I have been making New Year’s resolutions since I was a little girl. I have been failing to keep them for just as long. Many diaries were started and neglected. Many attempts were made to keep bedrooms tidy and be nicer to my siblings. Last year, I managed to keep one for months, replying to texts and emails as they arrived rather than losing them in a morass of guiltily ignored correspondence. I am not sure when or why I stopped but stop I did. I remember one year when the list of resolutions filled a page and a bit of a brand new diary. I think that was in 2000, which seemed a particularly auspicious year to resolve to do great things.
In the past few years I have come to realise that resolutions are a bit like diets. They have almost the opposite effect because I feel resentful of the imposition. I also find that the more I make, the easier they are to ignore and when I break them I feel as though I have failed.
I have many hopes for 2016. They include planning a trip to New Zealand for some time in the next 24 months, making some PhD progress, baking soda bread more often, getting the children out in the countryside more and encouraging them to climb trees. I would like to go to the theatre at least once and invite more people round to dinner. I would like my house to be tidier. I would like to run more. I would like to write proper letters to some old friends. I really want to work 4 days a week, although I don’t think that is doable at the moment. But I will not resolve to do any of these.
However, I do want to be a better mother and wife. Life is very busy and it is those closest to me that bear the brunt of it. I am almost always tired, almost always stressed, almost always thinking about my list of things to do. This leaves me little energy for things like being patient with whining children or reminding gently instead of nastily about a job I have asked my husband to do. Some days I am not very nice to live with. I know my husband and children love me, but there are times when I have to wonder if they like me. Being busy means I also neglect the things I need to do for myself, like exercise, healthy eating and going to the dentist. It means that small stresses become massive problems and small disagreements lead me to lose my temper far too easily.
So this year I was thinking about resolutions and thought that maybe instead of resolving to do a particular thing I would just hold a word in my head. My word is kind. I want to be kind to my children so that they have space to make mistakes without worrying about consequences. I want to be kind to my husband so that we have space to enjoy time together. I want to be kind to me so that I do not feel guilty about arbitrary deadlines missed and so that I take the time to run, eat well, visit the dentist.
So far, I think it is helping. I feel that there have been times at which I have been unusually patient when the children were being difficult. I have been eating well. I have been less controlling about the clothes-washing schedule. I have reminded nicely. The great thing, though, is that when I fail miserably, and it has happened, I do not think to myself that I have blown it and that it’s all a bit pointless but rather that I forgot to be kind and that there are endless opportunities for remembering.
After I had promised myself to hold a word in my head I came across a blog post by the Hands Free Mama (http://www.handsfreemama.com/2016/01/04/a-vow-to-soften-so-your-loved-ones-can-shine/). Her word is soften and her plans are more formed and eloquent than mine. But I think the sentiments are the same. She is further ahead on her journey than I am but she is proof that the journey is doable.
I think we should all be kind, and I do not think that it is easy to be kind to others without being kind to yourself. Being kind to yourself is not hard. It is sitting down for lunch or a cup of tea and not trying to do a job at the same time. It is going to bed early when there are still things to do. It is wearing a sparkly jumper for no reason other than wanting to. It is making time for a walk. It is saying yes when someone offers to help you out. It is saying no when someone makes an unreasonable request of you. It is accepting that your best is good enough. It is forgiving yourself when you are not perfect. And surely we are all worth at least that much?