It’s the beginning of the New Year, all the parties are winding down, it’s cold outside (if you live in the North) and it’s about the time when I become an unseasonable grump. My head hurts from too many late nights, my bank balance dips from travelling and eating out and all that nonsense and worst of all, I am always constantly cold so unless I snuggle up to the room heater all day, I remain a shivering mess. However, there are a few nice things to be said about a New Year. Possibilities. Ideas. A sense of blank pages and what will the future hold? Technically you could feel this way any time of the year, even May 5 if you felt like it, because the future will always be somewhat mysterious whether you’re an astrologer or a stock trader.
But no one cares about resolutions at any other time except the first week of the month, so I decided to draw up a few general—let’s call them—guidelines, to get us through 2015, this cold snap and to pleasanter weather ahead.
Resolution One: I will not click on any link that looks like it’s going to anger me because of the stupidity of the author. This morning I saw a story titled “How my marriage went wrong” and began with a woman saying, “Yes, my husband cheated on me, but I could have been a better wife.” I felt my blood pressure start to rise as I almost clicked on it, and then thought better of it. Why engage with trolls and morons this year? Stay above and out of the fray and you’ll be a better person for it.
Resolution Two: I will change the things I can. Okay, so this resolution and the next is somewhat borrowed from the Serenity Prayer that Alcoholics Anonymous uses, but it’s so relevant even for the rest of us. See someone spitting on the road? Instead of crinkling up your nose and walking by, make a stink about it. Think that your boss is taking you for granted? You’re never going to get anywhere by being silent about it. Speak up, speak more this year. Even if it IS to tell your friend that you don't care for her boyfriend. (NB: Don't do this if they're getting married, because you will then be cast in Bitch From Hell role and blamed for their marital problems.)
Resolution Three: I will be patient about the things I cannot change. Traffic jams, bill payments, the state of the country, there are some things you just cannot influence no matter how hard you want to. Again, don’t waste your breath getting angry. Take a chill pill (or a Xanax), relax and let someone else deal.
Resolution Four: I will say “no” more often. Granted, this is more often a problem for women than men, because we’ve been nicely socialised our whole lives to be useful and good and what not, but it’s an important one. Learning to say no is the same as learning to let go—you’ll have a sense of freedom, and once you get past your own mental mindblocks (“How can I tell my twelve-year-old son to make his own sandwich? He’ll think I don’t love him anymore.”) you’ll be much prouder of yourself and feel like a new person.
Resolution Five: I will be kind. Seriously people. We need more kindness. We need a world where everything is not driven by you-did-this-to-me-so-now-I’ll-do-this-to-you. We need a world where you do something nice for someone else just because, and not because of any ulterior motives. Be nice. Be kind. It doesn’t have to be a random act for a stranger either. I’m sure there’s someone you know—a friend, a family member—who could do with a little love right now. Extend your hand, and you’ll be surprised who reaches out to take it.
Resolution Six: I will be informed. This obviously doesn’t apply to you, dear reader, because you’re probably already reading this in a newspaper, but so many of us are shockingly unaware of things that are going on in this world. I propose a daily new thing, where you inform yourself about one current affair going on in the globe that you normally wouldn’t know about. By the end of the year, voila! You’re the most educated person you know.
Resolution Seven: I will have a sense of humour. Maybe this doesn’t need to be a resolution, but it still bears repeating. Let’s look on the funny side of life. We need to laugh more and often. We need to stop being offended and start being amused. Life is funnier, and sadder, and more manic than you think—but you only get one, and you only get one 2015, so to quote the poem by Mary Oliver:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to dowith your one wild and precious life?”
(A version of this ran as my Civil Society column for Financial Chronicle.)