Ah, New Year. It’s a bit like Marmite. You either love it, or you detest it.
After spending a month stuffing your face with cheese and necking enough booze to tranquilise a small country, the guilt sets in like a family of stubborn mice. It ain’t moving. Its fucking up your living space and keeping you awake at night, scratching, scratching, scratching.
Gone are the light-hearted, colourful adverts urging you to eat, drink and be well-bloody merry. You’ve done enough of that, my friends, and now you must pay. That episode of Emmerdale is now the bread in a feel-bad sandwich. You’re sat there in your pjs, scoffing a family size tub of Quality Streets, just minding your own damn business, when the idiot box in the corner of the room starts berating you. Diet programmes. Dating websites. Get Fit DVDs. Job search engines. They’re all there, attacking you, like tenuously linked family members who are urging you to get your shit together because time is a-ticking. Luckily TV has a mute button. Life, unfortunately, does not.
So, let me save you a little time, misery and self-flagellation. New Year does not work like a whiteboard eraser. It’s not like pressing the delete button. Life is like the internet, whatever you put into it is there for life.
If you log onto Facebook at 00.01, they’re all there. The statuses. The resolutions. The “new year, new me.” As I scroll through them all, looking for the videos of dogs dressed as animals, I can’t help but search for the subtext behind the text. 2016, for some – not all – has been a weird one for most. From losing some of the most iconic celebrities, to illness to losing jobs. It’s been a pick ‘n’ mix kind of year.
Let me tell you this. There’s nothing wrong with the ‘old’ you. There’s also, and I hate to break it to you (and myself) there’s nothing wrong with your ex, or your old job, or your body, or your personality. It’s not their fault (unless, you know, it is) it’s the great see-saw of life. Up, down.
I’ve spent a large portion of this last year in sort of therapy (I know, right, how awfully self-involved of me) both physically and mentally, and if there’s anything I have learned, it’s this: blaming a situation, yourself, a year, or other people, gets you nowhere. Accepting that these things simply happen – to everyone – is a gamechanger. And being utterly grateful for the wonderful life events bestowed upon loved ones is key to the sort of inner peace you can only get from completely letting go. Or meth, I suppose.
I’m not saying you can’t have a moan, or a bitch. I’m a human being – and British – so bad days, low self-esteem, doubt, are just the other side of the coin. It’s not a permanent state of being. Nothing is constant.
Not having your shit together is no person’s fault. It’s not yours. It’s not theirs. It’s not a great universal conspiracy. It’s a sign that you aren’t being grateful for life, and that you’re not being kind to yourself. I will hold my hands up – I have been the greatest perpetrator of this set of attitudes. I spent half of 2016 living like The Grinch, and the later portion living like some sort of zen hippy. It’s been a game of two halves. But I’ll tell you something, Zen hippy wins hands down.
Not having your shit together is also subjective.
It’s a matter of opinion. One person’s ideal lifestyle, is another person’s idea of absolute hell. The opinions of complete strangers are not important. The opinions of family members and friends – while often beneficial in times of need – are not always the be all and end all. Listening to yourself and being authentic is truly the greatest thing you can do. Let’s call it an anti-resolution. In 2017, be you. That’s it. If “you” want to be teetotal, give up drinking. If “you” want to lose a stone, get munching on some lettuce. But do it for you. Not because someone doesn’t agree with who you are or the way you choose to live your life.
Don’t get me wrong, I struggle with these practices as much as the next person. Often, I’ll need to check in with myself. Luckily, I have been given the tools and armour to defend myself against the “I don’t have my life together freak out” (I have literally had panic attacks) and I know what works for me. Again, its subjective. What works for me, might not work for you. Its trial and error.
For me it’s:
- Meditating (I don’t mean filling the room with incense and omming along to clinky-clanky music but taking time out to be still, present and calm – I also love colouring in with the passion of a two year old)
- Listening to music
- Walking the dog
- Cooking a healthy meal
- Sleeping when I feel tired
- Long lazy baths
- Writing a list of things I am grateful for
- Talking to my mum, video calling/ chatting to friends
Being “authentically you” is tough going – it feels selfish, solitary, and at odds with the person we are urged to be (the shit we are supposed to have together) – but, believe me, you will be infinitely happier. And those you love – and who love you – will feel the same.
This New Year’s Eve, I thought I wanted to head out on the town, dance and drink away this last year. In all honesty, I just wanted to erase it. Take part in the sort of procedure found in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I just wanted it gone. I spent the afternoon of New Year’s Eve squashed into the Quiet Coach of a Virgin Pendalino from London Euston back up North. I’d just bid farewell to one of my favourite humans (she’s off to Kenya), spent time with old friends and played the most epic game of Slug and Roll (nine people, a new record). Housemate was texting about taxis and tea. Usually, in the run up to a night out, I feel elated. I just felt tired. It wasn’t until I was home, unpacked, in my pjs and eating dinner that Housemate turned to me and said, “We don’t have to go anywhere, you know.” She’s kindly like that.
I was relieved. It was so much easier hearing the words from someone else’s mouth. I didn’t want to go out. I haven’t been on a ‘big’ night in a while and I realised that I wanted to do it on my own terms. Just some random Saturday night, dancing to 90s hip hop in my jeans and trainers, and sinking beers from long-necked bottles.
I wanted to sit with her, a bottle of Prosecco and the dog, watching Harry Potter, talking about the tattoos we’re going to get and crying when Snape says “Always.”
We saw the New Year in sitting at the top of the stairs, with the dog. It was so very “us.” So, indicative of our friendship and natural, unforced. It felt so right.
“I’m so glad we didn’t go out,” Housemate said.
Yeah, we hadn’t been out dancing on tables, seeing the year off with a bang as I’d originally thought I’d wanted, what I thought I’d needed. What I needed was that moment of “me-ness.” Of us-ness. Of being with someone who had been a rock.
I realised that I wanted to part ways with 2016 like an old friend, or a relationship. I didn’t want to view it as one of the worst of my life, although thinking about it can sometimes make me feel teary, I wanted to be grateful for it. I have learned so much about myself, about life and about other people.
2016 was the year of learning to be fine with not having my shit together, in the traditional sense, and knowing that it doesn’t matter.
So, here’s my advice.
Chuck away the list of resolutions (unless you’re giving up fags, drugs or being a dickhead, those are probably good to give up), step away and block out the chatter. Do the things you love. Be accepting of you are. Be kind. Be gentle. Be forgiving. Be smart. Listen. Learn. And remember that it’s OK – its fucking great – to not have your shit together.
Happy New Year!