Some people seem to see New Year's Resolutions as a big pressure on themselves, a thing to set yourself up to fail against. If they're not the right tool for you, don't use them: silly to use a screwdriver if what you really want to do is knock a nail in. But personally I see them as a way to clear out some of the little lists in my brain, a good starting-point to count from if I want to try something new (whether it's running, reading, or remembering the milk) for a fixed period of time (long enough to give it and myself a chance, but a fixed-length commitment rather than an open-ended thing which is more likely to fail or fizzle out). NYRs are, for me, the mental equivalent of a brisk walk to shake off the New Year's Eve hangover: the direction isn't really that important, but the sense of going somewhere and doing something and focusing on one thing gives my brain a bit of a kick in the metaphor.
I didn't begin this year with a hangover. I began it curled up on our friends' futon in a warm and welcoming house, after an evening of drinking (but not to ridiculous excess) and playing Singstar (probably to slight excess) and talking. I didn't manage the New Year's Day walk, either, but only because said friends had got us BIG PRESENTS so we had to get the bus. The bus turned up on time, and we were just in time to use the end of the 24-hour DayRider that had got us there the day before, so the year's spending started with a saving of about a fiver. Also, I'd put the laundry on and hung it out just before leaving the house for NYE festivities; in retrospect, I'd definitely recommend this: as soon as I woke up on New Year's Day I knew I'd already done the laundry. I then spent most of the rest of NYD reading Ben Goldacre's Bad Science, which is thoroughly excellent and I would recommend it to anybody reading this.
Can't put this off any longer by rambling... let's have a look at last year's resolutions (I reiterate: this isn't really a question of "win" or "fail", it's more like "how did my predictions pan out, and did I end up going in the direction in which I thought I was going" -- more like planning a walk and then looking at the GPS reading afterwards):
✓ Freecycle a) car, b) vacuum cleaner
In the event of it we didn't Freecycle the car, we persuaded some recycling-from-scrap merchants whose name I now can't remember to take it for parts. The vacuum cleaner was rehomed though.
✓ Get eyes tested
As discussed -- already done, but actually that reminds me that I need to make an appointment for this year's checkup...
X Reactivate Oxford Union card
I did actually go and ask them, and they still have me on record, and all I have to do is get a couple of passport photos and then I can get a new membership card. Which of course is why this is still undone, because I only have one passport photo left over from the last batch, and they won't accept a digital copy of it. So this stays on this year's resolutions (hence the recycle logo).
X Get piano tuned
Piano tuner came round, was over an hour late without a word of apology (when I'd had to leave work an hour early to get there for the agreed time), looked at piano, told me it wasn't at concert pitch (which I knew) and would need totally retuning to get it up to concert pitch because otherwise it was putting all the wrong tension on the frame (which I simply don't believe, since it's been about a semitone flat for about 40 years and no previous piano tuner has ever claimed this) and therefore it'd take 3 hours or more & therefore would cost about three times the quoted price. So I told him I'd call another time to arrange the longer appointment, and never did. So this resolution also stays on this year's list, but this time I'll try a different piano tuner.
✓ Sort out ISA and/or Find out about overpaying Student Loan
Yeah! I have moved my ISA from Cambridge Building Society (who are great, but I'm not in Cambridge any more) to Abbey, and found out that a) I can overpay my Student Loan, but b) the comparative interest rates are currently such that I think I am better off putting savings into my ISA than putting them into paying off the Student Loan.
✓ Deal with all remaining change-of-address stuff (!)
Done. I think. Though I did just get an email about my NTL broadband from two houses ago... :-}
X Tag my LiveJournal to date
Last year I said: "Ha ha! Rebirth of a resolution from 2005!" And believe it or not I still haven't done it. I think this is rapidly becoming an impossible resolution, so this year instead of just reusing it I'll make it Tag two years' worth of my LiveJournal, in the hope of catching up about 10 years from now...
? Two other LiveJournal-related resolutions
These were, strictly-speaking, blog-related rather than strictly LiveJournal-related. And I have done them; one of them is the other blog I linked to a while ago (which I really really need to update again before I completely lose the momentum), and the other of which is another blog which I don't really want to publicise until I've knocked it into shape a bit more. So, not quite there, but a lot further down the line.
X Catalogue the rest of our books on LibraryThing
No, but we're getting through them slowly. Nearly up to 2,000 books now (about ⅔ of the way through?).
X Knit a thing that uses increasing and decreasing
X Crochet something
X Keep remembering how to make paper-folding stars
I have totally failed to knit or crochet anything, and I can't remember how to make the damn stars. I'm ditching the knitting resolutions (though may keep trying anyway).
✓ Read War & Peace and Ulysses
Yes! I didn't strictly speaking finish both before I turned 30, but it wasn't long after.
? Go running at least once a week
We-ell... not quite, and there was a big gap in the middle of the year, but I have more or less kept up with the running (though it seems to be getting harder rather than easier) and I'm aiming to do the Town & Gown again this year. Even if I do it slower than last year. I will carry on trying to keep this up.
✓ get up early enough to have breakfast every day for at least one (working) week
Yeah, for what it's worth. I still hate mornings. Breakfast didn't appear to make any difference to my stomach, my awakeness, my running ability, or in fact anything else except the quantity of milk we got through in a week.
X do morning pages every day for at least one (calendar) week
Ha. No. I completely forgot. :-}
X get to bed before midnight on 'schoolnights'
No. :-/ Rollover to this year's list, I think.
? Stop biting fingers, ffs!
Mostly, yeah, except when I'm really stressed and then I suddenly realise I've bitten half my fingers off. Um. I'm more conscious of whether I'm doing it or not, though, which is a good thing.
X Spend 4 hours per week (not at work) working at programming
I don't even remember making this resolution. What the hell. Bounce it onto this year's list & see if it sticks.
X Less fruitless faffing on the internet (quantify somehow!)
So! This year's resolutions:
• Reduce my/our carbon footprint
This is addedentry's resolution too; like him, I've got a carbon account (but unlike him I haven't patiently typed in the historical readings from the last year, so my figures are probably less accurate; so a sub-resolution is to fix this either by a) typing them all in by hand, or b) asking the people who do the Carbon Account about the possibility of a one-off import of historical data...)
On the other hand, we live a fairly low-carbon lifestyle anyway (we don't drive or fly, for a start), so I do rather feel as though I'm whittling away at something I can fix while other people are happily burning tyres on the deck of the Titanic. What I really want to do is try to do something to try to influence other people's behaviour as well, but preferably without making everybody hate me. On the other other hand... we are on a sinking ship. Time to worry about making everybody feel fluffy, or time to start bailing and building rafts?
So the related resolution is:
• Do something every month to contribute to the global campaign against climate change
Which is fairly vague, and which may well result in throwing money at campaigns because I am generally less cash-poor than time-poor, but if humanity survives for long enough for me to be telling my grandchildren anything, I'd like to be able to tell them that I didn't just carry on selfishly wasting resources and sticking my fingers in my ears while hoping that someone else would sort everything out. And even if there is a Magic Bean made of Clever Science to get us out of the fix we're in, people need support (morale and money) in the process of looking for it.
Right, heavy shit over. Back to your scheduled programme of fiddling while Rome burns -- apropos of which, a reinstated resolution from 2007:
• Find an orchestra or ensemble in which to play violin
I am tired of trying to be a grown-up in a children's orchestra. I would like to find an organisation mostly comprised of grown-ups with whom to play fun music. I also intend to:
• Audition for proper grown-up choirs
Probably starting with the Cherwell Singers, though if I can ever get in touch with anybody from the mythical Christ Church Cathedral Singers (yes I know they have email addresses on their website; yes I have tried) then I'd be even more keen to go for them.
Unfortunately both of these probably conflict slightly with a general resolution to save lots of money, in the hope that one day addedentry and I will be able to afford to buy a house. Rather than just "save lots", though, I'm formulating this as one positive-saving resolution and a couple of negative-saving resolutions:
• Put as much in my ISA as possible
• Eat out no more than once a week
• Don't buy lunch 'out' (ready-made sandwiches etc) more than once a week
I also wanted to have some kind of quota of theatre/gig tickets, but haven't quite settled on where to draw the line.
The other side of saving to buy a house is reducing the amount of stuff we're carting around with us, so that we can fit in a smaller (ie cheaper or more in-town) house if we do buy. To that end, I've joined unclutter_2009 and so will be trying to get rid of one item of clutter every day (see the community info for more detail!).
I'm also continuing with this year's sensible and successful policy (part space-saving, part new-stuff-avoiding, part get-with-the-technological-program-for-g
Part of the point of decluttering is to save the space in my brain; if I don't have to assess all these things every ten minutes I've got more space for thinking and doing and being. And part of that is about doing the thing I'm doing when I'm doing it, and not doing it when I'm not doing it (mindfulness, kind of thing). So, to that end:
• Keep to "inbox 100" and try to get to "inbox zero" for the beginning of the next academic year
• Try 43 Folders
• Leave work on time unless I'm actually busy
That last one is a resolution from 2007, still relevant. Originally appeared alongside this:
• Switch computer off every night
Which is even more still relevant; and now that we have WOL at work I have absolutely no excuse not to switch off every night. My work computer is the muddy-boots-hidden-in-a-closet of my carbon footprint. :-(
On a totally different topic, health-related resolutions are:
• Keep a record of stomach problems for 6 months
Stress-related IBS or something along those lines. I want to have a solid body of data about when it's grotty and when it's worse. I mean, better. Yes. I don't actually remember 'better'. This is part of the reason why I have been hiding under a rock, because persistent stomach cramps make me feel fairly antisocial.
And the other half of this resolution:
• Then actually try things to fix it
I have had more suggested solutions (from my GP and various well-meaning people) than there are days in the year, ranging from "drink more water" to "hang this funny-shaped pendant over your stomach and the crystal rays will realign your chakra" (or words to that effect). I have had contradictory suggestions ("eat more fibre" and "eat less fibre", notably) and suggestions that it's impossible to do anything. Nothing I have tried so far (including "do nothing") has made any noticeable difference.
Working on the (not implausible) worst-case scenario basis that I'm never going to get better, though, I want to try to be sociable despite feeling rotten. After all, I don't want to be a hermit for the rest of my life just because I've got a dodgy stomach. I don't want to weave my friends into SMART resolutions or I'll feel like I'm just spending time with them in order to tick things off a list, but I will make a kind of woolly resolution to spend more time with people I haven't seen for a while and actually reply to emails. Actually, that one could be more of an SLA ;-) so let's make it
• Reply to emails within a week
So if I don't reply to your email within a week, feel free to nudge. I am totally setting myself up for failure here, I suspect, but let's see.
I suppose I ought to include one resolution that I'm pretty much guaranteed to keep, so the last one on the list is:
• Get married
In fact I don't expect any of these resolutions to start until after the honeymoon, so no nudging me about them until after January!
As a final this-year-is-going-to-be-better-really postscript I would like to note that I've managed to get the New Year's Resolutions post done while it's technically still Christmas, which is probably a record (no, I can't be bothered to check either), and hopefully a good omen.
And to everybody who's reading this: good luck with achieving your aims (stated or unstated) for this year, or just pottering along happily doing whatever you're up to.