I hate making New Year’s resolutions. I don’t smoke or drink so there is not much to give up and expecting me to no longer indulge in chocolate prompts me to consider death as an option. Frankly, no meaningful change in my life has ever happened on the first of January anyway. In the past I have steadfastly refused to make any specific commitments at this time, knowing full well that the most I can hope for, as my daisy daughter says, is ‘still being here next year.’
Yes, I know I should exercise more and a swear jar in the house is a grand idea. Being on time for weekday mass in order to avoid the bench of shame at the back of the church would be good discipline and I could do with less lard on the aging body but hey, as my mom used to say, the pork plumps up the wrinkles. The most weight I ever lost began when I decided on a random Thursday in October once that it was time I discovered the elusive thigh gap– and even then the fat didn’t stay off. Let’s face it, the neighbourhood is not ready for me to be pounding the streets in neon Spandex anyway. (Have I protested enough?)
These are things I do plan to avoid in 2016 however:
- No more answering my phone when ‘private number’ comes up. It is always some perky salesperson trying to make quota, who is all sweetness and light until you say you are not interested in the policy/ credit card/ new charge to come off your existing maxed out store card. Then they transform into Grumpy Cat.
- Ignore Facebook messages suggesting that if I re-post a photo of a Range Rover/ resort/ airline. Let’s face it (get it?!) Mark Zuckerberg is NOT going to be calling me with share options on 1 January.
- Buying chocolate (so if someone generously donates that delectable vege it’s ok). The lady still loves Milk Tray. Okay I admit this sounds like those pathetic attempts to stop smoking: ‘I won’t actually buy any’ (i.e ‘I’ll just leech off others.’) but it’s a move in the right direction.
My wish list is extensive. I’ll never really look like Audrey Hepburn; I doubt I shall be able to boast on Facebook about my new motor vehicle with its ostentatious red bow from the factory (jealous much?), and although I would like to be able to bully Liam until he has mastered the correct use of subject and object pronouns, that is largely frowned upon by the parent police these days. However I shall be going to Paris and Venice on a much-delayed honeymoon and I have a fabulous new job to start in the New Year. How cool is that?! I can dream of myself as Audrey Hepburn doing Europe in glamour…
Reassessing one’s life is a good idea though so I’m not knocking the making of resolutions per se. Improving oneself is important. But take this meme doing the rounds currently:
Am I the only one who sees the irony in this? Yes I think it is vital to make an appointment with yourself regularly to re-charge those failing Duracell bunnies, but surely focussing on oneself entirely is not ‘improving oneself.’ I am not suggesting that we all rush out and work at The Haven Night Shelter or join Greenpeace (although those are jolly good ideas), but a humanistic focus on ‘self’ and the individual is what is hurting our world. Improving oneself should require one’s seeing of the other and that’s a whole different Chinese shop of dresses. Because being other-centred calls us out of our self-obsession.
I was so impressed to hear about the Syrian refugee community in the UK who have pitched in to help Manchester’s folk combat the floods.
And the story of a patron in an American restaurant who paid for a Muslim family’s meal.
That’s surely what makes the year on the planet better, but I don’t know one can plan for it by resolving to be more philanthropic. I mean no one sits down and says, ‘Gee this year I shall help out when there is a flood/ drought/ injustice on Facebook (insert token cause here).’ These things tend to be prompted by need in others and are inspired, I believe, by the urging of the Spirit. But there is certainly NO way that resolving in January to have a ‘selfish year’ focussed on ‘self-improvement’ can make any difference at all. Self-improvement MUST involve reaching out to others in my view. Such a self-involved January intention cannot possibly envisage, let alone plan and execute works of kindness and assistance. So if I intend to make any resolution at all, it will be to be alert to the nudges of Holy Spirit towards the needs of others.
It’s the lonely child on the bench at school; the random stranger one smiles at; the beggar whose eye we meet rather than pretending to rummage in the cubbyhole at the lights; the rights of the defeated which we uphold and the child for whom we put down our phone to listen to. I hope I can give the gift of myself this year, no matter how trite that may sound. And to do that I need to look up and out, not only inwards. Or else I shall miss those opportunities to pay it (love) forward.
I hope in the busyness of my new position and the running of the home that I can find time to be present to my family and make time for my friends. I tend to become so driven and single-minded that like many teachers, my own children’s gripe is that I love my school children more than them. So as much as I intend to channel my inner Audrey Hepburn (the humanitarian not the skinny film star part – because that would involve a more austere chocolate resolution) https://youtu.be/qQ-8wyFfVbE, I must also remember my own UNICEF duties at home and pray that this time next year the world is a little better with me in it.