Tag Archives: Resolutions

2017 feels like the year for a different kind of resolution

Do you get the feeling that resolutions aren’t quite in vogue at the minute? I’ve seen a lot this week about chucking out the diet plans and exercise regimes in favour of cozying up on the sofa, without trying to hang your sense of well-being on a set of tick boxes or numbers on a scale.

With all this I heartily, heartily agree. I am always anti-diet: why anyone would add voluntary self-deprivation to a month that is already going to be cold, dark, wet and hard work without any of your input, I have no idea; also I am especially anti-diet now I am shaped like a cheeseburger and basically fuelled by them too, but let’s say that’s my issue rather than yours.

And I know what the tyranny of the tick-box is like. As though powering through an arbitrary list of tasks/getting a certain number of likes/seeing the number I want on a weighing scale somehow gives me permission to be happy. It’s seductive (because it pretends to be controllable), and it’s also bull. I am more complex than any sum of my parts, worth more than a list of conditions anyone has set, even when I’ve set them – and so are you.

Still, despite all that: I believe in the power of writing things down.

It’s because some things are true but easy to forget. It’s because writing things down makes them audible, ordered, and always within reach. I was reading the other day about the earliest example of the written word – it’s a 5000-year-old clay tablet from Mesopotamia about beer rations, which only shows that human beings have been interested in the same things since always. (The tablet is the size of a computer mouse, and the British Museum has loads but has to keep baking them in a SPECIAL ANCIENT TABLET KILN to preserve them properly; I mean, the whole piece was wonderful.) Anyway, a professor of philosophy talks about how writing not only enables complex thought but calls things into being that didn’t exist before. Writing things down made it possible for us to create, and more, more vitally and wonderfully: to hold onto our creations when human chaos barges in to foul things up. As it tends to.

So I spent last night’s episode of Silent Witness (SILENT WITNESS IS BACK, YOU GUYS) carefully putting my intentions this year into writing. Nothing too prescriptive or number-driven. Pinned between ink and paper, my resolution to be kind to myself, and my husband, and my multiplying children.

Take your small kindnesses. Carve them deep into clay. Bake them hard and fast.

Until you can see them. Until they’re something real.

Off the wagon: some thoughts for 2014

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I downloaded a new to-do list app. One of the great quests of my life is to find the perfect to-do list app, one with colours and sections and the perfect cathartic scribble. This new one isn’t my life partner, but I rather like it on my home screen, because it’s called ‘Do!’

It makes me feel all resolute, seeing it there. I have a lot of big things to get done, this January, and I’m frightened to death about at least half of them, but I flick open my phone and it shouts ‘Do!’ So I do. I bring up a mental image of Heath Ledger slamming down his helmet visor in A Knight’s Tale (this is an image you should always have on standby for emergencies), and I slam down my visor and flip my medieval hair out of my face, and flipping well DO.

The busyness and scariness are two reasons I haven’t done much in the way of resolutions this year. Usually I’m all over resolutions, because I love the sense of starting again, the grip on possibility that it gives me. This year, I have an idea that it would be better for me to concentrate on one task at a time. But there is one thing I want, very much, aside from Heath Ledger’s fabulous medieval hair.

I want to be kind.

Because it is so easy not to be. Because you can’t move on the internet without tripping over piles of sarcasm, boxes of angry reaction blogs, stacks of passive-aggressive Facebook comments. I’m not very good at being out-and-out mean – too much guilt, and I can never think of something snappy in time – but when it comes to crabby irritation and sarcastic asides, I’m a ninja.

Lately I have been feeling that it would be so much more restful to stop leaping on the judgement wagon every time someone opens their mouth. If this were better worded, I would make it my mantra for 2014:

people do things for their own good reasons.

They are sat in their own set of circumstances, working with what they’ve been given, and trying their best. I don’t have to agree, or even like it much. But I do, yes, I DO have to be kind.

That applies to my toddler, too, who is doing his best to help me remember what my angry voice sounds like.

And it applies to me most of all. Someone I love once said to me, ‘the only voice in your head you should listen to is the one that speaks with compassion’. I think about that all the time. We were made to be works-in-progress. We were made to create and soar and love, and also lose tempers and slam doors and forget to take the rubbish out. Sometimes I’m standing, arms wide, at the top of the Arc de Triomphe, and sometimes I’m picking a baby’s nose with sick in my hair. The whole of my experience has made me who I am. I want to embrace it for what it is, and forgive it for what it’s not.

I just want to back off, and let it go, and pause before I say something, especially if that something is to me, in my head. And, well, be kind.

I will really try. Maybe then the rest of my list will start taking care of itself.

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Outside, the world

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The beginning is always today.

Mary Shelley

Dear universe, I would like 2013 to open our eyes.

Because one of the things I learned in 2012 was that I need more in my life than doing the dishes. It felt like Henry and I spent a lot of time indoors or buying groceries at Tesco. We played it safe, and often didn’t plan very much outside our comfort zone. It felt like a day’s work, every day, to keep the house clean and us all decently clothed and fed. Well, I can’t do that anymore. I want to reconnect with my passions. My kids will need passions of their own, which means they need experiences to be passionate about. And none of them – heaven forbid – should only have a passion for doing the dishes.

And so I want to widen the horizons of all of us. I want Tim and I to be better at getting out by ourselves so our babies know, in years to come, that we put each other first. I want to do better at organising our week, so Henry and I go further than the park around the corner. I want to watch him catch his daddy’s enthusiasm at the Science Museum. I want to go on nature walks all together. I want us to engage in service projects and help others. I want to travel, with and without offspring (Rome in the Spring? Maybe?).

For myself, I want to find a proper writing gig. I want to read things that stimulate thought and conversation. I want to play the piano. I want – oh please, please please – to go to the Hay Festival again this year.

I will be a better mother if I can use all of me to mother with, and a better wife if I can talk about something other than the laundry. And I will feel like a more unified version of myself. This year, we’re taking our domestic blinkers off.

And sometimes, I will also do the vacuuming (probably).

This is September calling. It’s time to change your life.

You guys, September is in the air. Can you smell it? It smells like freshly sharpened pencils (tm Tom Hanks).

A whiff of September is irresistible to me. Eau de New Start. I buy stationery I don’t need and embark upon life-improving projects. It’s the sort of month where I start feeling like I might want a new lampshade, because what COULDN’T you accomplish with a fancy lampshade in your living room? The Cakery Bakery project was a product of September. It’s a good month for beginning things you’ve always wanted to begin, and that is the truth of it.

Today, poorly Henry and I have been holed up in the house with rain spattering the windows. I have cleaned and thought, stopped cleaning out of boredom, restarted and thought some more. Here’s what I want from myself in the last leg of this year:

Write well. Work hard at it. Write about things that matter.

I just don’t know anything better for understanding myself and my surroundings than working it out in words. I love this little blog – it’s become something essential to me, unexpectedly – and I want to make it a place worth visiting.

Make definite, uncrossable, computerless spaces in our day.

Did you know, Henry knows how to switch on an iPhone? He can’t talk, but he can swipe. The phone signal down in Dorset was awful, and I was surprised (but not really) by how clearly I can think, how many more things I notice, when cut off from a screen. I would like to resurrect our computer-free zones and the iPhone spirit prison, and maybe September will help them stick.

Read. Poetry and all. 

A bit of literary criticism does me a heck of a lot of good, even if it’s just by myself.

Really, truly listen.

To both my boys. To the people I’ve asked how they are without stopping for an answer. For the things that are said and the things that aren’t said.

Vacuum at least once a week. Do laundry more often than that.

What?

In addition, we are planning a month of diet detox and I just feel like life would be more sparkly with at least two more notebooks and a set of coloured pens. Paperchase, you and I have a date with destiny. Let’s get this month ON A ROLL.

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