So it’s almost the beginning of a lovely, shiny new year. Out with the old and in with the new. Time to reflect on what’s been happening, where we want to go and make plans for the fabulous person we failed to become last year. What a lot of crock.
Getting older, I have noticed two things about New Year, or Hogmanay as we call it’s eve in Scotland. Firstly, that no-one over the age of 30 can be arsed staying out all night partying. The very idea of standing in a mile long taxi queue of drunkards in the city centre, in the wee small hours, fills me with dread. Travelling anywhere after midnight is akin to one of the seven circles of hell, so unless rich enough to have a car and driver waiting outside, being able to walk home is a good idea, if you go out.
Many opt to stay in, often going to bed before big Ben rings out at midnight. As a parent of a young one, I get this. I also get that sometimes, the expectation of relentless fun which must be had by all, is utterly depressing. The idea of staying at home alone and getting drunk in front of Jools Holland can be infinitely more pleasing. And house parties can be fun, if you like the people and you can walk home. See above.
This year, I am going out, finding myself single and child free, and in Glasgow, for the first time in a decade. In Paris, the streets and bars and cafes are full of people enjoying Hogmanay all through the night, but you will rarely see many drunk people. In Glasgow, you will see very few sober people, although they will mostly be good natured. Unless a fight breaks out at a taxi rank. See above.
On Monday evening, I dropped my son off at his dad’s for his trip to Paris to see his other family, and it was tough. Another first, to be alone at new year, even if it’s only for a few days. In some ways, no different to any other weekend he has been away, in others, completely different, because of the time of year. Coming home to an empty flat and seeing his wee Lego people on the table was a killer. These are the things that all separated families must face, and I am hopeful that they become easier as time goes on. On the positive side, we all had a lovely Christmas together and that’s the most important thing for children.
In the event, I simply battened down the hatches until the next day. I went face down in a pile of cheese and wine, Netflix and Jackie Collins novels and came up smiling yesterday. The healing powers of fromage and funny filth are not to be sniffed at. Oh, and this evening I will be following my own advice, stepping out for a small libation at some of the local bars, which have music, free entry and the bonus of being ten minutes stepping distance from home. Chin chin!
The other thing I have noticed about new year of late, is that people in real life are less and less likely to ask you what your resolutions are, even though the media is full of it. Look back, look forward, write down your goals and the steps you need to achieve them. Get healthy, join a gym, now is the time to start working towards that beach body!! And so on, until you want to throw your phone in the bin, or set fire to all the newspapers.
Of course it makes sense that we use markers such as calendar dates, to reflect on where we are going in our lives. We often use it as a way of putting things behind us: that ‘I just need to get this year over with’ thinking. I have been guilty of that in the last two years, allowing myself to indulge in bad habits ‘just until the end of the year.’ In the end, all this does is keep you chained to practices that don’t serve you for a bit longer.
But what if a year was 730 days instead of 365? Would we accept that things take time to change and be kinder to ourselves? Would we realise that we can’t control the past, or the future? The only thing we have is the present. It’s the only time we can change anything, right now, in the moment.
Having pondered these matters almost constantly in my head over the last few years (turning 40 really is a milestone worth reflecting on) and frequently on this blog over the last year, here is the benefit of my wisdom, such as it is.
- Fuck the New Year resolutions. January is a bastard of a month, and the best way to get through it is to ease in, using this cunning formula which I have just invented. Eat approximately half the food, drink half the alcohol and do double the amount of exercise you did in December. There will still be joy in the bleak midwinter and you will be at least 200% healthier than you were this month. And if you live near Glasgow, get yourself to some amazing gigs at the Celtic Connections music festival. All tickets under 30 bucks and many under 20. A true joy.
- Think about your so-called goals. They are probably the same ones you had last year, that you may have failed to achieve. Why? Because achieving things is hard work, which is why everyone wants to win the X Factor, or be discovered in some way. Everyone else who is a super success has worked their arse off, unless they are members of the over privileged classes. They’ve slogged at this since they were young, or if they’ve changed careers, they’ve spent hours in further learning or experiences on top of their normal life, until they can afford to make the switch.
- Ask yourself the question, am I prepared to put in the work to achieve these goals, in addition to the work I have now? Answer honestly. If the answer is no, ditch the goal. You will only use it as a stick to beat yourself through the coming months. If you are not prepared to pound the pavements every other day, you won’t be able to run a marathon in six months’ time. If you are not prepared to show up to the blank page every other day, you won’t be a writer. Maybe your goal is too ambitious. Scale it back. It’s better to aim for overall health for example, than saying you want to weigh nine stone or fit into a size eight.
- Think about change. If you are not prepared to change, you won’t achieve any of your goals, it’s that simple. To make room for the new, we need to let go of the old, something we fear. Better the devil you know, as the saying goes. And this change is not always something that you plan for, and do in three months’ time to change your life. For most of us, it’s about small daily choices: stay in bed or go to the gym, say yes or no to that glass of wine, watch TV or do something more engaging, eat, or don’t eat the muffin. Keeping it small and daily makes it easier for us, less terrifying. And again, this is all about the present. We need to stop planning and do it now.
- My final point is the most important, and one I need to work on. By all means, have your dreams and plans, but don’t start from a position of thinking that your failure to achieve these things means that you are faulty in some way. You’ve just taken a bit longer to find out where you are going than some. The carrot is always better than the stick. Remember that even as the ‘imperfect’ you, you are loved. Be kind to yourself. You are enough.
For me, I’ve already worked out what I need to work on, what I won’t work on and what I will. All of these things require discipline and effort. Everything else has gone in the bin. I’ve been desperate to get through another tough year, when the truth is, years are just days run together. 2015 has no animosity towards me, neither does 2016. At times, I feel that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, but this is possibly an ageing thing. All the years are what you make of them, whether you have grand ambitions or are happy, just the way you are.
On that note, I hope that you make 2016 a good year for you and I’ll see you on the other side.
Until next time,