Watching “Gardeners World” on the TV there’s an interview with a “snowdrop expert”, which makes me immediately question all of my life choices.
Finding motivation and sustenance in something so niche is incredibly inspiring and a reminder, if one were needed, that there is almost infinite material to enjoy at our literal fingertips every single day of our short lives.
While eating dinner on Wednesday, my daughter says we have to discuss our hopes for 2024.
“Why? There are five days left before January?” I say, trying to kick the subject into the long grass.
“Because it’s the last time we’ll be together before New Year.”
She heads back to Uni tomorrow and her brother and his girlfriend leave the day afterwards.
A glorious week of family time I’d anticipated with excitement for the past month is, as always, behind me in the blink of an eye.
My daughter tells us that her resolution is the same as it was last year, to do one pull-up, because she didn’t manage it this year.
“I’m going to target two,” she adds in a bold “double or quits” move.
I am so against New Year resolutions because I believe them often to be a product of “ought to” rather than “want to”, and that’s where they fall down. Why wait until January 1st to make a positive change in your life? Why not February 3rd or August 16th?
I often ask my emotionally strung-out clients,
“How much of your life is lived according to what you want to do rather than what you think you should do?”
Most identify an imbalance toward the latter, so recalibrating is a decent resolution at any time because change only sticks when you really want it.
New Year resolutions tend to comprise the things we believe we should be doing, which is why gym car parks are impossible to get into through the first half of January before they ease significantly when everyone realises they don’t enjoy lifting weights and running steep inclines on treadmills and have white-knuckled it for three weeks which is quite long enough, thank you very much.
“What did I say I was going to do last year?” I ask my daughter.
“You said you were going to do less.”
“Oh yeah, I’ve done that.”
Even that modest achievement has recently been the source of some surprising shame and awkwardness alongside a whole heap of gratitude.
Last week, during some training with other therapists, we were discussing ways in which we can take better care of ourselves in 2024.
I found myself struggling to think of anything much which I felt ashamed of admitting to colleagues who are completely exhausted.
Having left the corporate world many years ago specifically to create a better balance in my life I made sure to do so.
The fields I used to longingly gaze into from the queues I sat in on motorways are the same ones I now stand in to watch the queuing cars, grateful that I am no longer amongst them.
In a sense, I have been winding down for a decade and a half at least, but “winding down” does not have to mean “less”, it can also mean “different” because not everything takes energy from us. Sometimes doing things, the right things, replenishes it.
Fortunately, I love my work, so that’s a big help and, if you can pull it off, I’d recommend it as a solid foundation for whatever it is you build on top.
When I said last year that I wanted to “do less” what I meant was that I wanted to spend my time in different ways.
I read many more books this year, went on a lot of wonderful walks with the dogs, wrote a lot, and spent more time trying to grow vegetables in my garden, a task made much easier by having a hammock to retire to for a little cry when my heritage carrots came up looking like pencils and the slugs wouldn’t stop eating my cabbages.
So this year, I’m going to do more of the things I don’t feel a need to be good at. Not necessarily to get better at them but as a way of expanding my horizons.
Just recently I took part in a collaborative fiction writing project on Substack and learned that I cannot write fiction.
I’ve also just signed up for a 30-day collaborative drawing project which will no doubt raise eyebrows amongst those who know me best because I am notoriously bad at any kind of drawing. If I am your partner in a game of “Pictionary” you have drawn the short straw, which is handy because I can’t draw a short straw.
So, if you are still intent on making resolutions I think you can distil the questions worth asking about sustainable change in your life into the following,
What do I want to hold onto?
What do I want to let go of?
What am I unsure about?
I want to hold onto the comfort I feel in my own company and the joy I find in the things that capture my interest and which seem to increase with every passing year, just like the snowdrop expert. She is the new benchmark.
I’d also like to hang onto my health which means I am happy and invested in doing most of the things that might make this more likely, although this does not include going to the gym.
I want to let go of my tendency to be too solitary and disconnected and of my infuriating habit of buying stationery.
I am unsure about my codependent and largely toxic relationship with social media. I hate much of it but enjoy that my children use it to send me amusing videos and value the time I spend longingly staring at dogs who need to be adopted patiently waiting for the day when I feel I can take on another one.
I’ve written about New Year resolutions quite a few times, but perhaps those three questions I’ve set out above are my best effort so far at suggesting a worthwhile route towards sustainable change. If you can answer them honestly you’ll only find yourself in the gym if you want to be there and that will be a big help to all the people trying to find parking spaces through January.
So, with that, I’ll bid you farewell and wish you a peaceful transition into 2024. I’ve got my eye on some pens and a sketchbook for my new drawing class and still have 14 hours to buy them.