After the razzmatazz of Christmas with its clear rituals of trees and tinsel, stockings and turkey, my son asked me on Dec 31st what the rituals were for this “New Year event thing.” I told him about staying up till midnight and he was distinctly underwhelmed, so I went on to talk about resolutions, about people giving up unwanted habits for the coming year. In the process I realised that since I became a mother making emphatic resolutions is the habit I have given up.
I no longer like the idea of New Year resolutions for two reasons. Firstly it implies that change happens overnight, literally, from Dec 31st to Jan 1st.
In my experience lasting change happens slowly, over many days and nights, or if it comes in a rush it is only because it has been brewing for months beforehand. The kind of transformation that happens fast is rarely trustworthy. Ask Cinderella and she’ll tell you how all your sparkling coaches may turn back to pumpkins on the stroke of midnight, not even lasting until the new morning. Linked to the question of how lasting is the change, is the other problem I have with the idea of setting resolutions: within the concept lies the potential, even the expectation of failure. To me there is a hard-edge-ness to the idea of resolving something, a macho quality of gritting teeth, pushing through. Can you hold your resolve? What is your level of endurance? The implicit danger is that you may succumb, you may weaken - words sometimes pejoratively gendered female.
So what is the alternative? I prefer the idea of inviting change, not overnight, but over 365 nights or more. Such a concept comes directly from my experience of motherhood. At no point in my mothering journey have I felt the role to be a passive one – not in pregnancy, certainly not in labour, and never beyond, and yet I did not make my children. I have been instrumental to their growth and their survival but I cannot take full artistic credit for them. It is the same with any significant changes that I have undergone – I was instrumental to them happening but I did not ‘do’ the change. I did not resolve it. Rather it turned up. Like my children, it arrived. And once such an arrival has come about there is no need for any grit-teethed resolve to keep it in place – it is an irreversible presence.
So here are my questions for you as January begins: what change would you like to invite into your mothering and/or your making this year? What change are you courting, as if it were an old-fashioned lover? What wishes flirt with you? And, to take the romance further, to consummate your dreams, what new forms might you conceive? What might you birth in 2018? If it appeals, let these invitations replace your resolutions.