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Thursday, 31 December 2015

Reasonable, Real New Year's Resolutions for 2016... The Balance Between Ambition and Self) Acceptance

It's 16:25 on New Year's Eve 2015 and I've now made a few resolutions now that the precarious time that is - for me - Christmas - has passed.

One of them is, next year, cut down on the number of articles I read about making or breaking new year's resolutions, since it has taken me the whole afternoon and my iPad has nearly run out of juice watching back-to-back episodes of Jessica Jones on Netflix to figure out that - big whoop - lots of people make similar new year's resolutions, quite a lot of us do it when we're drunk, and many of us find that by January 5th (that's one day after returning to work for most) we're clambering for the chardonnay and shunning spin classes left right and centre.

Common resolutions as per Time 2012

And here are the favourites from this year, as per Time magazine. It seems that many people are, at this very moment, steaming broccoli and lentils (if you are, stop - you'll be bloated in your sparkly dress / dinner jacket later!) whilst writing their letters of resignation, practising deep breathing and mindfulness (that's assuming you're reading a self-help de-stress website and not taking a bath at the same time as you try and cook stuff), and juggling the steamer and the crochet needles. Good luck to you, good people. Hey, at least you'll be going out soon and can leave alone these worthy activities for a few paltry hours.

Seriously, people, kale chips? Just go and buy some if you're that desperate.

Just as not everyone has a great Christmas day, a whole lot of people hate New Year's Eve, and I can't say it's always been my favourite night of the year either. For one thing, the stamina I associate with a) standing up for any period of time and b) staying up past 8pm is pretty much beyond me unless I've broken my psychiatrist's golden rule of substance misuse and hit the caffeine like a fiend. And, just so you know, since I am going out tonight, I have already made it two thirds of the way through my first 500ml Coke Zero. Spoiler alert: I may make it to midnight, with a few more of those under my belt.

AT LEAST this many and I may make it

The second reason is that I've still spend most of my life as a single person, albeit that for the first fifteen of those, it was definitely acceptable, or let's even say appropriate for that to happen. I'm sure I don't need to explain that it's not exactly fun to go out on the night of the year when everyone's focused on having 'the best night ever' when you're single. That's a night built up for failure without a kiss at midnight. You've donned your sequins, followed the tutorials on how to make yourself into a new year, new you woman for the night, and you've spent far too much money for some flouncy event it'll cost you a fortune so get home from. And this is not New Year's Eve, the movie, so the likelihood that you'll meet Ashton Kutchner in the broken elevator is pretty slim (though, if that does happen to you, fair play!).

Oh Ashton, not even you can pull this look off. Enough now.

I don't know where those house parties are that have a bunch of random single people who've never met each other before. To me that's just called inviting complete strangers into your home and feeding them alcohol. Forget new year's resolutions. Just don't be a complete dimwit! Anyway, those are the parties where across a crowded room a young-ish woman (anywhere between 16 and 45, let's say) can expect to glance across the room with her newly smoky-ed luscious lids and lock eyes with someone who's vaguely in the sphere of being good looking, isn't wearing a wedding ring, and in any case looks a little bit like James Bond (i.e. is wearing black tie, which means even the pimply and puny stand a chance of romance).

Line up fellas. Tonight you too can be 
any of these short Hollywood celebrities.

My best worst NYE: 1999-2000. Not only did all the computers make it through just fine as the clocks struck midnight; not only did the 'river of fire' in no way ignite along the Thames that night. Worse. I lost one of my Patrick Cox loafers in the muddy banks of the Thames. If you're listening, old river, you owe me a loafer. I hope you're enjoying wearing it in your watery depths tonight. I can tell you it was not that much fun walking all the way back to Kennington from the south bank near Vauxhall with just one shoe. Not much fun at all. And no kiss at midnight. No Champagne either. More like a can of Tizer and a freezing cold and altogether underwhelming night. Happy New Year? Oh F off.

Seriously Jools, I think you're great, but I might just call it a night.

(Joking aside, there are much worse situations. If you're with someone you don't get on with, or who is even abusive either mentally, verbally or physically, that's worse than being alone. If you are in that situation please try to keep yourself safe and contact Refuge for support. You deserve better.) If you're in an unhappy relationship that can be a lot lonelier than being alone on any night of the year. I am lucky to be blessed with my wonderful husband. I'm so grateful to have someone by my side through all this life.

We really need to think about our priorities
Fun is fun, but we could all get a laugh watching
the Oban fireworks catastrophe of 2011

Last year I talked about the pressures of the season - that five seconds after being encouraged to shove every fatty, creamy, stodgy food down your gullet you're expected to squeeze yourself into sexy, slinky spandex and strut your funky stuff in stilettos that are far too uncomfortable to be worn even sitting down, let alone with the extra five pounds of lard you've casually added to your girth over the last few days. And that would be my own personal third reason.

You said it, Sali. 
(And apologies if you hate this avatar, 
Bitstrips didn't turn out to be quite the easy (or accurate)
avatar creator that I thought it was)

(Link to Sali's article on The Pool) I told you I'd done my reading :)

Anyway, back to new year's resolutions. What I realised reading through all the articles this afternoon is that, like everything else, new year's resolutions could do with a bit of balance to be effective. So here they are:

Overall: be more mindful and take care of my mental health so that I can achieve the other resolutions as far as I possibly can.

Yes indeed. The first resolution is about being ambitious, forward-thinking and aim for progress, but in the end achieve what I can with the right degree of balance to I can be healthy (within my control).

I haven't figured out a master plan, but what I do know is that I won't give up sharing my story with as many organisations or people who will have me. The only way we're going to normalise mental health in the workplace and the world is if we make having conversations about it easier. I believe this will help people find help earlier and easier, and hopefully make for healthier attitudes all round.

Me, jumping over rocks in a baseball cap.
I suppose it could happen.

It's not all that helpful to say to yourself, "Lose weight", or even "Lose twenty pounds by April", in my case, because I don't know whether my body will be able to do it. My medications have weight gain side-effects; my back still gets sore and my mental health is still teetering on a slender pinnacle between fine and failing, so to set targets like this aren't going to work for me.

Again, Tim, I know it doesn't look like you. Sorry. And sorry to your wife too. 
I know who wears the proverbial trousers.

I have made the above few resolutions after some thought about what I wanted to achieve in the next year, but they are longer term goals, more likely to result in success, going by what Tim Dowling suggests in his piece on fool proof new year's resolutions, published today. (By the way, Tim, in the unlikely event that you read this piece, apologies for your avatar. I tried but there's only so many things you can do with Bitstrips' avatars. I know it looks nothing like you. Sorry.)

There's a theme to them, though: that I'm going to try, but I'm also going to try not to be too hard on myself for these resolutions. They don't have definitive outcomes. That's deliberate. I've set targets that are very specific in my life before - both personally and at work, but for the next year given the delicate state of my health I want to have areas to focus on, but not milestones which - should I fall short of them - will fuel the fire of self-loathing or a sense of failure.

I'm spending tonight over the road at my local pub with my husband. The very kind manager has allowed me to reserve a table because she knows I can't stand. There will be a band, which I'm looking forward to, and I'm hoping my husband will grace me with a new year's kiss...and then tomorrow I'll get up and run the parkrun, possibly with quite the hangover. Whatever you're up to, I hope that you have a not-unhappy night, and whatever the year brings your way, please take care of yourself. Sending you love for 2016. x

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