No Diets, No Dry January, No Stress: Gentle January Is Here
Welcome, fellow Type Bs, to the dark side.
We find ourselves smack in the middle of hyperactivity heaven. January is the Olympics for Type As, prime time for people who use color-coded day planners, who slot time for "relaxation" on vacation spreadsheets, who eat the same macronutrients all week, packed each Sunday in depressing Tupperware.
These people have a concerning eye glint, as if they have foraged suspect mushrooms from a marshy part of the yard. They were raring to go Jan. 2, when holiday decorations promptly went back into labeled tubs. They hung inspirational notes on office walls, as if "DISRUPTION" written on printer paper will help staff reach Q1 goals. Many of these people can be found in the halls of Congress, cackling over an evil stick of celery.
The rest of us have gazed upon rolls of jolly Santa wrapping paper teetering against a Bissell PowerSteamer for weeks whilst sliding off our couches in the manner of slime. We are dirt people, OK? Sure, we might aspire to be a spreadsheet person, but we have not so much as glanced at a clothes hanger. We have consumed nothing but chicken wings and red blends for a fortnight, and frankly, we were not ready to stop.
Time was extra dissociative this year because our school system started winter vacation really late. Holiday joy and wonder wore off eons ago, with parents and kids left staring at each other, wondering how everyone got here. The Type B children were content to chill with Cheez-Its and iPads forever. The Type A children spent the last days getting a jump on studying Mesopotamia.
Me, I'm back from two weeks off with the family. If you are ever able to indulge in a break with no plans, I recommend it. For the first week, I battled one of 54 airborne illnesses going around and consumed too much Prince Harry media between naps. The second week, I kept napping. Why stop napping? I wandered around listening to metal music from 1999 and pondered what it might be like to never turn over a new leaf, ever again.
You see, the Hyperactivity Industrial Complex tells us we must put an end to fun. The new year brings the bill we promised to pay in December when we agreed via soulless email to "circle back" and "follow up" and "tackle this in January!!"
We must now improve. We must now rekindle bonds. We must start Whole 30 and keto and intermittent fasting. We must buy elite featherweight running shoes. We must shore up savings for the upcoming financial apocalypse. We must do Dry January like monks, but not the kind of monks who make beer.
I'll pause to remind you that none of this is real. The time between the holidays and New Year's is a construct, an abstraction, a system of values. It's like money. Money only has worth because we all agree it does. Currency is a terrific scam! The January ritual is also a scam, this practice of writing a list of flaws and self-flagellating to rebalance pleasure simply because an arbitrary date has come and gone.
There's a long, similarly arbitrary year ahead, and I propose gentleness. Gentle January. Shh, not so loud. We're not demanding goals. We're letting each other ease back in. Maybe we're trying something new in February or March. Maybe not! We're not canceling naps. Maybe we're adding naps. We're not taking away spinach artichoke dip. Please, unhand the pita.
We're not taking away the legit satisfaction Type As get from order, either. That's not really the point. Gentle January is about celebrating differences and staying out of everyone's business. If you are hyper, so be it. Just remember that many of us aren't hyper. If you find fulfillment from waking up at 5 a.m. to clean baseboards, proceed. Then come to my house and do it. I need to lie down.
Stephanie Hayes is a columnist at the Tampa Bay Times in Florida. Follow her at @stephhayes on Twitter or @stephrhayes on Instagram.
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