If you had told me five years ago I'd be living in France, with three step-kids, as a budding writer...I'd have fallen off my chair. I spent my 20s and 30s doing what was expected of me, the career, the established husband, the cottage in the country. I remember making my yearly resolutions - eat less rubbish, do more exercise, travel more, dress cooler. But of course, I kept none of them.
Not because I wasn't capable but because they weren't in my heart.
So many of us feel obliged to change, for appearance's sake - to look thinner, be more successful, to spend less, eat more greens. But how many of us break them in week two? Worse still is the impact they have on those around us, especially our children. What kind of message are we sending to our daughters, if we huff and puff in front of the mirror, focussing on a flabby butt and wobbly bingo wings? No wonder the thigh gap is now a barometer of skinniness amongst teen girls today.
I would posit that we don't keep any of our resolutions because we don't believe in them and that they stem from a deep insecurity, that we just aren't good enough. The process is thus - we have a festive Christmas, enjoy the break, party on New Year's Eve and then wake up on the 1st January and reality hits. We are on the threshold of a burgeoning new year except it feels like an endless dark abyss. What happens if we don't make a promotion? Will a failing marriage lead to divorce? It is a frightening process and it sends us in to panic mode, making false promises and telling ourselves if we sign up to double spin on Mondays we will be a better person.
I never kept a single resolution. But I knew deep down for many years that I was on the path well travelled but it wasn't making me happy. I was so defined by externals - the status of director, under 50 kilos and designer clothes, that I was withering away on the inside. Then change was forced on me - getting fired and divorced spat me out of the rat race and made my resolutions for me. I yearned for a more creative job, for freedom, for air. I went to Sydney, to get away and realised how misaligned my life was with my truth. I knew when I returned I would have no choice but to give up the weighty pay check, find real love and live closer to nature. I realised most of all that if I did what I truly loved, I'd feel happy in myself.
Since then all the phoney resolutions I used to make have all happened naturally. I eat more healthily because I have a family to care for and wonderful markets on my doorstep. I sleep more because I am at peace. But the most telling difference is being able to curb all the intangible negative emotions that plagued me. I was habitually angsted, would panic if I lost my purse for a second and was convinced if a friend was late that something had happened.
We are all plagued by our different fears and the sales of self-help books rocket at the turn of the year. For me these are the real reason behind resolutions - we want to change something as underneath the surface there is much turbulence. Addictions like smoking can come from a lack of self-love. Doing a job we don't like is often to feed the inner fear that we aren't talented enough to find the right one. Staying with a bad partner is because we don't deserve a true romance. It is one of the reasons why depression is at its highest in January - yes, the weather is rotten but it also stems from our consciousness of being stuck in a rut for another 12 months.
If I were to make a resolution now, knowing what I know, it would be to trust in myself, value myself. That doesn't come easily and I have had therapy and counselling to help. But I am also more content now that I am with the people and doing the things that nurture me. Writing has been the biggest confidence booster, I have written about all sorts, losing my dad to low self-esteem. But my pride and joy is my trilogy of books The Ugly Little Girl, all about a freaky, geeky teen who discovers a magical night school for 'oddbods' like herself.
I'd encourage everyone to think about what they really want from the year ahead, what negative behaviours they'd like to avoid. Instead of writing a laundry list of bad habits, pen a letter to yourself, about how you're feeling right now. An honest warts and all heart to heart. Put it in an envelope and send it to yourself. When you receive it ask yourself what advice you'd give this friend? If it hurts too much to read it maybe its time to get help.
Instead of saying I want to be skinnier, prettier, younger or cleverer, ask to love yourself more.
Choose to live by choice not chance, to make changes not excuses, to be motivated not manipulated, to excel not compete, to be useful not used, to kick self-pity to the curb and to wake up every day filled with self-esteem.
I wish you a Happy New Year, one that's true to you, whatever that might mean.