The journey of a January, as many of us have long known, is thick, multi-textured and overwhelming, like something carby taking a bath in its liquid partner. Could be an apple crumble absorbing a pool of custard, or a dense piece of bread in a tomato chicken soup (with silky cheese). But more specifically, January is either dish left on the counter, no manipulation, a lot of neglect. It’s a month that loses its form at some foggy yet obviously premature point. The carb falters early on, it becomes a shell of itself in record time. The piece of bread— a foamy mess. The apple crumble forgets who it once was, overcome by custard water. Though once impossibly appetising, when we were gasping for air in the smog of yesteryear, I cannot stand the sight or the stench of the first month, now that we’re here, and, every time we get here.
You discover upon arrival that the first month of a new year still smells despite its freshness. By Its middle, it’s suddenly disfigured by deeply set wrinkles. And even in its death, we still get no peace. Because February easily becomes January’s new edition, holding onto January’s many mistakes, and January’s chalky slate. February is arriving now, and somehow I’m still not perfect.
Those meals, those plans, have been quietly growing inedible since their inception in mid-late December. I was waiting for the new year, adding to a pile of collected failings, unstirred, because I was waiting—on something restoratively seismic. We were still hurtling towards the reset button, but at a manageable, good speed. And my plans for the new year were preserved and prettified by distance— my perfection plans. 2022 would finally be the year after decades of delusion, where the conditions would be optimal for excellence. By excellence I mean not one thing would be imperfect— me firstly, then everyone and thing around me. Total control. A new notebook. And then, the 1st of January.
My efforts congealed in record time. I wasn’t in the mood and I don’t remember why now— because, being that we’re finally here, things didn’t suddenly become bathed in easy sunshine, on day one or day two. A tiring anger had me looking for the white flag by day five.
By mid January, life is noticeably unstable. Inconsistency will be sitting in the office, making the calls, mapping out time and how we will use it to fuel its power. Things will be getting done, but in that ‘I’m an imposter’ sort of way. And you will be running on empty. How could you? At the beginning of a brand new year? But still you’ll be pencilling in perfection into February, then March, then September.
And I say enough. Goodbye to all that (RIP Joan Didion). Time to try something else— time to just try. Try to do the right thing. First, it’s important you recognise that ‘the right thing’ and ‘perfection’ share character traits, but one is like a man riding a horse, and the other is a centaur. The right thing(s) are the things that you say will line you up with the perfect non-existent you. In your mind, you want to be the good meal that never spoils, steaming hot on the table for whenever you might want it. You can’t be that, so commit to the things you can be, those things you planned to be, but it’s different now, because you’re expecting mistakes. That makes a lot of difference. And take bite size chunks of the right thing. Or dedicate yourself to a clean break, depends on you, your faith or lack thereof. Doesn’t matter which, once you’ve past the threshold of commitment. And don’t (try not to) disgrace that commitment just because it concerns only you. Respect yourself.
You can get to where you want to go, and you will if where you want to go is a place that exists— and if there are other people there too walking on its moors, that’s good. Perfection is death— like many things we tell ourselves is ours to have. Choose freedom instead, believe yourself to be human with human capabilities— trying, trying, trying again until something clicks and everything sticks. Or, (I’d advise you to) believe yourself to be human with advanced capabilities— through an anchoring to something bigger and incapable of failure. Both will work if you work them. The latter though will be the fully realised, beautified version of the former— an eternally fresh meal, no added preservatives.
(Image cred: ‘Lauren sleeping in Winter sunlight’ – Kurt Solmssen 1958)