KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
Irealised, a long time ago, that new year’s resolutions are best left to the very young, and smokers. Neither demographic has any real chance of succeeding in whatever life- change they resolve to implement on January 1, of course. However, the very young are not yet cynical and weary enough to recognise the pattern of annual failure so familiar to the rest of us, and smokers should never be discouraged from trying to quit their toxic habit, even if their best intentions only last a few days.
But everyone else, honestly, should really know better. And yet, already we all know that while tumbleweed could benefit from an extensive workout in our local gym this week, by the end of next week, the place will be packed with high hopes and unrealistic expectations. For about three weeks, it will be impossible to grab the right weights, to access the right machine, to wander late into the right class. After that though, the regulars and the tumbleweed will return, safe in the knowledge that all those people who stupidly resolved to get fit and stay fit for 2015, have now returned to the sofas from whence they came. At that point, the rest of us can return to our benches and presses, and the gym owners can take that brisk jog to the bank with all those 12-month memberships that only lasted a month, grinning like Cheshire cats all the way.
Meanwhile, anyone searching for, say, the latest news in Japanese fine arts or an update on Cuban holidays, will have to wade through several tonnes of newsprint devoted to detoxing and dieting. I never cease to be amused by the general philosophy of all these new-year- new-you-type plans; spend a really short time – three days! five days! an hour! – implementing a radical new regime that will totally transform an entire lifespan.
To my old and cynical eyes, that’s the catch right there: if you’re only willing to follow a regime for a couple of days, you’re never going to stretch its rigours to last a lifetime. But still, if you print it, they will come. And sure enough, January is populated by otherwise sane people doing insane things for a limited time which will ultimately make no difference to their lives whatsoever. It doesn’t do any harm, of course (though in fairness, there are some detox programmes that would give most self-respecting nutritionists an attack of the vapours), but the disappointment at the lack of real results coupled with the annual sense of failure is decidedly unhealthy.
Put that in your new year pipe, along with the pending credit card bills, and it’s little wonder that most of us spend so much of the first month of the year in a blue funk.
If you still feel compelled to make a new year’s resolution (in fairness, perhaps you’re not yet entirely sober), then might I suggest that you either leave your life-change of choice till February – when you can either get to the weights or fail in private – or, better again, that you resolve to do something either completely pointless or utterly mad. Many years ago, for example, when I lived in London, I came home one Christmas to discover that everyone in Ireland had learnt how to use chopsticks in my absence (it was the boom; that was the kind of crazy stuff that happened back then). I resolved there and then that by the following Christmas I would have joined my countrymen at the chopsticks frontline. For once, I was as good as my resolution – but equally, I know for a fact that had I failed, it wouldn’t have cost me a thought.
So pointless is painless and mad doesn’t really matter. If you resolve, right now, to jump out of a plane in 2015 or to learn how to read a cookbook in Mandarin, then it seems highly unlikely that in exactly a year’s time, you’ll be genuinely disappointed at having achieved neither. For my part, I’ll be hugely relieved if I fail to have jumped out of a plane in 2015, so much so that I might make it my new year’s resolution to avoid doing just that.
If I can also manage to not die, to not have too many reasons to cry and to get to the far side of a Junior and Leaving Cert with only a light dusting of shrapnel on my shoulders, I will be happy enough. For those of you who aspire to loftier ambitions, though, all I can say – from the heart – is good luck with that.
These new year’s resolutions won’t do any harm, but the disappointment at the lack of real results is decidedly