Okay, I've got an axiom (or two) to grind. First, I believe that my life is more satisfying and fulfilling if I take control of it. I don't mean I have to control everything. But I'd rather be swimming in some direction or other (my internal jury is still out on whether there are any objectively "good" or "bad" directions) than just floating down the stream like a bit of driftwood. Or, if I drift, I'd rather it was because I'd decided to drift than because my arms and legs were tied to my sides (or, worse, because I had convinced myself that they were tied). Second, I believe that sometimes getting up and walking around is necessary to stop your legs going to sleep, even if you have nowhere in particular to go; and that you're more likely to find an interesting direction to go in if you wander around than if you stand still and stare at your shoes.
I mean, by all means feel free to stand still and stare at your shoes. Or my shoes, if you prefer. They're very nice shoes, actually, if I say so myself. So nice, in fact, that I'm quite prepared to believe that it's possible to be comforted, pleased, amused, inspired, or enlightened by them; perhaps they are shoes which can change somebody's life. But I still think if you wander around a bit, even just around your room, you'd be more likely to see a nice pair of shoes, if shoes are what float your boat.
Given those things, I find that setting myself goals and making resolutions is a bit like saying "I'll just walk to that lamppost there". The lamppost isn't very interesting (at least, I can't see any fauns nearby). But it's a destination, and I haven't been there yet, and who knows what I'll find on the journey? I might find that my feet hurt, and walking doesn't suit me, and decide to cycle instead, or fly, or bounce all the way there on a space-hopper; I might decide halfway there that I don't give a damn about the old lamppost, and I'm going to sit down in the nice spot I've got to and have a picnic; I might decide to run there just for the fun of it; I might run right on past it and chase the butterfly I noticed on the way instead. I might find that even just thinking about the lamppost makes me cross, and decide to go with my gut feeling, turn round and go back the other way.
Or I might arrive at the lamppost to find that I've already scratched my name into it, leading me to believe that I must have been there before, though I didn't remember it, not even in a dream.
But even given all that, why New Year? It's just an arbitrary point in an arbitrarily-constructed system of marking time, which is arbitrarily assigned importance by the people who arbitrarily chose to follow it. (Did we mention it was arbitrary?) No, it's no different from every other day, any more than Mondays are different from Fridays, or your birthday is different from your 364-or-thereabouts unbirthdays. And some people choose not to mark birthdays, or anniversaries, or festivals. Some people don't have to take any notice of weekdays and weekends. That's all well and good. And yes, I could just as easily make those resolutions any other day.
Tomorrow, for instance.
And there's the rub. Tomorrow turns into the next day turns into the next month turns into hang on a minute it's New Year again and I never did get round to doing that thing. Perhaps I should resolve to pick another day as the point for kickstarting my motivation, or pick a day at random each year, just to prove that I can. Maybe one year I'll pick that as a random lamppost of a destination. But I don't believe it's actively harmful to use the New Year as a day on which to think about where I am and where I'm going, and so far it seems to have worked...
... at least, in part.
And now for the boring dissection of last year's resolutions ...
Last Year's Resolutions
Don't buy any more unnecessary clothes until May.
Don't buy any CDs over £4.99 until May.
Don't buy any more books until I've got rid of at least 20.
Sell / give away more stuff on eBay, Amazon, ucam.adverts.forsale/giveaway etc.
Buy lunch in town no more than once a week (on average).
Pay rent by direct debit.
Sort out phone tariff.
Well, I pretty much succeeded on all these. The combination of time-limit and price-limit on CDs, clothes and books worked well, and I'm going to try to do something similar this year. I probably need to get rid of more books, too.
I sold and gave away loads of stuff via eBay, Amazon, ucam.adverts, and a car boot sale. I can now nearly fit all my possessions into three houses. :-/ Oh, and switching phone tariff saved me about 10 pounds a month, and the rent was sort of fixed by moving house...
KEEP TRACK OF WHAT I SPEND.
I managed this until May, after addedentry bet me that I couldn't. Useful information gained as a result: 1) Long-distance relationships cost money; 2) instant lunches and meals in restaurants/cafés are even more expensive cumulatively than you think they are when you see their individual prices (which are usually excessive anyway); 3) I'm as likely to make pointless impulse buys in the toiletries, cookware and craft departments as in the books, music or clothes departments; 4) I buy lots of stuff for other people, which is not bad per se, but I probably need to distinguish between "I am buying this for X because it will make them happy" and "I am buying this because it is cool but I can't justify buying it for me so I'll buy it for someone else".
Read more books!
Read more non-fiction!
I hopelessly failed to even match last year's booklist, which I partly blame on having moved house. However, I did manage to read two more non-fiction books than last year...
Practise piano, violin, or karate (if I continue with it at all) at least once a week.
Re-learn Japanese hiragana and katakana.
Well, I did re-learn them a bit while on train journeys between Cambridge and Greenwich, but the learning has sort of fallen off since I've not had that "commuting" time... Excuses, excuses.
Can't really say I managed this.
Drink more water.
Nor this, except in bursts (haha) here and there.
Cycle more safely.
Hi-vis waistcoat, wristbands and trouser-clip all definitely help, as does not being stingy about replacing the batteries in my front light. I bought a red LED as a "temporary" fix for not having a rear light, and am still using it, and still don't have a real rear light. So, um, mixed success there.
Cook more varied food.
Last year I basically forgot how to cook altogether, the low points being burning pasta, FFS, and making an omelette that was so burnt and soggy (both at once -- neat trick if you can do it) that I couldn't eat it without feeling ill. I also didn't bake anything -- even a Christmas cake -- between moving house & the end of the year. So I think that counts as a big stodgy failure there.
Find some sensible 'storage solutions' for my room.
Well, I've moved room now, so the problem has changed slightly... However, the storage situation is being addressed.
Register with a dentist.
Make an optician's appointment.
Tick! For both of these. I not only registered with a dentist but finally got round to fixing the gappy half-tooth which everybody dutifully told me was completely invisible (despite the fact that it manifestly made me look like a hideous goblin in every single photo). More about that in a later post, though.
Sort out my photo collection (physical and digital).
Finish ripping my CD collection to mp3.
Learn how to use my phone properly
Get pto452 fixed
And another load of failures here. My photo collection is still a mess, though the physical photos are now a mess which is confined to one small box. Digital photos are on two separate hard drives, one of which isn't even in my house, and the problem will doubtless be compounded by my having got a new digicam for Christmas...
Overalls don't suit me. But seriously: over all I'd count this as a mixed success (which is about as optimistic as I get). And a fairly comprehensive change of circumstances midway through the year meant that some of the resolutions were rendered extremely difficult or just less relevant.
... and this year's resolutions, which are just as dull as last year's. I'm not expecting anybody else to read them; I'm only really writing them down so that I know what I planned, and so I can see whether I kept to it or not.
This Year's Resolutions
Money and Materialism
NO SANDWICHES FROM THE SANDWICH VAN
The sandwich van at work is rubbish. Buying food from the sandwich van is a sign of total failure to organise myself and my lunches, and invariably results in me buying sandwiches I don't even like, not to mention flapjacks I don't need, and cans of Coke which I could buy cheaper from the tuck-shop downstairs.
I suppose this is really a resolution to be more organised about taking lunches in to work, but I'm trying to make these resolutions SMART where possible...
No new plastic bags!
addedentry and I are going to try not to acquire any more plastic bags from shops this year. We've succeeded so far, and it's interesting to see the various reactions from shop assistants when you tell them "I don't need a bag, thanks" (often followed by "I REALLY DON'T NEED A BAG, THANKS").
No unnecessary clothes over £2 until May
Okay, so I've weakened a bit on this one; if I see an ABSOLUTE CRAZY BARGAIN in a charity shop I can still buy it. The real threat to this resolution comes not from the big high-street sales (I mean, the ones that mad people get up in the middle of the night to queue for) but things like Tesco's clothes sale (all those clothes for tantalising amounts like under a fiver or just £ 3.99) or that pair of black velvet cK jeans in the RSPCA shop for £4.99... argh. DON'T NEED THEM.
No CDs over £2.99 until May
Conversely, I've made this one stronger -- this leaves Oxfam's £2.99 CDs available, but cuts out those dangerous at-the-counter oh-but-it's-only-£3 Fopp purchases.
Start sorting out Christmas cards/presents in October
The thing is, I did start buying Christmas presents early last year, even earlier than October, but somehow lulled myself into a false sense of security by smugly thinking "Ah, but I've started buying Christmas presents, so there's no need for me to panic" only to find that I hadn't got things for everybody I wanted to give something to, or I'd thought of something but no longer had time to order it, and, and... Also, I was hopelessly disorganised about sending even the handful of cards that I did send, and I want to do better this year.
Give away clothes on LiveJournal
I'm fed up of going through all the hassle of eBay for the sake of making a few pennies here or there. Instead I'm going to have a LiveJournal garage sale or post the photos/descriptions to LJ at some point this year and let you lot grab the clothes you want, for some kind of nominal fee or maybe just good karma, and anything left over will go to charity or in the bin.
Send fewer txts
I didn't think it was possible to exceed Text120 (that's 120 SMSs a month). SMS is a great way to communicate for some things, but that's just ridiculous, not to mention unnecessary expense.
Culture or something
Read 100+ books!
Honestly, this year I really will meet my reading target, even if I have to do so by cheating and only reading incredibly short European novels.
I will also read Ulysses, even if it kills me.
I ought to write more about what I read, too, so I'm going to try to write at least 100 words about everything I read. I don't actually expect to meet this target, but as I often say, if you aim at the stars you might at least hit a tree.
Read a poem every day
Poems are short. I bought addedentry Poem for the Day, because I thought it would be cool if we read a poem together every day. So far, it has been cool. :-)
I need to learn more poems by heart, too, because they are really good things to carry around as protective amulets against all kinds of negative things.
Watch at least one film a month
I have loads of films that I want to see and yet I never get round to watching them. I have set aside a pile of 12 films which I hope to actually make time to watch. If they're good, then that's great; if they're rubbish, then I've made some space on my DVD/video shelves.
Knit at least one row a day until I've finished my scarf
One of my Christmas presents from my mum was a pair of knitting needles and three balls of lovely purpleish-blueish-greyish wool. After a quick lesson in casting-on (which I could never do anyway) I quickly remembered how to knit garter-stitch despite not having done it for about 10 years (surprising myself as much as my mum, as we both thought I'd completely forgotten it -- it's amazing how things stay buried in your mind). I'm determined to finish the scarf even if I never knit another thing in my life. It only needs to be about 3ft long, because it's going to be sewn together with a twist to make a möbius scarf like ghoti sent me.
I've only missed one day so far, but on the other hand I did loads at lnr's on Sunday and while watching To Kill a Mockingbird with addedentry the other evening.
Not a SMART resolution, this one, but nonetheless one that I seem to have kept so far. We've followed some recipes, we've bought sensible amounts of food and not wasted it, and I even made leek & mushroom pie on Sunday night (so I have finally baked something in the new house) which was brilliant as squishy-cold-pie lunch today. And I have learned how to cook rice!
Again, this is a bit vague, but the reasoning behind it is: I have loads of nice clothes, and loads of interesting clothes, and yet I end up wearing the same couple of pairs of trousers and the same few tops over and over and over again. This is boring, and a waste of nice clothes. If I don't wear the nice/interesting stuff even when I'm making a concerted effort to do so, I should probably think hard about whether I need to keep it at all.
Get pto452 sorted out
Carried over from last year, sort of. (I am kind of looking at brrm pleadingly here, after he so brilliantly fixed the fuel pump before Christmas so I could move P from sion_a's driveway to Zone 7's.)
Work/Life (Have you noticed how vague and pointless these category headings are? Yeah, me too)
Don't have arguments with addedentry
Cor, buried in all this admin is a Serious Resolution. I'm not saying I'll be able to stop the occasional bit of friction, and I wouldn't want to stop the debates and differing of opinions, but I want to learn to catch myself before I go into the horrible hormonal spirals that turn into Huge Despair and Doom. Because addedentry is jolly patient and caring and lovely, and doesn't deserve to be shouted at even if I do feel utterly rotten and despairing. And I do think those moods are strongly linked to hormones, but while that's a reason, it's not an excuse. Also, telling somebody else "This is how I tend to think/react/behave" does not actually count as fixing the problem, though it's sometimes a useful way of straightening things out in my mind (provided I'm actually listening too when I tell them). So now.
Sort out phone
I still haven't worked out how to do half of the things that my phone can do, and I'm convinced it can't synchronise with my Mac, which means it's of limited use as the super-shiny organisation tool it was supposed to be. Also, it's breaking down -- the SMS application crashes about once a week, and the screen is so worn out that the stylus input doesn't work properly most of the time. All of which is pointing strongly in the direction of "new phone", but it might also be worth investigating getting this one fixed...
Read for at least one lunchtime a week
That's "read" as in "not on the web". Because otherwise I spend all my lunchtimes reading LJ and just generally faffing, whereas I could use them to read books.
Get to bed before midnight on school-nights unless doing something specific.
I mean, if I'm out until 11:30 at the pub or something, the chances of me getting to bed before midnight are small; which is fine as long as it's only every now and then. What I'm trying to avoid is the pattern whereby I mess around at home and then suddenly it's 11:45pm and then I realise that I need to wash my hair / meant to put a wash on / etc. etc. etc. but instead of actually doing that I think "I'll just do another Sudoku while the bath's running" and OH GOD ENOUGH JUST STOP PROCRASTINATING ALREADY.
Make the first drink of the day a non-caffeinated one; stop taking so much sugar in coffee; drink more water
It's so easy to reach for the coffee the second I get into work, after failing to get a drink at all in the morning because I'm scrambling around barely awake after a pointless late night (see above). I'm dehydrated nearly all the time, and that's just rubbish. So this is a kind of three-in-one resolution, and so far I've kept the first part, cut down to somewhere-between-0-and-1 sugars in coffee, and am refilling one of those little water bottles first thing in the morning at work & again at lunchtime.
No LJ/email/IRC until lunchtime
At work, that is. AND I MEAN IT. There may be Interesting Developments at work this year, and I want to be able to make the most of them.
(I may have to trim my LJ reading list a bit as a consequence of this. Please don't take offence if I don't seem to be reading your journal any more!)
So far I'm keeping to this rule (apart from a little lapse this morning when TOTAL SOUL-DESTROYING BOREDOM gripped my soul), and I've been a lot more productive in the mornings. Unfortunately, I then faff a lot in the afternoons (not more than I used to, really, but the contrast is more marked). Still, it's probably just about doubled my productivity. That's quite scary.
Make sure work inbox contains less than 100 messages at the end of each day
I started doing this a couple of weeks before the end of the year, actually, and it was so helpful that I'm enshrining it in resolutionness. Hurrah. If it continues to be successful, I'm going to try to apply it to my personal inbox as well (currently around 3000 emails in my inbox and counting)...
Tag my LiveJournal to date
Hahahahahaha. Still, it's worth a try.
Make some more usericons
Somebody kindly bought me a gazillion usericons, so I really should actually start making use of them!
by end of January:
- ger rid of the broken microwave
- come to a definite decision about the piano
- move all other gubbins out of sion_a's house
- buy sensible storage stuff from Ikea
The microwave exploded towards the end of last year. We need to get it to the tip. Not difficult. YOU'D THINK.
The piano may not fit through the door at Zone 7; I need to find out if it does. And even if it does, we need to think hard about whether we intend to stay there for another year or so, because I don't want to move the piano around more than necessary.
Moving other stuff from sion_a's is more of a problem, since he's being so reasonable about it all and besides it's all tied up with regrets and mopiness and every time I do move anything it makes me feel guilty -- both about taking stuff away, and about leaving the rest of the stuff there. But, well, I have moved house; and when I see sion_a I want to be able to just concentrate on talking to him rather than constantly wondering if I can use the visit as an opportunity to shift any more stuff across town!
So, anyway, I'm planning an Ikea trip at the end of January, which will mean hiring a van (shout if you think you'll want me to pick stuff up for you - more organisation will follow) and I'm hoping to use that as an excuse to move everything else (microwave and guilt-gubbins).
I also have two other LiveJournal-related resolutions that I'm not going to talk about yet because it'd spoil the surprise and/or somebody would steal my idea. Ha, that'll keep you guessing, won't it. :-)
Blimey, that was all very boring. Congratulations to anybody who read all the way through this: award yourself a virtual gold star (and now go and do something more interesting!).
The executive summary, for those of you who didn't read all that (and the essence of the micromanaged manifesto, for those who did) is:
Make fuller and wiser use of the resources I already have.
Hope you're all making good use of 2006 so far.