Yes my friends, it’s time to turn away from the flabulent excesses of the midwinter and look forward to a brand spanking new year. And not even just a new year, but a decade! Something I wasn’t even thinking much about until this week, seeing all the inevitable reviews of the decade in the media. The first one this millennium that we will unanimously know what to call: The Twenties.
2019 has been a pretty shit and stressful year for me, so I’m happy to turn a corner and call it something else. Overall, the decade has been a mixed bag: my mother died, my marriage broke up and I had lots of mental and physical health ups and downs. The wider socio-political world has been crazy and depressing. I’ve lost friends and I’ve made new ones. But my son was born in 2010, so when I add him to all the other good things in my life, he tips the balance well into the black.
Despite being a desperately flawed individual, I don’t really buy into all the new year, new you crap. I’ve come to realise that by this age, I’m not really going to change that much. And considering I don’t go about abusing, violating or murdering other people, then I could be a hell of a lot of worse, so I’m okay with that. I accept my faults as well as my good bits.
Acceptance doesn’t mean that you give up learning or tweaking the bits you’re not so keen on. For example, I am currently on a 30 day streak learning Gaelic on Duolingo. Gle mhath! I suspect that I will never do well at speaking it or understanding others speaking it; it’s such a complex language and sounds very different to the spellings. But maybe the next time I go up north on a trip, I will understand the place names better. And spending ten to fifteen minutes a day learning any new language is good for my middle-aged brain, so I’ll keep on going until I get better or bored.
What else? Well, like most people who have been over-indulging in food and booze during December, I am ready to start feeling healthier. And like most people, I say this every frickin’ December, start well in January and slide back into bad habits by the end of February. This time I am hoping to be different. Perhaps there is something about the concept of a fresh decade that makes lasting habit changes seem more possible. Or that it’s more essential to get a move on and make them: by the end of the next decade I will be 57 and that seems fucking OLD.
Yep, I have got the ageing FEAR. Or rather, not so much of ageing but of ageing unhealthily. At the rate I am going, by 57, I will be lucky not to be a cancer-ridden, obese, old windbag. And that is not the way I want to live my life. The other afternoon at tango, I looked around at all the gorgeous women, well into their fifties and beyond. They looked so healthy compared to overweight, sweaty me. Whenever I go dancing, I do this ‘comparing myself unfavourably to other women’ thing. It’s a horrible thing and has managed to talk me out of going dancing at times. Yet I allow myself to feel that pain instead of doing something about it. No more.
Perhaps my determination is nothing to do with the decade and are really about feelings of regret. Not so much regretting things I have done, but things that I haven’t. While doing too much of others, like drinking. The truth is that I drink too much. As a Scot, I’m not alone in this but what other people do is nothing to do with me. I’ve been using the drinking culture excuse for too long, and I’m beginning to suspect that my life might be a lot better without alcohol in it. At the very least, my health will be better. Most of all, I don’t want to keep fighting the same battles with my weight and wellbeing for another ten years.
And yet…the thought of life without alcohol is also scary. Will I become a boring, socially anxious freak that no-one wants to hang out with? Would I ever be able to sing at the karaoke again without Dutch courage? Will anyone care? No further public singing by me is no loss to the world. I sing a lot in the car, so being sober can’t stop me. I have no dancing inhibitions that require alcohol but can’t really imagine going on a date without it. Of course, people often meet for an initial coffee these days, like a pre-date screening, but as far as I am concerned these are not real dates. Not that I have any of them of them on the horizon, so I guess I can’t let that worry me.
The thing is, it’s too scary to say I will never drink again. My strategy is to start by having a dry January. Of course, I am so slack I am not starting until the 3rd after a party! It won’t be easy as there are gigs coming up in January, something that I associate with having a few beers. But my logic is that lots of people won’t be drinking next month, so it’s easier not to feel alone or anti-social. By the end of the month, I am hoping to feel the benefits enough that I will keep not drinking, one day at a time. I’ve read enough books and blogs by people who have done it this way, to know that this is possible.
We will see. It might be a case of ‘fall down seven times, get up eight’. I’m putting it here for accountability, to help motivate me. Along with doing physical things to make me feel better and take my mind off it, like going for a walk, or a swim and I’ve signed up for a free 30 day yoga challenge. Eat better food and less crap. Keep reading, write more, and what I hope for most of all, sleep better. Sound too easy? I’ll no doubt be craving a gin by this time next week, but plan to hold firm.
Anything else? I think that’s enough for now. Although I was quite taken by this list I saw on Twitter of ‘Old fashioned habits that make our lives better’:
- Reading books
- Face to face socialising
- Good manners
- Homemade cooking
- Eye contact
- Long walks
- Sharing knowledge
- Fixing what was broken
- Keeping promises
Arguably, these are still popular with people nowadays, and it is a wee bit pompous in tone. Yet, there is truth here. We are missing some of these things in the modern world. I can’t always guarantee brilliant manners, modesty or politeness, but I’ll give the rest a good go.
As for the Twenties, I wonder. The 1920’s is one of my fantasy periods of history, where in my ideal life, I would have been swanning around the bars and dance halls of the left bank of Paris, arguing with all the sexist male writers and artists in bohemian salons, while writing works of genius and wearing fabulous frocks and a chic bob. Utterly delightful.
On the downside, there was the great depression and the rise of fascism across Europe. We seem to be setting those up nicely for the 2020s already, but this time we have technology and awareness that can help us fight it. Despite this, I am afraid for the future. I’m not sure I’d take the 2020s over the 1920s but it’s what we’ve got, so we’ve just got to get on with it. And from feeling defeated and depressed about the state of the world these days, I want to move to thinking about what I can do to change things. Everything starts from a small place and I am sick of feeling powerless. We can all do things to make our corner of the world better.
Maybe in this coming decade we can reverse the trends of greed and hate that seems to have dominated the last decade. And if not, we can fucking well try.
Until next year,