360 Degrees of Failing...?

31/12/2014 13:09 | Updated 01 March 2015

It's time. The calendar tells me I can't delay any longer. I have to drag myself, groaning, out of that post-Christmas hibernation and set myself up for a whole year's worth of failing. I've got to make my New Year's Resolutions.

When I was a child, the whole New Year's Resolutions thing confused me. I remember hearing people talking about it and misunderstanding, thinking they were saying 'New Year's Revolutions', and picturing either some kind of take-over or total change, neither of which seemed to happen to anyone I knew. Later, in a fifth form class, I remember being told off by my History teacher when I argued that the Russian Revolution (which we were studying in an avalanche of notes and a fusillade of the teacher's bullet-volley instruction) was doomed to fail, because geometry tells us that a revolution is a 360 degree rotation, which will bring you right back to where you started from. Plus ça change...

And it's like that with New Year's Resolutions - whether they're revolutionary or not: they bring you back to where you were before. I've lost count of the number of times I've promised to be nicer. More positive. Use my time more effectively. Be more sociable, more confident. Assume the best. Lose weight. Be healthier. Get to bed earlier. See family more. The usual kind of stuff... and yet here I am again, 2015 looming on the horizon, new calendars ready on my desk, full of implied promises and threats... and things are still the same. My default is still being a bit quiet, solitary, grumpy and sarcastic - enjoying the peace of solitude with coffee and a book, though loving the company of friends and family when it comes. I still catastrophise - still argue that being a pessimist equals being a realist, without being particularly gloomy about it all. I still lose time wandering through magic forests of meandering texts and social networking, left wondering where an evening has gone or how on earth it got to be 2am. I could be much healthier. Could go to the gym more, eat better, get to bed earlier: abandon junk all ye who enter new year. I could, though, probably give myself more credit for not failing even more splendidly this year - and the year before, and the many more before that again. I saw a clever quotation several days ago, attributed to Banksy but surely also representing common sense: 'The darkest hour has sixty minutes.' There are echoes of some lines from Macbeth I've always loved: 'The night is long that never finds the day,' or 'Time and the hour run through the roughest day'. Sometimes all you can do with a year is get through it, and maybe being back where you were a year ago, thinking about doing better, is a strange success of sorts.

So here's my list.

1. Be nicer. Be so much more worth knowing, but also have more faith in my ability to be liked, worth talking to, even when trusted allies don't seem to be treating me as if this was true at all. Be forgiving, including - now and then - forgiving myself.
2. Get fitter. This might include time on the treadmill and occasionally limping my way through a workout DVD. It might also include building a bit of resistance to other people's criticisms (whether deserved or not), which can sometimes be taken to heart even more than people ever meant.
3. Rest more. This might mean more time sleeping: fewer of those nights when I forget to go to bed even though I have to be up at dawn. It might also mean more time sitting reading with no internet source nearby - reading old-school pages rather than blue-backlit screens. Less time wasted agonizing about who said what and why - or even more, about who said nothing at all.
4. Abandon unhealthy things. The usual suspects to be kept in check: sweet nothings, like those lovely muffins which go so well with coffee, those things which I enjoy but then regret. But maybe there are unhealthy patterns to limit too: self-criticism which delves beneath the skin like in-depth excavation, until all that's left are the foundations of regret and agony...
5. Be more positive. All that catastrophising would have made me an excellent boy scout, always prepared. But it's not just about remembering to have painkillers or a coat in the boot of the car... it's about assuming stuff will go wrong; I'll not be good enough, that I'm bound to disappoint... Maybe I might go a tiny bit easier on that. If being a pessimist means being a realist, then I'm probably not going to give this up completely... but I can try.

I'm not really one for cheesy motivational stuff: I don't really like the whole 'This is the first day of the rest of your life' stuff. I am unique: yeah, just like everybody else. We're all unique: what's so unique about being unique? Same old stuff. I'm that award person who rolls their eyes when other people say 'Awww'. But I do like this line by Samuel Beckett, and always have: 'Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.'

It's very nearly another year again. I know I'll fail again: I'm just being realistic. But when I fail again, it means at least I've tried. And maybe, one of these years, I'll make a start on failing better.

Happy New Year.