As I think of January, the word “hustle” pops into my mind the fastest. A new year and new momentum to make new or better choices. It is a wonderful opportunity, but there is something about the hustle of this month that makes me pause and listen to a faint sound that I haven’t heard in years past; the whisper of self-loathing.
You can read the whole essay I’ve written called Rock in the River over at Kindred Mom. For now, here is an excerpt. Enjoy and Happy New Year.
January. Flooded with indulgent memories of November and December, the notion that I am not good enough comes bobbing to the surface. Guilt curls her cold fingers around my shoulders hugging me in close to whisper fearful words. Impossible to ignore, messages bubble in my head chastising me for letting myself slide, lacking discipline.
Remember when you were in the habit of getting up before your kids to exercise, write or just sit in the dark and quiet?
Remember when fitness was second nature and the number on the scale or your abdomen shoved into a pair of jeans didn’t scream at you?
Those were the days.
The days you received compliments, so you knew you were on the right track.
The days when you felt confident as a women, mother, and person.
The mountaintop….you’ve fallen off.
Guilt with her sinister truth-lies visit me every year. The successes, challenges, and triumphs constituting a year of my life, my journey, are undone with one turn of a calendar page. For me, January is a time filled with an urge to hustle to outrun guilt. I feel pressure to change to find happiness or fulfillment or something harder to define and elusive. Disguised in innocuous shiny wrapping, self-improvement beckons: “A new year dawns and with it a new chance to start over again.” Irritating. Here’s the rub, the idea of starting again adds to the overwhelming feelings that keep me cowering in fear because it leads me to believe that since I am “starting over,” I must have failed at something and I can’t stand failure.
It is true that I have fallen off of a mountaintop I was very proud to have scaled. I have splash-landed in January, a rushing river of constant change, discipline, comparison, the allure of perfectionism, being well, and starting afresh. From the bank, the current of this river looks dazzling; the water is smooth as satin, graceful and seemingly kind. But as I dip my hand into the icy torrent to grasp at one of these sparkling ideals, I realize it is not gentle but punishing, and I get sucked under, void of air, and choke.
Most years, I reach into the icy barrage of January and end up being dragged along by some raging rapid of self-reformation that I half-heartedly glom onto in the few days between Christmas and New Years. After all, everyone seems to be doing the same thing, chasing down some dream to do better. I fight with the current, giving parts of myself to the newest most convincing quick fix, thinking that the way to the top of the mountain must be farther down-river, and I’m drowning.
In all honesty, I do want to be the best version of myself. But I have to stop and wonder about the motivation that pushes me; Am I trying to change because I don’t like myself?
Thanks for reading.
If you’d like to have “the rest of the story” (thanks, Paul Harvey),
please head over to Kindred Mom.