travel with me from SAHM to working mum….
Hibernate. vb. To spend the winter in a torpid state. And why not? I count myself as a Modern Hibernator. Each Spring, for the past eight or nine years, crocus and daffodils have erupted into my life awakening me from my dormant state.
It would be easy to blame Nature. The weather is at best cold and damp, at worst rain falls in shoe-ruining torrents. It is so dark that on at least three days last week I kept the lights switched ON. Even in the current economic climate. Most people are torpid and numb under layers of jersey, wool and gortex, trudging around in boots and thick socks, hidden under hats or anonymous behind umbrellas. Occasionally, Nature bestows the gift of snow – which I love. This can have a positive effect on the Modern Hibernator. Forced out of the car and onto the traffic-free roads, we walk more and strike up conversations with rarely-seen neighbours. Then the Big Thaw turns the toboggan slopes muddy and the snow boots and colourful ski hats go back in the loft, wellies return.
Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not completely idle from December to March. In fact every day has some activity. However, there is no spontaneous energy about anything I do. It is all dictated by daily routine: Monday – bootcamp, Tuesday – class, Wednesday – tennis, Thursday – gym, Friday – write. As soon as the activity is over, I scurry back home, relieved that I have connected briefly with the outside world and deserve to return to the domestic bubble for half-hearted cleaning, cooking and blog-stoking.
To the Modern Hibernator an invitation away from the routine can provoke mild panic. Proximity to Christmas indulgence means that clothes do not fit, wobbly bits spring out of waistbands and spots stand out like beacons on pasty, sun-deprived skin. But it is the mind which is the biggest barrier to socialising, turning a sluggish brain that is struggling to cope with the plotline of “Lark Rise to Candleford” into one that can make sparkling conversation needs more than a glass of prosecco.
This is another fact of life for the Modern Hibernator. A considerate person would not want to induce this level of panic in their friends. However, if one is forced to issue an invitation (life marches on: some people are less affected by Winter Stupor, some are actually born in the winter) the resulting gathering can be rather haphazard. Suggesting a restaurant is difficult as some friends are struggling to recoup a Christmas overspend. At a recent sushi lunch suggested by a skinny Yummy Mummy friend, a hefty discount voucher and some autocratic menu choices resulted in a bill of just £6 each. Most left hungry – but that possibly helped with the wobbly waistbands.
Inviting friends home for supper is hazardous both to your New Year’s Resolutions and theirs. It is a brave soul who serves up diet portions and non-alcoholic drinks – even if it is in the interests of everyone’s health. Navigating the various January de-tox fads is equally troublesome. Raw vegetables and seeds are difficult to turn into an appetising supper to suit a husband used to steak and chips. Macrobiotic, vitamin-rich diets may be beneficial to the body of a de-toxer but it also strips their conversation of toxins. Slightly inebriated, carb-guzzling guests are much more fun than their dull, self-denying partners who tell you in evangelical tones how much good their faddy diet is doing to them. So much so that, come February and the girls ski trip, they are the ones carrying bags bulging with chocolate and red wine. To all of you: the government advises us that the liver only needs 72 hours to de-toxify. Personally, I feel no need to challenge this.
Also, has anyone noticed how many “bad things” happen in the winter? Especially at Christmas? My husband and I stopped celebrating New Year’s Eve after my mother’s death one December. It was the final straw in a haystack of “bad things happening at Christmas” including my mother-in-law in a coma, a miscarriage, death of an uncle and the attempted suicide of a brother-in-law. Who wants to spend the evening playing charades with a couple on the brink of divorce and another on the brink of January de-tox (throw as many toxins down your throat now – they’re verboten for the next 31 days) when you can watch a nice DVD and be in bed at 10? Our Modern Hibernating instincts served us well again this year when an Aunty dropped dead on Boxing Day. We were already in mourning.
Part of me thinks I’ve taken Modern Hibernating too far this year. I declined to invite my sister and her children to stay despite pleas from her to repeat the ‘fun’ they had last year. Mainly because I didn’t have so much fun cooking, cleaning and biting my tongue. I must admit that, despite enjoying our quiet Christmas, I did miss the macabre enjoyment derived from the passive-aggression of an extended-family gathering. Will I relent next year? Maybe. But a closer look at the dictionary definition of hibernate reveals this: to spend the winter (of person) in a mild climate. Next year I’m off to Australia.