As eagerly welcomed as a two weeks overdue baby, 2014 has arrived. Finally and this year I am bucking the world-weary trend of "resolutions don't work" and "it's the wrong time of year really, studies show you should wait til Spring" ( studies, schmudies, there's always one that'll show whatever it is you want to hear), I am undertaking not one, not five, not ten but twenty-eight New Year's Resolutions. Twenty-eight minor laws against my unruly self, as Alain de Botton describes them. A resolution, he writes, is "is a voluntary abdication of our freedom and immediate gratification in the interests of a higher goal. As such, it is a symbol of civilization, defined as an institution which regulates our wilder, more destructive desires for the sake of the common wealth and our own flourishing."
Rather than list them all here, because some of them are none of your business, I shall outline the basic premise. The twenty-eight resolutions are made up of three sets of nine resolutions and one Overall Resolution; a kind of One Resolution to Rule Them All. So we have:
9 Resolutions that are Daily Actions.
9 Resolutions that are Weekly Actions
9 Resolutions that are Monthly Actions
and The Big One, which this year is that I solemnly undertake to Trust my Own Intuition. It's not that I will refuse or ignore all advice, rather that I am going to give myself the biggest say, and the final say. There is not greater regret than the feeling that I should have gone with my gut. Intuition doesn't have to be a fleeting thought, it can be the result of bothering to do some research, or the result of following my own principles. I quite like Jeanette Winterson's resolution that "you don't have to play by other people's rules but you have to play by your own."
The Daily Actions are the most boring, but also of course the most effective. Some are not new at all, but resolutions to continue with things I've been doing like the 10-minute tidy-up. Others are to do with health like "Do some form of exercise" and "Cook a proper dinner, which by definition does not come from the chilled-food cabinet". I'm postponing giving up Diet Coke until Lent, but do resolve to drink more tea. And to feed and hydrate my mind by reading fiction and anything not shelved under Self-Help.
Weekly Actions will perhaps be the hardest to stick to. I've included going to the gym, which I re-joined yesterday. I know I really should be going more than once a week, this is only in there as a minimum. Another weekly action is to check in on the numerous on-line dating sites of which I'm a member. This is a chore but You Never Know. And to carve out time for myself to write. Carve out of what? Empty space half the time. So first I must fill the time before I can start the carving, because it is doing stuff besides working, sleeping and tweeting that provides the raw material.
So what am I planning on doing at least once a month? Buying a real, new novel or book of short stories and reading it. And leaving the county. The county is here defined as anywhere that under and hour's drive from my house. It's amazingly easy to let weeks and then months go by without leaving it. But I resolve to cross the county bounds at least once in every calendar month. I'm in the lucky position of living in a small city, set within a big county. Small cities are great; there's enough to do, a good variety of distractions, ample consumer opportunities (although these have come to be dominated by the British multiples) and easy access to the seaside. It's urban, just about, but still the country in lots of ways. But it's not Ireland, and there's lots to see and do out there, and people to visit who don't live here, or even near here. I'm undecided whether to count going abroad as leaving the county, but I think I won't count it as the months I leave the country also tend to be the months I've more than enough time to leave the county as well.
Thee are my humdrum resolutions. Wish me luck, motivation and resolve. I've also decided to go back to Gretchen Rubin's idea of monthly themes. This month's Theme is Waste and the reduction thereof. Will let you know how I get on.