Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Year is Dead. Long Live the Year.

The festive season is a time of mixed emotions for me. More of an end than a beginning.

Being a pessimist of world-class proportions, I have a tendency to look back at all the things I didn't achieve over the course of the year and, naturally enough, they stick in my mind a lot more firmly than the things I did manage to get done. I seem to recall standing in exactly this spot at exactly this time at the end of 2012, thinking the same things.

So, what makes people actually make a big change in their lives?

A few years ago, when I was still living in the wilds of Cumbria, we had a long period one winter when it did nothing but rain. The beck that ran past the bottom of the garden became a proverbial raging torrent, and when we ventured out the four miles to the nearest town for supplies, we had to drive carefully through an absolute downpour and numerous large areas of standing water, praying we didn't stall. And yet, on the way home, we passed a guy out running. Proper thin, wiry, long-distance running. He'd clearly been doing it for years.

That got me thinking. Common sense tells me he hasn't always run, but one day he must have made a decision to start, a promise to himself to run regularly, no excuses, regardless of the weather, and he's sticking to it. I'm filled with admiration for those kinds of people. Admiration and a sneaking little slice of resentment, too. I just can't help it.

If I have a resolution of any kind for 2014, it's to try and get rid of that little slice of resentment, and concentrate more on the admiration. For my own achievements as much as everybody else's. I can only do what I can do, the best way I know how, and beating myself up about my failings is going to achieve nothing.

After all, deep down I know I have a pretty reasonable work ethic. If I didn't, I wouldn't have survived in my old job as a freelance photojournalist for twenty-five years. I wouldn't have written my first novel, let alone all the others that followed. And if the latest is proving slow to introduce itself to me, I know—eventually—I will get it done. In the meantime I've accepted that I need to take some time off from the keyboard over the upcoming Christmas holiday, and I admit to feeling guilty about that, disappointed in myself. That's why, when I recalled the guy I saw out running, keeping his promise to himself, I had those mixed emotions.

Still, it’s very hard not to keep doing it. I will try to stop. It’s a little early to be talking about New Year’s resolutions, but this is my last blog here before that occasion is upon us, so it seems fitting. So what are your hopes and fears for 2014? And if you don’t believe it them, which character traits would you reduce, if you had the chance, and which would you enhance?

It only remains for me to hope that you all have a peaceful Christmas and I wish you the best of luck with whatever kind of promises you make to yourself for the New Year.

This week’s Word of the Week is zumbooruk, which is a small cannon carried on the back of a camel. Goes nicely with zabernism, a misuse of military power.


  1. What you're losing sight of is that virtually everyone on the planet wants to be Zoë Sharp! The grass is always greener...until you start to smoke it:) My resolution is to continue bringing love and world peace to all of God's creatures...except of course those &%$#@&^% who cross Charlie Fox.

  2. Zoe, I am making no vows of self-improvement, EVER AGAIN. (See my post called The Fucket List) You are swell and great JUST AS YOU ARE! For myself, when I feel self-doubt coming on I go into the bathroom, look in the mirror, and say, "Welcome to the human race," to the woman in the mirror. I am glad you are a member. I much prefer my friends to be people--flaws in them are comforting to me. It means they are part of my tribe.

  3. Jeff: The grass explains a WHOLE lot about the stilettos.

    AmA: Methinks you have a VERY large tribe!

    Zoë: I hear ya! Damned if we do and damned if we don't. Not directly related, but your piece made me think of a quote from a book I just read this week that I liked a lot (the book and the quote):

    "Piece of advice, okay? Don't look too close at blessings. You're thirsty and somebody hands you half a glass of water, don't get all bent out of shape
    about that it wasn't full. Just drink it and say thanks and go do something that makes you feel good."

    1. For my part of this litany, I can say that I am a New Yorker. Saying that means that all of the human race is my tribe.