaching, and do my tax return (OH NO! MY TAX RETURN!). I will spend no money in January, or go out, or drink, or eat chocolate or meat, or anything except chia seed pudding. Not.
These wild feelings of dissolution and vertigo will gradually seep away, to be replaced with concrete projects, failed plans, unforeseen disasters, and a few surprisingly good moments I could never have predicted. Everyone else around me will seem to do better than me. Because that's how I view life. Why be happy when there are so many words in self-imposed misery? When there's so much comedy gold in being neurotic? Ah well. There's always next year to read the whole of Shakespeare and lose a stone.
I think perhaps I reacted so strongly to New Year this year because I have such a powerful Cnut-like fantasy that I am in control of my own life, now contained in the sure and certain middle-aged knowledge that I have absolutely no control over it. The scramble to put 2015 to bed, and plot for 2016, brings with it both a merciless perfectionism – "THIS year I will be thin, famous, rich and adored!" – and the excruciating, glass-clear apprehension that this kind of thinking is not even worth the name of thought, is nowhere near rationality, is nothing like the truth. January 1 is just a day like other days – a little emptier if no friends are around, a little harder if you drank too much the night before – but your book was not finished on 31 December, and it is no nearer being so on 1 January.
So, I think the best way through New Year's Day is probably on a yoga retreat. And my resolution for 2016 is to engineer one for next New Year's Day.