New Year’s Resolution not going well? Perhaps it should come as no surprise.
So far it’s been the strangest January, raining, raining, relentlessly, miserably, causing chaos and mayhem for some but, as the rest of us stare dumbly out of the window, we need only consider what’s happening elsewhere in the world to know that we are still the fortunate ones.
Too fortunate, in many ways. At Christmas, I met a young Chinese woman newly married to an older British man. Clearly bemused, she pointed out how lucky we are in the UK, how rich, how much space we (and our farm animals, apparently) occupy, how much food, opulence and indulgence we enjoy, how little we strive, compared with Chinese people.
We tried to explain to her that it was Christmas, that we are not quite so free or greedy or drunk or lazy in our normal daily lives, but these protestations felt hollow. Because the fact is that we are lucky and we don’t appreciate it. Blessed with plenty, we help ourselves to plenty, and give generously to our children, from top-of-the-range phones and laptops to cool clothes and chic cushions, to replace the ones we bought one or at most two years ago (although, ironically, the Chinese work ethic helps us to do this).And what of all the food and the drink that we indulge in, especially the drink? It’s depressing enough to reflect on your own habits and festive intake without suddenly being told, by the Government’s chief medical officer, no less, that there is no safe alcohol limit, and even one glass a day raises your risk of cancer – for starters.
The warnings come now because January is the cruellest month, full of guilt, self-blame, doubt and depression, with accompanying resolutions to do better. The Government naturally wants to catch us while we’re in the mood.
And yet, this really is turning out to be the most unusual January. On Monday, we learned that David Bowie had died, news like a flare. Right now, as we unfurl our memories and celebrate his magic so beautifully, so strangely, it feels as if life should be for living – for creating, experimenting, challenging ourselves and the norm, and maybe not always doing what we are told.
One of the most poignant tributes I heard came from a 12-year-old schoolboy musician, on BBC Breakfast, who said that Bowie made him want just to be himself. No one seems to carry out research into the value of just being yourself, following your heart, finding your own path. In death, Bowie has reminded us what light and depth and colour and wonder such a life can bring to us all. It’s the only resolution we truly need.