Contrary to what many believe, though it seemed like it at the time, April 2020 was not the longest month ever. To me, January of every year is, and 2021 is no exception.

Is it a letdown on the heels of the holiday season? Is it because it’s typically the coldest month? Perhaps it is because there is still so little daylight compared to June.

The return to normalcy, whatever that means, can be a real drag. Working, learning and staying inside more and more, lethargy sneaks in.

January is bleak and gray more often than not with so few sunny days. Sometimes, we need to become our own light. Our homes feel bleak and stark in comparison to the sparkle and bling of the most festive season of the year once it's stored away and out of sight.

Perhaps due to the weather, but am I the only one who often feels pent up? Especially during a pandemic that seems eternal. It won’t be, but it surely seems like it for the long haul.

This January has blessed me with three medical procedures with adequate recovery time and many injections of steroids, which cause sleep deprivation, among other “happy happy joy joy” moments.

Just as I was about to send this column for publication, a friend posted the following on her social media page:

“January lasted 5 months, payday is still 6 weeks away, Christmas was 3 years ago, time no longer makes sense and no one knows what’s happening anymore.”

How fitting and timely!

Here I sit “stuff-icating” in the overabundance of our blessings. This adds to my feeling of laziness and overwhelms me with where to begin — all after an ongoing purge for a full two years to date.

Yearning for the beach, with the sand in my toes, the warmth of the sun and salt on my skin, makes the chill in the air even more distinct. It’s time to add another sweater and lap blanket to my easy chair.

Walking barefoot in the sand, unencumbered by bulky layers, boots, extra socks, gloves, earmuffs and scarves, is more appealing and liberating than piling on another blanket or brewing a cup of mint tea simply so it can be held to warm my hands.

The hope of spring is near, though out of reach. Thumbing through seed catalogs with dog-eared pages marked evokes daydreams of getting my hands dirty. Anticipating the harvest of flowers, fruits and veggies is much more appealing.

Hours spent watching the busy birds carrying bits of grass, threads and other fibers to build their nests tells me we are not alone in hoping for an early spring. Peeking into the flower beds for signs of daffodils and other bulb sprouts reveals the eternal hope of the isolation of winter.

Should I plan, purge and organize, or simply adjust, sit and whine about the stuff all around me? Sometimes, it seems a little of both is in order.

Un-stufficating is indeed liberating. It is not an easy task, however, requiring total commitment and the realization that it is a journey, not simply a destination. It must become a way of life so that we can truly enjoy each day without the distraction it creates.

It is difficult for me to manage feeling positive while in the midst of chaos. Laundry appears to have been created using a giant egg beater. Sentimental sap that I am, my challenge is to let go of things that remind me of special people, places and events.

Someone suggested taking photos and ditching my treasures, once and for all. It is not the same, let me assure you. Sometimes, caressing the deteriorating items lovingly and gently and remembering is. We say we will never forget — but alas, without a tangible reminder, we often do.

These mementoes refresh my aging brain and take me back to precise spots in time. Aromas, sounds and feelings are renewed so completely that we relive them. It’s good to remember. It’s good to be selective in our memories, too, so we are not harboring old hurts and wounds and reopening them only to find solace somehow to put them to rest once again.

Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, as the old lyrics advise.

Yes, January is generally the longest month of the year — but it doesn’t have to be the hardest. Keep hope alive. Look forward to what follows. Who can you lift today? A simple phone call or text might be just what the doctor ordered for you and the recipient.

Flip that daily calendar over, because the end is in sight. After all, January is really not eternal, and Groundhog Day is just around the corner.

— A coal miner’s daughter born in Appalachia and schooled in Michigan, she currently lives in rural Athens. Hill describes herself as a cook and cookbook author, jack of all trades and master of none, a Christian wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She shares her home with her husband, Bob, and their spoiled-beyond-belief dog, Molly.

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