It’s early January, and already one of my new year resolutions – to post each week on this blog – is broken.
Our Christmas got cancelled this year. We did our usual 450-mile drive to collect our elderly mums on December 21, and within hours of arriving at our house my mum-in-law fell, and broke her hip. A long wait for an ambulance, even more hours in A&E, then her surgery, and long drives for hospital visits took up the whole of the holiday season and beyond.
In the middle of this, all the usual pressure to stage-manage a perfect Christmas melted away. Instead we just felt gratitude for the hard-working staff of the NHS, who ensured that a frail 87-year-old lady is on track to make a good recovery, and for all the family and friends who rallied round to help.
Then of course, tired and stressed, we all got a virulent bug. So, no time for planning, decisions, my usual list of New Year resolutions and big new goals. We managed to get to the hospital every day, and recover ourselves. There was time for little else. But here’s the odd thing: it’s been a relief!
January is not the best time to make a fresh start.
It’s winter in the UK. A time for retreat, for contemplation, dreaming, catching up on sleep, reading and learning. It’s a great time to wrap up and go for long walks, but not the best time to start a taxing new exercise regime. The skies are grey and cold, it’s dark by 5pm. If you’re already in the habit, it’s not so difficult to pull on running shoes and get out there. But if you’re trying to establish new routines, a cold, dark and rainy night is the perfect excuse not to use that gym membership.
So what works better?
At the end of March, it’s the start of spring. The clocks change, the nights get instantly lighter and suddenly you want to be outside, moving and getting stuff done. This seems the time to start a new exercise regime, to spring clean the house, to set business goals for the start of the new financial year.
Then there are the mellow, fruitful days of September. You’re feeling rested and refreshed, the kids are starting back at school, the days are still long and it feels a great time for a reset, to make plans to implement all of the ideas that have bubbled up over the summer break.
From now on, January will be for dreaming, for finishing.
It’s a time to get tax returns done, to have a soup bubbling on the stove, a fire in the hearth, and a good book open. To reconnect with friends over long lazy Sunday lunches, look at seed catalogues and plan what I want to grow in the garden this year, to catch up on all the films I’ve missed, to rest and replenish. This is the season to finish what you’re already doing, not to start bold new plans. So I’m no longer going to make New Year resolutions.
Instead, I’m going to form intentions.
Last year I was scattered, trying lots of new directions but going deep on nothing. In 2019, I want to focus. That’s my word for the year.
I have three more words, that I think are related.
Replenish. Simplify. Begin.
Replenish because I let myself get tired and run-down last year, a mistake I often make when I’m excited by work, or have lots going on.
Simplify because I’ve allowed life to get more complicated than it needs be. Before I start any new project, I want to ask: is this really necessary, right now? If it is, then is there any way to make it easier, shorter, more fun?
Begin, because sometimes I over-think things. In 2018, I spent more time researching and learning than actually doing, which is where the complications tend to creep in.
And that’s it. My intentions for 2019.
What are yours?