Thursday 27 November 2014

Because New Year Resolutions Are Too Mainstream

This year has been a bit rude, with the way it has sped past with no consideration for how slow some of us are when it comes to learning life's lessons. And I could certainly have used some consideration; I'm one of the slower set. In a lot of ways I feel like I'm still stuck in 2012, trying to figure out what the hell is happening and how I am supposed to cope with the enormous upheavals of unplanned motherhood and unforeseen orphaning, among other lesser shocks. Things have not been easy, and sometimes I have been convinced someone stole my controller and changed my player settings from 'Beginner' to 'Jedi Knight Expert'.

I have not dealt well.

I have been petulant, rash and selfish. I have made bad choices, danced on the edge of eating disorders, forgotten what it felt like to care even a little about myself, forgotten how to be generous to other people. There have been crippling bouts of anxiety and depression, self-doubt and despair, rage and desperation for something - anything - to give.

Then one day - at rock bottom, ready to give up the fight and just run away from all of the heartbreak and betrayal, it occurred to me that maybe life isn't actually shafting me out of spite. Maybe I've actually been doing it wrong. Everybody knows life is a bitch - to everybody. Shit happens - to everybody. So why have I been acting brand new and taking it personally?

It has been a slow, painful process, but now I'm starting to realise: I'm not as important as I think I am. The universe hasn't taken a special interest in beating me down. That's just how life works. And I will admit it freely now; it hasn't been all bad. I have had moments, experiences, seasons of pure goodness. People have been kind and generous, many times past the point of reason. I've made wonderful, life-giving new connections. My daughter has grown into an incredibly bright handful. My cheekbones have been popping of recent.

Looking back now, I realise that for a long time I simply didn't know how to be happy. I was always waiting for the perfect moment - when every single thing finally started to go my way - to be happy. I would decide, 'I'm miserable now but once I finish school I'll be happy.' Then it became 'once I get a job', 'once I get my own place', 'once I have six months' living expenses saved'... The result? I was mostly miserable. And I was turning into a cynical, resentful, bitter person, someone who I did not recognise and who I certainly did not like.

Do you know how hard it is to just be a decent human being when you don't even like yourself?

That's why I've decided to choose differently. I want to be able to look at myself at the end of every day, think back on the things I did and said, and be pleased with, if not proud of, myself. I want to take responsibility for my own happiness. Instead of being a passive victim of life's arbitrariness, I want to be able to say - this is what I'm going to do about my situation, this is how I'm going to feel, and this is who I'm going to be. I know this all sounds like recycled self-help material (I'm very suspicious of the Self-Help Industry), but I've realised that my perspective is vital to my happiness. I really believe that "happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it..."

So I'm not waiting for 2014 to speed past and disappear into the distance before I decide to do something different. Our calendar system is an arbitrarily designed man-made construct anyway (it's early 2007 right now in Ethiopia, people!), and ain't nobody got time to sit around and wait for a faraway midnight. What do I look like, Cinderella?

I'm choosing better today. Starting right now. (Actually I started about two weeks ago but for the purposes of this blog post we'll say right now.)

Watch me be happy, people. Watch me be fucking ecstatic.