OVER Christmas, I read a report that only a quarter of people who make New Year resolutions manage to keep them. You might ask what the point is of making them at all.
Still, the report quoted quite a credible source, YouGov, more usually given to predicting political fortunes than shoring up the good intentions of normal people like you and me.
I think, on balance, that even if we don’t make formal, checkable resolutions as such, we should use the turning of the year as a time to take stock of things, count our blessings, root out negative thoughts and try to look forward with some kind of positive life plan for 2020.
To this end, my major resolution is to appreciate the fact that I still have both my parents alive – and, at 76 years of age, as well as can be expected. I’ve stopped counting the number of friends, colleagues and acquaintances who have lost a parent or step-parent this year, including one friend whose elderly father died a few weeks after he was flooded out of his home.
Another dear friend sits watching her father struggling to speak as he battles the aftermath of a life-changing stroke; this sociable, happy-go-lucky man who loved Christmas, reduced to a twilight world at home, being looked after by his family and carers 24/7.
I’ve also seen a school-friend of my husband’s wither away; a few months ago, he died of organ failure caused by alcoholism. If visiting him in Leeds General Infirmary, where the unflinching care he received from the high- dependency unit in his final days was incomparable, wasn’t enough of a sobering experience, it has made me think carefully about any lifestyle factors that may be impacting my own health.
I’ve cut out regular alcohol consumption these days anyway, but I’ve also re-considered my diet and (lack of) exercise. Accompanied by my teenage daughter, who takes a serious, typically-millennial interest in health and wellbeing, I’ve started attending regular yoga practice on Saturday mornings. One of my resolutions is to keep this up and to remind myself that the world will still keep turning even if I take an hour or so off. It’s not selfish to put ourselves first sometimes, but most of us are guilty of forgetting that.
I’ve also resolved to be as open to new ideas as possible. And less judgmental. I’m paid to be judgmental, but it doesn’t have to mean it rules my life. I’ll be trying to practise “live and let live” a lot more next year, concentrating on renewing old friendships and building bridges with far-flung family members, which is being helped by my interest in genealogy.
If you’re looking for a new hobby for 2020, I’d recommend taking a look at your family tree. There’s nothing more grounding than learning about the struggles your great-great grandparents had to endure. It makes you very grateful for the National Health Service and the Equal Pay Act, that’s for sure.
However, quite a lot of these new ideas are coming closer to home, from my own son and daughter, who are 17 and 14. Unless you want to end up as the madwoman in the attic, it’s not feasible to live a closeted, inward-facing life when you have spirited young people sharing your space.
It seems like every day I’m challenged on one belief or another – suitable things to have for tea, blue-dyed hair and how to drive correctly, just as a snapshot – but I’m determined to let them develop their own views on life unfettered.
I’m also keen to ensure that they see as much of the world as they possibly can. I’ve already thrown caution to the wind in a fit of pre-Brexit jitters and booked a few overseas family adventures for 2020; I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Venice again this summer, because as the world faces environmental threat, we can no longer take anything for granted, even irreplaceable World Heritage Sites.
However, this sense of slight abandon segues interestingly with my recent determination to set out an actual life-plan, instead of bumbling along hoping that somehow things will work out, as I have done for my entire adulthood. To this end, I’ve been keeping a close eye on my modest pension pot and monitoring its performance regularly. As I approach my mid-fifties as a self-employed sole trader, security is more important than ever.
There you go then. It’s hardly the most thrilling list of resolutions you’ll come across as 2020 dawns, but that’s another thing I’m keen to cultivate. Achieve what you believe to be achievable and appreciate the things you do have – not the materialistic and disposable things you think you should.