I hate the New Year and here are my resolutions

My pledges for the year ahead reflect my fundamental dislike of any and all major changes


A woman jogs past Buckingham Palace in central London on May 26, 2020, as lockdown measures are eased during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

January 07, 2021 11:11

I have never been a fan of New Year. I don’t mean Rosh Hashanah, which is far and away my favourite Jewish festival. I mean the other one — the horror that is January 1. 

When I was a young thing, for many years I was virtually teetotal and New Year’s Eve encapsulated everything I disliked about drinking: party-goers didn’t just relax and have a few drinks but knocked back alcohol solely to get completely sloshed. On more than one occasion — a club, a party, a pub — a complete stranger suddenly swooped in to kiss me and, when I recoiled, said “But it’s New Year’s!” Oh, that’s right, it’s December 31 – I’d forgotten that means of course I want to snog some strange bloke I’ve never even seen before. 

But the aspect I’ve always disliked far above all else is the idea of New Year’s resolutions. As a descendant of serious pessimists on both sides (our family motto: “Every silver lining has a cloud”), the prospect of making resolutions seems as if I’m setting myself up for an entire year of nothing but failure and disappointment. 
I suspect that part of the problem might be over-ambitious goals. I need to cut my coat according to my cloth, as the old saying goes. With this in mind, my resolutions for this year have been tailor-made to suit someone with zero willpower, precious little stamina, and a fundamental dislike of any and all major changes.

Losing weight

Having lost weight a couple of years ago, it bounced back with a vengeance in 2020. As I am contrary by nature, telling myself I’m not allowed something only makes it more alluring, so no lists of forbidden foods. When we were directed only to go shopping for essential supplies during the first lockdown, I insisted that this included chocolate because I start to feel panicky if there is none in the house (not even where my secret stash resides in the salad drawer beneath the greenery – terrain apparently unexplored by both husband and son). 

I also adore bread. Pesach is genuinely a very, very difficult week for me. At Seder night, all I have to do is think about the fact that breakfast will be yoghurt or matzos for a week and it brings me to tears. No need for maror.

Resolution: Only eat bread every other day, so if I had it yesterday, then none today. Chocolate: maximum ration, two squares.

Taking exercise
With the temperature dipping dramatically, my outdoor sessions with a personal trainer have come to a halt (it’s him, he’s a wuss – obviously I’d soldier on even in a 6ft snowdrift. I’m so keen). I did return to the gym when it re-opened briefly, though I spent so much time sanitising everything – rowing machine, mat, weights, etc – I’m not sure I was doing a lot of exercise.

• 10-15 mins stretching/Pilates first thing every morning (I started this during lockdown and have stuck at it, so having it as a resolution is a bit of a cheat. But I need at least one thing I think I can actually do.)
• Walk every day, regardless of what the weather is doing. 

One thing I discovered about myself during lockdown is that, despite all the Sturm und Drang I create about my work, with multiple work-avoidance strategies honed over the years, writing is unquestionably good for me. It helps keep me sane. It’s as simple as that. Whether I’m working on a book with a deadline (I got the first stage of edits on my next novel to my editor at 10pm on Christmas Eve as she wanted it “by Xmas”), this column, or a back-burner project that currently has no contract or deadline, it helps.

The act of scribbling my thoughts down on paper, or typing them on my laptop, makes me feel better than when I don’t do it — even when it takes me an age to get going, even when I read it back and think, “who wrote this drivel?” — still the process itself seems to help me.

Resolution: Write something every single day (not a shopping list).

This is an area where there is massive room for improvement. I often catch myself in the act of whingeing (internally – even I don’t want to listen to it) about problems and disappointments instead of appreciating the good aspects of my life. I get grouchy about knee pain, for example, instead of feeling grateful that I live in an age where advances allowed me to have partial knee replacements. Without that surgery, I’d be walking with sticks by now. 

My inner cynic (actually not very inner) tends to snort derisively when I read a phrase like “Take a few moments at the end of the day to reflect on something for which you feel grateful.” I like the idea but not the wording. I can see there is merit in pausing to consider the good things we have: my amazing son, my best friend (husband), somewhere nice to live, green space to enjoy, a relatively safe country, and a government that has proved to be merely inept rather than totalitarian. 

Resolution: When I go to bed, I will remind myself of at least one good thing that happened that day.

So I have set myself these very modest resolutions because, after the challenges of 2020, the resolution we all need to follow, more than any other, is to be kind to ourselves and not to expect too much. And if that rouses your inner cynic, I can only apologise. 

Claire Calman’s novel, ‘Growing Up for Beginners’, recommended by both pessimists and Pollyannas everywhere, is out now. Twitter: @clairecalman

January 07, 2021 11:11

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