Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Following Are NOT New Years' Resolutions...

Yep, now that Christmas is over it's that other Time Of The Year again.

You know the one; that one where you make yourself all kinds of crazy promises which you then spend the rest of the year breaking and making yourself feel like crap. I'm talking, of course, about the New Year, and our species' somewhat masochistic response of making New Year's Resolutions to mark the occasion.

It's a not even a particularly logical thing to do when you really analyse it. I mean, I know our calendar says that, on January the 1st, everything that's gone before in the last 365 days officially 'ends' and a brand new set of 365 days 'starts'... but does planet earth feel that way too? I doubt it. It's just us, the little evolved-monkey-people, deciding that's the way everything works. It could all just be a good excuse to get drunk and behave like idiots all at the same time and for the same reason, of course. Nothing wrong with that; why not, life is for living so bring it on and all that. But that obviously wasn't good enough for some hand-wringing do-gooder somewhere. No, they had to inject some worthy into the mild debauchery and thus the concept of New Year's Resolutions was born; set yourself all sorts of high-minded, self-improvement-y goals for the rest of the year while you're too deliriously wazzered to even slur the words to 'Auld Lang Syne' properly. Yeah - perfect time to think about how to sort your life out and become a better person, that is. Genius move.

If you detect the bitter tang of cynicism in those words, I'm not going to deny it. This is because every time I've ever made a New Year's resolution on or around the actual New Year's Day, I have not only spectacularly failed to keep it but actually achieved the direct and dismally opposite result to what I had resolved to do. The year I resolved to stop agonising about my less-than-sylphlike body and finally learn to 'love myself' for who I was? Yeah, well that was the same year I went on to become anorexic, so that went well... (don't panic, that was a loonnnnng time ago now.) But, in the interests of balance, when I resolved to lose all my post-baby weight some years later I actually put on another two stone instead, so at least it worked both ways, eh?

(I have since got back to a healthy weight, in case you're wondering. Not my ideal weight, obviously, since Media-Land is constantly telling me that if I have any sense I should be craving a size-zero body, and all the time I'm just an ordinary, under-confident female devoid of movie-star cheekbones who am I to argue with their 'wisdom'? But I'm digressing - where was I? Oh yeah...)

All of which has shown me that New Year is not the optimum time to make big changes to my world. I think when you take a Big Event and try to attach Self-Improvement Goals to it, there's a tendency to shoot for the moon rather than take more manageable baby steps to the same desired result. For example, at any other time of the year you can say "I'm going to stop buying chocolate biscuits and walk down to the supermarket instead of taking the bus" and do that with very little fuss or tears.

But at New Year - fueled by alcohol and communal belief in the 'oh-my-god-that-completely-arbitrary-switch-is-gonna-flip-any-second-now' - those simple statements somehow morph into "I'm going to get into a pair of size ten jeans by next December!" Because next December's ages away from now, isn't it? Heck, you've given yourself a whole year to achieve that goal, so it's not unrealistic at all...

Except it is, because it focuses on the desired result rather than the process needed to achieve the goal. There's no plan there - it's all about the reward. And that's the kind of thinking you often get into when you're:

a) Feeling like the world (and, in some subtle way, you) is a little bit crap at the moment - i.e. in the winter if you're north of the Equator, when it's cold and dark for a long time every day.
b) Feeling like 'time is running out' or 'life is passing you by' - i.e. at that solely-human-decided moment when the timer dings and the whole universe starts all over again, for another 'year.'
c) Aware that squillions of other people (most of the ones in your immediate vicinity and indeed a sizeable proportion of your hemisphere) are feeling exactly the same way as you are, right now, for the same reasons. Oh, the camaraderie - we must all be in this together!

And so I have not made any New Year's Resolutions and do not intend to do so. That's not to say I don't have any goals to aim for; I've certainly got those, but they are the same as they were last year, and remain ongoing from the non-New-Year-moment I first made them. I shall continue working on The Renegades and not give up on it, I shall remain committed to the conditions of the Writing Contract I first drew up for myself over a year-and-a-half ago, and I shall continue to think of myself as 'a writer' even though I may not have reached the status of say, Stephen King or Chuck Wendig or any other 'properly famous' writers yet. Yeah, they're just baby steps towards big dreams. But I can do them.

If you are planning to make resolutions yourself, I am cheering for you right now - no really, I am. Goals are good; if you don't fire off them arrows you are nothing but a person standing around with a twangy stick and some pointy sticks. However, you also can't call yourself an archer until you've spent some time practising with those twangy and pointy sticks. Keep it real and I reckon you'll be okay.

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