I am late to the slew of new year’s blogs written by many with a love of the new start that the change of the calendar offers us. There is a large community of people who relish the challenge of setting new year’s resolutions. And, in my email inbox and social media feeds at least, a whole load of marketing related to getting us started on great new habits right at the beginning of the year. I am being invited to do yoga, meditate, buy courses, explore new parts of the world, sort out my budget, track my time, take on physical challenges, go sober, make this the year I find my true self, go on retreat, book many holidays. You get the drift of the things I tend to sign up for.
I am most definitely one of those people who love new year’s resolutions, I relish the opportunity to have a blank page in front of me and to reflect on what adventures I could challenge myself with. But here’s the thing, I make a ton of resolutions in various guises, but none of them are really ones which I have to start now in January, and even fewer do I have to start on 1st or 2nd January.
There seems to be a big thing this year of taking the opportunity of the “fresh start” as Gretchen Rubin calls this particular opportunity to change habits. I’m not sure I believe it is a fresh start though, I love the opportunity to have some reflection and planning time, but it is perhaps not the best time to get started on life-changing habit change. So, I’m not. I have plans and goals and adventures ahead. And I am loving the feeling of anticipation that the year is full of possibilities. I think my January resolution-making is much more akin to a gardener – now is the time of the year to browse the seed catalogues and to plan the plot, and to maybe place an order for the seeds we will need to make the plot flourish. But it’s not time to get out in the garden just yet.
I am not known for my handiwork skills, nor my practical expertise in gardening or decorating. I tell myself constantly that I am not a practical person in the physical sense.
Yet, I can planned pack for a holiday, I can cook for a houseful of people, I can organise brilliant parties and bake amazing cakes. I can see how a room of furniture could be arranged, I can place plants and pictures in the “right” places, I can choose colour schemes for rooms. All of which are practical, physical skills and I am good at them all. I need to change that narrative in my head.
One of my aims this month was to create space in my day for doing something different, something that does not involve typing on a screen or meeting in a room of people making more to do lists. I decided some more time crafting would be good. I have been trying to sew. It is not neat and tidy, but I am only starting out, so why would it be? It is fun. And a bit addictive.
I have managed to meet up with friends three times in the month to do some gentle sewing or knitting together over a cuppa. A friend and I had a fun afternoon wet felting and making some beautifully wonky coasters. It is a social activity as well as a relaxing one.
Looking at my progress I realise why I tell myself I am no good at it – it takes practise, it takes time. Embroidery, knitting, felting are not skills we’re born with, they’re skills we learn. I am as able as anyone else to learn the skills, but they take time.
Finding the space to sew a bit or do anything creative has shone a light on how I spend my time – a lot of what I do is very similar, both in work and in my home life – organising lists, groups of people, planning, emailing, meeting. It has been fun doing something very contrasting, but it has also given me a real insight into how little variation in activity there is in my week.
Last year I experimented with having a single word theme for the year and I enjoyed the experiment, so this year I am continuing the process. The word for this year is “Lighten”.
It took me a while to get there, the foundation was originally the word “play”, but I couldn’t quite get a grip on what play could mean in terms of work or even some of the volunteering I do. It felt too much like it was describing something I actively need to do – spend some more time just playing for the sake of fun, rather than everything having some bigger purpose.
So my thinking developed the theme into lighten. It will hopefully have many results. I do need to take more time to just muck around – preferably not on social media, but you know what, I love instagram and so have spent a bit more time taking photos and just posting for the fun of it. I want to spend more time enjoying being creative, because, it’s fun. That will be a challenge, as it could take more time than I feel I have.
I shall also try and lighten my workload. Not the paid work, I would like to increase that, but definitely looking at what I do in my non-paid time and reduce some of those obligations which feel less fun. I would like to make it a light relief from the day job, not an addition to the email and meeting load.
I need to lighten some of the domestic load too – reducing the contents of the house, giving it a lick of paint. All that will happen later in the year though.
Lightening feels very aspirational on this dark return to work Monday morning though. A new year is a good time to feel aspirational though. Here’s to a lighter 2019.
Today is my last working day of the year. When I next sit at my desk it will be a new year, a new start and I will be a totally new person.
I will be very efficient, there will not be a thousand emails in my inbox, my to do lists will be legible and realistic. I will calmly prepare thoroughly for all meetings and ensure that I have read all the required papers and have done some extra research on all topics to be discussed. I will follow all meetings and events with timely feedback and follow up wherever necessary. I will be available for every colleague whenever they need me, answering every email, phone and skype call as they come in. I will have reflection time every day to develop my work against my plans and priorities. I will reach every deadline with time to spare. I will be happy and calm at all times.
Ah, just writing all of that is making me feel so much better, I am typing and giggling at myself, which does a power of good. My personal need to leave the year in some sort of state of perfection is indeed funny, even if I have not been able to see that in the last couple of days.
Mainly I am looking forward to a holiday and I need to be very self-aware and check this daft feeling that I need to leave my desk today with everything in order for the imaginary perfection to be possible in a fortnight’s time. Especially as it would take me two weeks just to clear that inbox.
Happy last working day of the year to you, whenever it may fall for you.