I didn't intend to make any New Year's resolutions this year.
In my young adult life, I made the conventional kind of resolution - eat healthier food, take more exercise, become a tidy person overnight - and, like most people, I dropped them in the first few days of January. As I hit middle age, I got better at the whole resolution thing. Mostly I stopped making resolutions, and when I did, I made only resolutions that I could keep and which would improve my life.
I remember two in particular. The first was that for a whole year I wouldn't buy any black clothes (not including underwear). This came about because I opened my wardrobe one day and realised it looked like a funeral outfitters, and around the same time I realised black didn't suit me as well as it had when I was younger. I had fun changing my shopping habits, and by the end of the year my wardrobe looked like a rainbow.
My second, and best, resolution was to take a sensible amount of time off from work. This came after years of building my own business, doing postgraduate study, and working through most weekends and holidays. I decided I would take weekends off unless I had an urgent deadline, and that four weeks' holiday a year would be 'a sensible amount'. This resolution saved me from becoming a complete workaholic.
This year I didn't have anything in mind, but in the first few days of January a resolution crept up on me. I'm not entirely sure why, or where it came from, but I'm loving it. And here it is: I resolve to be easier on myself.
I'm a great one for internal self-criticism. If I want to spend Saturday morning in bed with a novel, there's a little voice which says things like, 'You shouldn't be so self-indulgent, what about all the housework, and you haven't phoned your mum in ages, what makes you think you have the right to lie around reading novels?' If I fancy a glass of wine on a weekday evening, the voice pipes up again: 'You have no self-control, you lush, you know you shouldn't, it's bad and wrong, and what's more you'll be an alcoholic any minute and then where will you be?'
This year, I plan to give up destructive self-criticism. And so far, it's working, mainly because I've stopped listening to the little voice (which, frankly, after all these years, can sod right off). I'm not planning to give up the constructive kind, because I don't intend to lose my self-discipline - I need that as a writer and as a self-employed person - but I'm learning to tell the difference between self-discipline and self-flagellation.
My new mantra is 'I can if I want to', which sounds rather Violet Elizabeth Bott, but I'm finding it helpful in working out what I really do want rather than arguing with myself. After all, I'm mostly quite nice to other people, so I don't see why I shouldn't be nice to me.