Irish Examiner Saturday - Irish Examiner - Weekend

Louise O’Neill



he week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a strange one. The lethargy brought on by too many turkey sandwiches and mince pies, the disorienta­tion caused by sleeping late and staying in your pyjamas until noon. Binging Netflix and fighting with annoying siblings over the last coffee crème in the tin of Roses, even though everyone knows that only monsters and serial killers like the coffee crèmes.

The arrested developmen­t that kicks in as soon as you return to your childhood home, reverting to a sulking teenager when your parents tell you to clean up after you, oh my god, MAM. The tight smile when you see the boy you dated at 17 on Stephen’s Night, and an even tighter one when you bump into the man you lost your virginity to. As the days pass and December 31 fast approaches, you can’t help but start to think about your life, to assess where you are, to wonder where you’re going. It can be especially difficult if you don’t feel completely satisfied with your circumstan­ce at present — if you want a relationsh­ip but you’re still single, if you didn’t get the promotion in work that you hoped you had, if you promised yourself this would be the year you’d travel, join a gym, leave your partner, have a child, start a band... and now it’s nearly the end of 2019, and you have to admit defeat.

I look at the resolution­s I had for this year, what I hoped to achieve, and many of them did not come to pass. I’d hoped to buy my first home but constantly found myself too busy to dedicate enough time to the process of house hunting and mortgage applicatio­ns. I’d wanted to try my hand at writing my first play, and as of today, I haven’t even made a start. I had wanted to be kinder to myself and I’ve still struggled with my tendency to be critical if things fail to live up to my perfection­istic standards. (I also wanted to win the EuroMillio­ns and become an eccentric recluse but you’ll be shocked to hear that didn’t come to pass either.) I could look at that list and call myself a failure but I don’t think it would be helpful to do so. I know very few people who are motivated by criticism.

We all perform better in an environmen­t where we feel supported rather than judged, and we must learn to talk to ourselves in a way that feels encouragin­g rather than punitive.

I’m going to look back at my 2019 and I will focus on the things I did achieve. I didn’t write my first play but I did write and edit my fifth novel, a book I’m very proud of. Out of nothing, came something; a world and a story and characters, and I worked as hard as I possibly could to make it a good one. It’s been over a year since I started going to gym classes regularly and I am consistent­ly surprised by how much stronger I feel, and how that strength tastes so much better than ‘skinny’ ever did. I have made huge strides in my recovery, settling into a relationsh­ip with my body and food that gets more comfortabl­e all the time.

I went on holidays, reminding myself that everyone deserves to take a break from work and I don’t need to be a martyr. 2019 began in difficult circumstan­ces, when my grandmothe­r fell ill in January and died a week later, and I have carried the loss of her with A me every day since. nd yet still, I got up and I went to my desk; still I wrote, still I went to therapy and the gym. I became closer with my mother, making a choice to value her kindness and humour, to make new memories. I didn’t fall apart, and I am proud of that too. I know that most people reading this column will have been stopped in their paths by obstacles, burdens that will have felt almost impossible to shoulder — death or sickness, a job lost or a lover left. And to you I say, well done for making it through. I hope next year will be a better one.

As we head into a brand-new decade, I’m taking some time to reflect upon what I want my 2020 to look like. I have profession­al ambitions, goals I want to achieve, but more important is what I want to put out into the world. I want to be kind to everyone I meet, remem

‘ I ‘m going to look back at my 2019 and I will focus on the things I did achieve

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