Saturday, 30 January 2010

Happy Tu B'Shevat!

Ah, he's so excited!
A happy little tree on his birthday

Which is the most annoying advert on TV at the moment? One of the front runners has to be Martine McCutcheon chirping about it being a "brand new year" (It was a lie when the adverts appeared just after Christmas, and it's a lie now) and subsequently uttering the word "tummy". It's part of the same tired old "New year, new you" baloney which appears without fail every January. (Come to think of it, working for a woman's magazine must be somewhat Groundhog day-esque; just as the sun rises and sets, you know that spring will find you writing articles about "How to get your winter body in shape for summer".)

I think I've become rather jaded of late (as you may have guessed from my musings on New Year's eve). Perhaps everyone else approaches January with the same childlike innocence and hope that I had when I was twelve. I suppose I just get irked by the cynical way that companies exploit the general public's wish for self improvement. Gyms, I am looking at you. Whose idea was it to start healthy lifestyle regimes in the middle of winter?

Children love resolutions, as do adolescents – all that delicious introspection. That, and the fact that they haven't already failed to give up smoking for five years running. Anything is possible! For all my scoffing, there is something lovely about a fresh new year. No matter what happened in 2009, it's all in the past. The future is ours. And it would be rather sad if we were all so indifferent to the passing of, um, the past, that we didn't even try to make the changes we'd like to.

Of course, the secret is in the wording of your resolution. Be specific! Having a vague idea of "Being a better person" is ultimately unsatisfying – how are you going to measure your success? And anyone who says something like "I will do twenty minutes of exercise EVERY DAY" is setting themselves up for failure. Unless you have a will of steel, January 1st will be the drop-off point. Nobody should be exercising when there are still Christmas chocolates left in the tin. (In fact, I'm fairly sure this is actually law in the UK.)

It's so much more satisfying to give yourself attainable goals. For instance: "Spend less money" becomes "Keep to a budget of ----- a month". "Be more cultured" becomes "Go to a gig / stage show / film every week". I like to cheat by "aiming" to do things that I have to do anyway – for instance, one of my "goals" this month was "Pay my taxes." I also like to make "random ambitions" lists. (Colonic irrigation has been on it for about five years, as yet unfulfilled. When I finally pluck up the courage, you'll be the first to know...)

So, this year, my "aims" are thus:

1) Finish all the pieces of writing I've started – every short story, book idea, and crazy screenplay. I have enough notepads and scribbled post-it notes to re-paper a wall. And I am a terrible procrastinator.

2) Finish all the books I've started. (Reading, not writing.) I am very pleased that this month, I FINALLY finished "The Wise Wound," which was described as "a groundbreaking study of the facts, fantasies and taboos surrounding menstruation." Embarrassingly, I received this last year as a Christmas present from my brother, after a slight miscommunication regarding Amazon wish lists. Don't ask.)

3) Go dancing a lot. (See, now I won't feel bad if I don't make it every week.)

There are lots more, because despite all of my anti-resolution talk, I do make ridiculously ambitious "to do" lists for myself. I still believe that one day, I will be brave enough to do karaoke, despite the fact that the thought of singing on stage makes me go all hot and cold.

I've also made lists of books I should read and films I should watch, because they are relatively easy to complete and it's so much fun to tick off the list. (Red pen, of course.)

So hopefully by this time next year I will be well read, and aware of what people are talking about when Ingmar Bergman's Seventh seal pops into the conversation, as it so often does.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to inform everyone that today is Tu B'Shevat; the Jewish New Year AND birthday for... wait for it... trees. Isn't that just the cutest religious festival you ever heard of? It makes me imagine Disney style trees, the kind who long to grow up nice and tall so they can see what lies beyond the forest. Happy new year little trees! And happy birthday to you all!

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