Sunday, 29 December 2013

Giving up in 2014

I hate this time of year. The no-man's land between Christmas and New Year. It's not that I specifically hate the days. They are often lovely and full of fun and relaxation and a wonderful "nothing to do" vibe. But it also has that sense of approaching doom for me of another year beginning. Think the soundtrack of Jaws...

It has not always been this way. I am naturally a lover of all things fresh and new and full of possibility. I am a planner by nature and used to love to think about what I would be doing in the coming year. But over the last decade or so I have become jaded and frankly completely afraid of facing the new year as appears on the horizon.

You see, reflecting on the past year and planning for a new one is like cocaine for a perfectionist, planner with unrealistic expectations, such as myself. I guess for an alcoholic the New Years party creates its own share of temptation and risk. And for me, the list of resolutions has grown to become something I run from. This is where the alcoholic analogy falls over completely so please disregard any connection from here on.

Imagine loving to plan but becoming fearful that all a plan becomes is a trap to throw myself into and live in for the rest of the year. If I follow the plan I am "good", if I don't I am a failure. And the plan itself is only based on whatever felt important at the time I wrote it. Oh and it was written by a perfectionist with unrealistic expectations so it was also completely impossible and detailed and really was a set up for failure from the beginning. Add to this not just a plan, but specific goals that deal with specific things I want to do EVERY SINGLE DAY!

So in reaction to the obvious flaws in the above approach, I stopped goal setting, planning or really expecting anything. At least officially. I was and remain a very harsh critic and the expectations, whether written or not, still float around in my head as some kind of yard stick of "living well". Unfortunately this has led to me losing some of the joy I do find in looking forward to the future.

When I was a teenager and couldn't get to sleep I used to daydream until it turned into real dreams and I drifted off. My daydreams would be about actual things I was looking forward to or hopes and dreams I had about the future. I often thought about what my life would be like when I "grew up". This usually meant move out of home, go to Uni, get a job etc. This was the stuff which reminded me while I struggled through the angst of teenage-hood, that there was another age and stage around the corner where I would be able to make more choices, have more freedom and maybe the self confidence to be the someone I was sure I was, hidden under my insecurities and awkwardness.

And I have to say my 20s were a lot like that. My dreams didn't quite come true but I loved the decade as I grew into myself and made so many wonderful friends. I became more comfortable about who I was. But it still was never enough. Each New Year approached and I would try again. Often the same goals rewritten with a twist for 2002 or a focus on something which was becoming more important to me at the time. But every year I looked back and was disappointed in myself. After a while I stopped. Why do something which makes me feel so bad even if at its heart, I wanted to make my life better?

However, it seems this year that there is a change in the air. This week I have felt so exhausted as the weight of how hard the white knuckle ride of the last 6 months has been. I honestly feel that hibernating for 6 months is required for me to ever venture beyond my front door again. And so I find myself thinking that I better make a plan. This time the plan is not to improve myself, well not in the usual sense. I think this plan could be more about avoiding breakdown.

I think I need a plan to work within my capacity, to treat myself as fragile and to recognise that this body I am in and the person I am will actually fall apart both literally and figuratively if I keep living like I am. I am still allergic to the idea of goals and feel the tentacles of perfectionism beginning to tickle my ankles even as I stand paralysed this side of January 1st 2014. This plan will not be about being "better" or "improvement". It will be about weakness and vulnerablity, saying "No, I can't manage to do that". And being able to sit with my imperfection. I say I believe in a God who loves me as I am and has made me in his image. I say I believe that I am forgiven for anything and everything I could ever do or have done that would hurt myself or anyone else. I say I love others because I can see how fearfully and wonderfully we all are and how precious we are. But somehow I seem to think and behave as if none of the above applies to me. And this year I plan to give up. Give up on trying so hard to do things that don't matter and leave me in a pit of self loathing hiding under my duvet.

Hopefully the plan can remain a relief and not a noose around my neck. There is a glimmer of hope here but so many roads that still lead down the path of not-good-enough and unacceptable. I wonder if I can create a new path. I pray I can cause this one is a dead end. Pun intended.


  1. Yes, yes and yes again. That's all the eloquence my late-night brain can muster, but I hope it's enough :-)

  2. All the very best with your plan. xox