The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

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


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