By Eithne Cullen
Happy New Year! We ended 2020 on the theme of Hope and carry on our new hopes into 2021. I thought I’d start the year off thinking about the way we all make resolutions as one year ends and the next begins.
Sometimes these resolutions are made as the chimes mark midnight. At other times, they start a little later. I think lots of us resolved new habits and ways of living in 2020 as a result of Covid and these carry on into the new year with us.
A lot of people are trying ‘Dry January’ or ‘Veganuary’. Spare a thought for my friend, who bought vegetarian scotch eggs and sausage rolls before realising eggs and the cheese in the rolls are actually animal products. Others are trotting out the usual resolutions to get fit or lose weight and set themselves up for a hard start.
I have asked around to see if people are making resolutions and I’m pleased to say they seem much more considered than some I’ve heard in the past. One friend has resolved to get up earlier, realising that you can cram much more into your day before it starts to get dark. Another is going back to keeping a journal. Like me, many tried at the start of lockdown One; but are making it more manageable, this year, with a record of crafts and a simple line of journal, rather than trying to fit in the minutiae of each day. Her friend is resolving to try new recipes and widen her cooking repertoire.
Another friend is planning a New Year party in August – there’s something to look forward to – and another is decluttering…which would be a good resolution for lots of us.
Greta Thunberg is not buying any new clothes this year. This is a great resolution, which is kind to the planet and also makes us think about what we have, rather than what we think we need. I did this myself a couple of years ago and can do it again, this year; lockdown has meant most of what’s in my wardrobe hasn’t had an outing at all!
Writer friends are promising themselves they’ll work on and redraft their works in progress, seeking feedback where they need it. They’ll be taking advantage of relevant competitions and writing opportunities coming up. And some who aren’t already involved with Write On! are going to be more involved.
Like Greta Thunberg, our friend Eco Smith (David Cullen’s creation) is still working to improve the planet and our impact on it. On the last Thoughtful Tuesday page, I shared The Problem With Plastic, Part 1 here’s the second part of that problem for us. Maybe this will remind us to be a little more careful about our world, too.
Pen to Print writer, Juneha Chowdhury, has shared her thoughts about resolutions with us:
January is for many a chance to start afresh, put the mishaps of the previous year firmly behind us and look ahead with more optimism. Our circumstances might not look like they are about to change, but we are determined to fulfil goals that trigger some kind of positive transformation in our lives.
Whether it’s eating more healthily, or upping the exercise, or saving more and spending less, we all make New Year’s resolutions –some big, some small – and, noting the shortcomings of yesteryear, which failed us in so many ways, we bank on the new year to deliver. We put the pressure on January to show us the way. Notes to self are common in this month, making up at least a few of our own commandments: Thou shalt not eat sugar. Sugar is the enemy. Thou shalt kill the habit, before it destroys thee, or thou shall go on a treadmill on a regular basis; not when thou art so bored that the thought of walking in one place is the only thing that is exciting!
A couple of years back, I remember going into Wilko and filling my basket with diaries. It was actually my note (book!) to self; my way of telling my brain that, come January, I would act on organising myself better. I probably had about ten empty notebooks at home, but it didn’t matter, because they belonged to years gone by and these were for my future! I kept telling myself I was going to write down every single task this year. I had it all planned, but maybe that’s why it didn’t work! There was too much structure and not enough scope, too much ambition and not enough realism. Nowhere in this plan for the new year had I written in the bad and the ugly days, where I, like Humpty Dumpty, would have a great fall and need a bit of time and help in picking myself back up again. If I had allowed for human nature to characteristically mess up and been more forgiving towards myself, maybe another resolution would have been further down the finish line. For everyone doing the whole wishful January thing this year, here’s a note to self and one for the diary: An unfulfilled resolution is a work in progress. Look on the bright side: there’s always next year!
Another of our writers, Claire Buckle, has this to say on the subject:
I’ve never been one to make New Year’s Resolutions. To me, they seem to set people up to fail, because there’s always that fear of ‘breaking them.’ If they aren’t achieved, a person may well experience low self-esteem and frustration.
Instead, I have an idea of what I’d like to accomplish, but it’s always a realistic goal and not something I’d stress over if it weren’t reached. Often, I can go for weeks without writing and then an idea for a story will come to me, but I can’t force it. There’d be no point in resolving to produce, for example, one story a week, like so many prolific fiction writers. Likewise, I enjoy watercolours and I’d improve if I devoted more time to the hobby, but I have to be inspired to paint and that can happen infrequently. Recently, I’ve been bitten by a drawing bug and have joined an online course. I’ve always wanted to get better at this skill, but if I’d made a resolution to do so last New Year’s Eve, I know I would be telling myself off by the end of January for not getting on with it, let alone waiting until November to give it a go!
By an amazing coincidence, Holly King used the exact same words to start her piece about her thoughts on resolutions:
I’ve never been one for resolutions, probably because I never keep to them! I believe that, if you want to make a change, it will happen naturally. My biggest life changes have come at random times, like flipping a light switch on (or off).
Two things I do, though, that could count as resolutions: prompted by Goodreads’ ‘Reader’s Challenge’, I commit to reading a certain number of books during the year (in 2020 I committed to reading 24 books and ended up smashing that target with all the time indoors we had). I also create a list around my birthday, of X things to do before I get to my next birthday – so my next list will be 29 things to do before I’m 30. Some of these things are preposterous, some are really simple and achievable, some are crazy dreams, a few are always writing-related. The aim isn’t to complete the list, but to check back periodically throughout the year and see if I’ve done any of them. I’m always surprised on returning to it, how many I can actually tick off the list; especially when I remember originally scoffing at the idea of completing one.
A resolution I hope we all make in 2021 is to be kinder and more patient with each other. 2020 was hard on everyone, for so many different reasons, and we could all do with a bit of love, which, fortunately, is free to give.
In this story, Claire Buss shows us a little about how we support and sabotage one another’s intentions. I’m particularly interested in the way the characters muse about whether anyone ever really keeps them:
Sandra took a big draught on her cigarette, easing the smoke out of her mouth slowly as she regarded the queue of people waiting to go into the community centre.
“What do you reckon then? Fat club?” asked Peggy, who was leaning on the wall opposite, contemplating whether she had time for a third fag.
Sandra shrugged and ground hers out on the floor, watching as her friend lit up. “Thought you was cutting down?”
“I am. For New Years. Only smoking at work and when I’m down the club. All me smoking at home is outside now, so it don’t count.”
“Right. How many you down to, then?” Sandra asked, as she rummaged through her bag for some gum.
“Well, it’s not about how many I’m smoking. It’s about the hours that I’m smoking them, and that’s gone down by at least a quarter. Resolution made, mate.” Peggy flicked her ash on the floor.
“Do you think people ever keep them?” Sandra was watching the community hall. The doors were being unlocked and the queue of people was getting ready to enter.
“I dunno really. When’s the last time you kept one?” Peggy nudged her friend, laughing. “I said I wasn’t going to put up with Derek’s nonsense any more five years ago and here I am, about to start a new year with it all over again.”
“Yeah, but that’s big stuff that, ain’t it? You can’t just say on January 1st I’m not putting up with his shit any more. It’s more complex than that.”
Peggy sighed and ground her cigarette on the floor.”‘You coming?”
“Nah, I’m on break for another half an hour. Might go get a paper or summink. See you in there.”
‘Alright, get me a Mars, yeah?’
Sandra nodded and waited until Peggy was back inside before she furtively made her way over to the community centre doors. She slid inside and stood self-consciously at the back of the room, watching the gaggle of overweight women greet each other enthusiastically and stand in line chatting animatedly. Squaring her shoulders, she walked over to where a sign said New Year – New You!
“I’d like to join, please.”
© Claire Buss, 2018
So relax, be mindful, lose weight, sleep more, sleep less, eat less meat, eat more veg, stop smoking, write more, read more and when you’re worn out by all of the above, listen to the calming words of Palak Tewary:
A Promise To Myself
As the first of the New Year bells
I stand resolute in my good intentions
And with excitement my heart swells
Telling me that this year shall be different
Oh! I shall do as my eager mind compels
And not let boredom or weariness set in
To bid all my noble plans farewells
If I can hold a month onto these pretensions
Perchance my promises shan’t be empty shells
© Palak Tewary, 2021
Finally, my writing friend Evangeline sent this piece.It’s a reflection about how the past year has asked us to contemplate and take stock. I like its prayer-like quality and the way it asks us to stop and think, whatever our beliefs:
My friend Joan asks:
“What are Resolutions? Promises and plans we do not keep?
And from year to year without ticks they re-appear?
Wonderings and thoughts as to how to prepare for the New Year?
How do we cope with the fears, illnesses, strains, the many tiers and pain?
What are my deepest longings? Desires that I want fulfilled?
Let us take a look – Last year I resolved to do all these then suddenly!
Covid, the Pandemic came! Catapulted my outings, dreams, plans and everything changed!
Seems as though all hope was gone!
But in came resilience, new initiatives, better attitudes,
Love, caring and sharing emanated from unexpected people and places
New survival skills learnt; the human mind guided by a higher power
I have decided to rejoice when I awake! Avoid being frustrated, anxious or overwhelmed
See beauty in the things and people who surround me! Think deeply!
I resolve to seek Knowledge and love of Him who gave me this priceless gift of life
I will appreciate my healthy body, relaxed sound mind, peaceful soul,
And a loving heart to be of service to God and humanity.
The author and finisher of life and wisdom has shown me the alternative route
To which He has always been inviting me to walk, to talk, to love, to care.
I now choose and resolve to walk and be with Him forever!”
© Evangeline Vincent-Davis, 2021
I wish you all a Happy New Year and all the hope we need to see ourselves in a much better place soon.
I think lots of us resolved new habits and ways of living in 2020 as a result of Covid and these carry on into the new year with us.