I was down the beach last summer with the fam and ran into a friend from way back, someone to whom I’d given piano lessons about twenty years ago and stayed in vague touch with but not seen more than two or three times since. Top person, great company, but separated by distance and circumstance. We both have kids and they mingled happily by the water’s edge as we talked; how life goes ahead and changes, yeah. My friend invited us all to her New Year’s Eve gathering, and delighted, along we went. Not having seen her overly much in recent times, it was great to catch up, and I was introduced to some delightful new people. Kids were getting along, there was music, it was all quite splendid.
But I did what I do when i) I’m nervous, or ii) I’m frightened, or iii) I’m feeling outclassed – I drank. I drank, and drank, and drank. I have vague memories of the evening (and I think it was fun) but they are outstripped by my consequent shame and my terror that people saw what I’m really like, which is: a terrified drinker.
Every year, dependably, I resolve to come to terms with my drinking, and to defeat it. What better time to make a fresh start than at the dawning of a new year? (Although another very wise friend of mine once said, fuck that; if you want to change your life, change it. She was right. But I seem to need the prop.) I wake on January 1, usually feeling pretty ordinary – though not always, truth be told; this year I did but it hasn’t always been that way – and it seems like the right time to say: no more. (By December 31, just as dependably, the resolution was binned months ago, and it’s: warm yourself before the fire goes out – tomorrow is another Tag du jour.)
I thought I’d said this before, but searching I can’t find it: in Hitchcock’s Psycho, Marion Crane says, ‘Headaches are like resolutions; you forget them as soon as they stop hurting.’ To me, once a headache stops hurting, it’s no longer a headache, so the line would have been better the other way around. ‘Resolutions are like headaches. You forget them as soon as they stop hurting.’ You forget a headache once it’s no longer a headache (and why remember it? Duh) and just as soon as you think you can cope with the lack of thing you’re denying yourself you go right on ahead and grant it afresh. At least, that’s what I’ve done every single time so far.
Some resolutions are almost designed to fail, although arguably were they made without the New Year imperative (knowing that it, too, passes fairly quickly) they might even be more liable to be sustained. I am still trying, off and on, to get my act together with the grog, although ‘an exhaustive compendium of the reasons I drink’ is an entirely separate post that I am probably not going to be submitting all that soon.
Returning home on New Year’s day, and feeling slightly ill and devastatingly regretful, as well as stupid and guilty and all the rest of it, I thought, I shall write a tune. This is the thing I know how to do, and rather than pitying myself with a fresh glass I shall put my energy into doing something creative. And that afternoon, I did. Many years I have set out imagining I’d write more tunes but then the weeks have gone by and other things have taken place and the plan has gone out of my head and since there’s no real necessity anyway, I haven’t. But on January 1 I wrote a piece, and I thought, what if I could actually do this each day.
So then, there were three resolutions: quit with the booze (and I actually made it to about ten weeks before I gave in), run 1000 kilometres during the year (as part of a Challenge delivered by my fitness app), and compose a tune a day. I am currently at 772 km (and in the top 11% of participants!) but I doubt I’ll make the thousand. I’d need to run about 8.5 km every single day for the rest of the year, and I simply can’t see that happening. The challenge has been fun and there’s been a great community feeling about the endeavour. So the effort has not been wasted.
As of this writing, though, I have 341 tunes in the bank, leaving a mere 25 to go. Sall gave me a Peters Edition manuscript book a few years ago, and always I thought I wanted to do something significant with it, but could never figure out what. On January 1 I opened the front cover and began with my pencil, and now I am on my fifth such book for the year. Could it be that, at long last, aged 45, I have actually managed to keep a New Year’s resolution? What possibility! How unlikely. And check the responsibility! Next year I’ll