January is for Schadenfreude
(the secret to a having a wonderful month)
I love January! It’s my favourite month of the year, providing me with endless hours of joy and happiness, without even having a drink. Although I do drink. I leave ‘Dry January’ in the Sahara Dessert where it belongs.
And no, I have not relocated to sunny Australia (where it’s summer and everyone is hot). I live in miserable London, where January resembles a bowl of old porridge; cold and grey, with a thick skin of despair forming over it.
I wasn’t always this jubilant. In the past I too, believed in the sanctity of ‘January hatred’. Its arrival would have me moaning, head spinning (a la Linda Blair in the EXORCIST) and green projectile vomiting – after being possessed by the ‘excessive food and non-stop alcohol consumption’ demon.
Everything changed when my German grandmother (Oma) took pity on me and disclosed the secret of transforming January into a Danish Hygge (which is a concept of joy and cosines), with a tiny Teutonic touch.
All one has to do is follow three simple steps during this long winter month:
1. Eat Apple Strudel
2. Read the German classics (OK, maybe skip this one)
3. Enjoy Schadenfreude
Yes Schadenfreude! Whatever you think of the Germans – no other nation has taken so much time and energy exploring the nature of human spirit’s nastiness. (*)
Hence Schadenfreude: ‘pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune’.
Feeling guilty because you’ve drunk too much? In fact, it’s January 15th and you’re still drinking? Don’t fret! I wait for recycling day and take a peek at my neighbour’s empty bottles and count: prosciutto (12), wine (10), vodka (2) plus so many beer cans I lose track. Yuppie!! Some people really have a drinking problem! Better open that Rioja bottle to celebrate.
Does your skin look like something out of ‘SWAMP THING – THE MOVIE’? Mine does. I haven’t drunk H20 (in crude form) since the last millennium (do ice cubes count?) and my complexion looks like a corrugated cornflake. Do I panic and go on one of those stupid detox diets? Of course not. Instead I Google ‘bad skin’ and make a detailed comparison. Elated I say to myself ‘Compared to that – my skin is fit for an Elizabeth Arden advert’.
You’re broke. Skint, wiped, ruined, in the red, NO DINERO. Even the ‘Save the Dolphin’ credit card refused your application.
This situation used to drive me into a frenzied shopping spree that would leave me even more in debt and feeling terribly guilty. Thanks to schadenfreude I now shop like I have millions! Because guess what? It’s not MY PROBLEM anymore! As bankers say (and trust me I know, as I WAS a banker):
‘If you owe a small amount of money – you worry about the bank.’
‘If you owe a copious amount of money – the bank worries about you.’
As the old saying goes: ‘You can’t take it with you’ – and that includes debt.
Over Christmas you realize everyone else is better off? Hear hear! My older sister has bought her second home, little sister is in the Bahamas on vacation and my brother’s third book on surfing has just been published. I was the one that told him he should write the first one! Does he remember? So I can get some royalties? Nope. Not even a ‘SISTER I OWE YOU MY LIFE’.
Do I mope, blame it on January and fall into deep depression? No I do not. What I do is drive to a ‘Welcome Break’ (the one on junction 15th off the M1 is my favourite) and watch the world go by. Parents fighting, children screaming, grandparents wishing they were in the hole rather than face what they have created. It’s a glorious reminder that compared to many a soul in the human race – I’m winning!
Finally – are you freezing cold? Call someone in Scotland and you will feel delightfully euphoric and radiantly warm!
Schadenfreude in January. Because you’re a winner.
Sonia Aste is a comedian who loves January.
(*) For almost 300 years, the German novel has used everything from history to philosophy to war to explore the nature of the human spirit.