Who I am
I have entered the new year much the same person as I exited the last. Of course this is not surprising, but it is hard to reflect on this without being mildly unsettled. The New Year is supposed to be magic. It is supposed to bring with it a sudden and brilliant revitalisation of our spirits. We are to miraculously transform, aware of our previous failings, into the example of success. And yet here I am; still leading a life in disarray, still unsure of what to do next.
This observation is new to me, perhaps because I chose to cross the boundary between two years sober for once. Many others will have swept themselves up into drunkenness and euphoria, raising their glasses and bellowing Auld Lang Syne at the top of their lungs, perhaps snogging someone just met and equally brimming with merry. This places an artificial lapse between two years, rendering a false distinction between December and January. There are two times — the then and the now — and they are clearly different. Alas, it is a helpful falsehood. Time in fact heads inexorably onwards; there is only the now, and the self with whom to spend it eternally.
Things were going to be different. I’d convinced myself of this as I know many of us do. Of course I was setting myself up for failure. These plans, this day to start them, they do not change who I am or the mind with which I reflect on them. I have resolved to exercise every day. I want to, but I don’t really feel like it. I have resolved to read and to write. I am doing, but a month ago I would have told myself the same: I don’t really feel like it. And I have resolved to practise a hobby every day. I want to, but I don’t really feel like it. Or, better put, I believe I don’t really feel like it and this has been enough to convince me.
There has been so much that I have wished I were doing; it is a dizzying todo list. There is my own programming, still lagging behind but which I’m sure the product of which would be a big help to managing these things. I want to do it but again I don’t really feel like it. What is this feeling? What is it to feel or to feel not? We do ourselves a disservice by accepting the notion without examining it further.
To want too is to feel, is it not? Why then are we dominated by a vaguer apprehension? More importantly, what is it to not feel like something?
When it comes to programming, I so often feel exhausted by my job that I disregard further work in the evening. Lately I would rather read, but not long ago I would have put that off too. With reading, I have always suffered a desire not to finish mid-chapter. I flick ahead to see how many pages it will take to get me there, and if it looks like too many I will put it off for fear of being interrupted or growing bored. Regarding exercise, it is bloody cold outside and I am anxious about shortness of breath and exhaustion. These are the bullshit reasons that keep me from doing. These are what I unhelpfully describe as a feeling not to.
In recent times, I’ve accepted stopping mid-chapter through a book. When one returns to it after a short time, the details of what has been read are unsurprisingly still present in mind. It is easy to keep going. And it has taught me an acceptance for failure; a failure that wasn’t really a failure to begin with. Just as I may read and not finish a chapter, I too should accept that I can program or engage in a hobby for as little time as I am comfortable with. It does not matter whether I finish an entire branch of code or a full lesson in one of my hobbies. So long as practise and progress is being made daily, fulfilment will come in its own time. I must be less impatient.
Chapters, branches, lessons and goals. These are all artificial boundaries like that which arbitrarily separates one year from the next. There should be no fear for being caught between them. Wherever we find ourselves — mid-chapter, mid-lesson, at the beginning of a new year — we must remember that it is okay to be lost there just so long as we are making progress.
It is a cliché but it helps: what matters is not the destination, it is the journey. We cannot necessarily control every aspect of that journey, but we can and must continue on with it.
Should you find yourself saying “I don’t feel like it”, ask yourself why not? Such is too vague not to be hiding some more tangible reason. And dare I say we might ask a similar question of what we do feel like doing. You might have been, unlike me, raring and ready to go at the beginning of this year. That’s wonderful, but we do know that resolutions fail — not always, not straight away, but often and quickly. We are creatures of whimsy, prone to feeling like and not feeling like. Better that we disregard our too-fleeting intuitive thoughts and dredge through the mucky waters or clean springs of the why. We might well find something worth harnessing or undoing in ourselves.
Who I am is human; prone to fears and anxieties, ever accompanied by my own intuitions, each friends and foes. But lately, I am reflective and analytical. I do not wish to live upon the undulations of my own whims. If there are goals that I want to attain, I should pursue them or ask why I am not pursuing them. Behind a vague feeling or feeling not to, I am certain there is something tangible and manageable. Good or bad, let us all consider that which presents itself as intuition. With any luck, this consideration will unblock us or keep us going. With that, we’ll find success.
Now I’m gonna go for a run. I want to so I should, feelings to the contrary be damned.