It’s A New Year, Again

Happy New Year, dear blogging friends!  I didn’t intend to take quite such a long blogging break, but just as Christmas was feeling properly passed, I fell ill with, well, I would call it vertigo, but Mr Litlove says you can only get that standing on the edge of a precipice. So I had a dizzy-headed thing that was very annoying because it got in the way of the orgy of reading I had planned with my new Christmas books. And it got in the way of blogging, of course. As you can see, I am much improved, as I could not have tolerated looking at a line of print a few days ago, but my head is still somewhat tender, so this won’t be a long post.

But I did want to talk about New Years Resolutions. I don’t always have them, but when something seems obviously ripe for change, I like the idea of having them, even if I can’t always follow through. This year in particular will be somewhat experimental as I’m not sure I can find the right strategies for change, or if change is actually possible. The dizzy-headed thing was a good example of the way I burn my brain out quite regularly, and I need to find ways to rest it more effectively. I have a very chatty and hyper brain that simply will not shut up, and it is never more exercised than when there are people around for whom I feel responsible. So Christmas is classic burnout time – not, I hasten to add because I am actually responsible for the people around me now, but I still feel it, in an impotent and pointless sort of way.

So, for instance, yesterday was a good case in point. I was in bed still, listening to Richard Russo’s Nobody’s Fool on audio book (it’s very good) and Mr Litlove was sitting on the bed reading Robert Harris’ take on the Dreyfus affair, An Officer and a Spy (which he has been absolutely super-glued to), when I heard the cat come running along the landing, into our room, where he jumped up on the bed. I instantly saw he had dirty hind quarters and something long and trailing protruding from his backside. Fortunately, Mr Litlove was right on it and scooped him up and took him downstairs (to much feline protesting). I cravenly counted to a hundred and then followed them down to see what had happened. It turned out to be a long, thin string of plastic that we can only presume he had eaten. Our cat does have a thing for plastic, despite the fact that we are all trained in the rapid response technique that means he is instantly removed from the vicinity of any plastic packaging. But who knows what he does on the quiet? Well, I think we have proof positive, should we ever have required it, that he does not poop rainbows, whatever he tries to tell us. By the time I rejoined the action, Harvey was wearing the offended look of a cat who has been doused with cold water and he spent the rest of the evening with his nose pressed against the study door, shut in the kitchen for sins he evidently found incomprehensible.

But the evening seemed to take a bit of a down turn from that point. Mr Litlove, who only yesterday had declared he felt Tigger-ishly bouncy again after fighting off a cold over Christmas, started to wonder if his cold was coming back. He spent the rest of the evening with the long face of a man condemned to return to work in the morning after ten lovely days of holiday. And our son, who has generally the sweetest and most even temper practically snarled at me when I tapped on his knee to give him an apple. Though in all honesty, he was probably involved in an online game at that point and I was caught in the crossfire of a reaction that was directed at something else entirely. See, my point here, really (and you could be forgiven for thinking we were never going to get to it) is that none of these things are in any way strange, serious or unusual. It’s all just ordinary life stuff. But I seem to notice everything, every little shift and nuance, and it bothers me. I begin to wonder whether I should do something. And I wonder whether I should have done something earlier. I wonder whether my loved ones are happy, and wish that they were. What usually happens is by some weird act of contagion I feel miserable for them and they then cheer up no end. And all the time this is happening, I am thinking, Litlove, this is THE most tremendous waste of emotional energy, time and thought and you know that, right?

So somehow, 2014 has to be the year where I Let Them Get On With It. This year is about reinforcing the bubble. It’s about trying to find ways not to let the moods, desires and caprices of other people get to me so much. How does one go about doing this? I have absolutely no idea. I was determined just to let yesterday evening wash over me, and yet when Mr Litlove came up to bed I found myself saying: ‘What made you so grumpy?’ And Mr Litlove replied, ‘Was I grumpy? Did I seem grumpy? I didn’t think I was grumpy!’ said somewhat grumpily, of course, and I thought to myself: let that be a lesson to you, my girl. This is a good and necessary resolution and you had best learn how to stick with it. Or at least, there’s another 364 days ahead in which to fail better.

Other resolutions are much easier because they seem more within my control. I’m not making any reading resolutions because I never stick to them. But I am going to dedicate a part of this blog to chronic fatigue syndrome and anxiety. I’ll be collecting all previous posts on those topics together under a menu bar and writing some new essays. I really hope that it might offer some sort of a resource to other people in the same boat. In terms of writing, I hope to be working steadily across the year on my latest book, which involves a fair amount of research and will certainly not be finished in 2014. Hence the desire to keep my energy more contained and focused and to avoid brain burnout. Oh and this is also going to be the year of tai chi. I have found a local group that actually meets in the morning and is not for the disabled or elderly – result! Classes start on 30th January and doubtless you will hear more about them in due course.

So a very happy New Year to you all and may it be a peaceful and productive one for all of us. If you have resolutions you want to make, do share them here and we’ll make a pledge to stick with them – nothing like confessing in public to strengthen one’s resolve and all that.

60 thoughts on “It’s A New Year, Again

    • You’re so right – my sensitivity is finely balanced between those two! But I guess I wouldn’t be without it really (she says, gnashing her teeth some days).

  1. Happy New Year, dear litlove! this year i’ve decided to avoid any new year’s resolution beyond “take things day by day.” We are looking – at the very least – at significant change by adding one more family member, but there is great potential for additional change as well. I’ve decided I can’t put anything else on my plate this year and I think it’s the most responsible choice I’ve made, although if things come up that I am capable of addressing and inspired to address, then I will. Happy to year to you – I’m looking forward to another wonderful year of reading your blog!

    • Happy new year, dear Courtney! I can’t think of a more sensible and grounded policy for you to follow with the birth of your baby so close. Keeping things as simple as possible is surely one of the best things we so often fail to do! I have such confidence that you’ll manage it all with grace and kindness.

  2. Happy New Year (and I hope a healthier one)!

    By the way, vertigo is actually quite common especially as one gets older. A few years ago, I had a nasty spell of BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo), which is often what people have when they experience random dizziness. Sadly, once you’ve had it, it is more likely to recur, although now I can feel it coming on and take steps to avoid the worst. (For example, yoga is a trigger because of the inversion and will make me feel nauseated–perhaps I should try tai chi?)

    • Sly Wit – thank you so much! I do love me a bit of information on these things. I don’t think there’s any inversion in tai chi – I’ll let you know! I’m definitely a lot healthier these days than I used to be (yes! it was actually worse!) and I certainly intend to do my utmost to keep moving in the right direction.

  3. The very best of luck with you resolution. It must exacerbate the fatigue considerably to feel such emotional responsibility for others (although in many ways it’s admirable) and I’m sure they’d be happier if that were eased for you. Collating all your info on CFS would be a tremendous help and resource for all those who have it. All best wishes for a calm, quietly rewarding 2014, and a plastic-free cat!

    • I did laugh at your last sentence! You have no idea how much I hope that doesn’t happen too often.🙂 I do think it’s true that the more emotion you feel, the more tiring that is. And responsibility can be tiring too, so put them together and…. well, I have no excuse now as my son has left home and I do have only myself to worry about (when the cat’s behaving) and I do intend to take advantage of that.

  4. Happy New Year, dear litlove! I am so sorry you’ve been ill, but glad that you’re on the mend again.

    We had a dog who ate everything, including plastic bags, being a child at the time I was never the one who had to pull out the poo bag, more an interested spectator, but I do sympathise with Mister Litlove.

    • Oh Mister Litlove was a hero! I so did not want to have to deal with the business end of that cat. I wouldn’t let him help with cooking supper afterwards, though… It’s a comfort to hear of other animals doing this. It has always struck me as such a peculiar obsession!

  5. A very happy New Year to you and yours. Sorry you have been unwell – it’s a bad habit and you should try to break it. That chirpy unsettled brain thing is a pain.
    I don’t do resolutions as it is too much effort, especially once you’ve made them!
    I don’t know how to solve that overconcerned feeling. Too dense in my male skin for that kind of thing, no doubt [Aah stereotyping – sorry]. Could you get people to wear a headband which displays their real mood by lighting up or something – different colours say.
    Or you could become a hermit, with comfy cave and postal/internet connections to booksources and blogging.
    Best wishes for the coming year, may it bring better health and greater fulfilment.

    • I like the idea of a mood headband – sort of like those mood rings that were all the craze in the 70s but bigger and more obvious. I would very much appreciate that! And I am ever tempted by the hermit option – these days I have to confess that I’m probably as near to it as the 21st century will allow.🙂 It’s pretty good and enjoyable too! Love and best wishes to you and your family for a very happy 2014 – do please call in here whenever you’re passing.

  6. Happy new year! Good resolutions! Email me anytime about it. 😀Mine is to be conscious of my connection to the light (or spirit), and to keep it flowing, which means attending to joy. Thich Nhat Hanh calls it watering seeds of peace and joy. Not denial, but so much experience is not what is, but the mental story about it, or about how it should be, or what may be coming. And a story can be told differently.

    • Thich Nhat Hanh is one of those writers that I keep telling myself I must read! I love the way you describe your resolution – the idea of a connection to the light that is available at all times is such a lovely one. You are so right about the way we bend and twist experience, and also that stories are in fact infinitely flexible, if we let them be. Wonderful thoughts, Lilian and much love and happiness to you and your family this coming year. We’ll definitely be in touch.

  7. Last year I did the Goodreads Challenge and challenged myself to read 60 books (not a lot for some, but a lot for me). I actually read 61. So this year I’ve challenged myself to read 62 and that’s about all I plan on resolving, because I know I can accomplish it. Happy New Year, Litlove. I’m looking forward to reading more posts from you this year.

    • Yay Grad! That’s a fine total of books read and I really like the ambition for this year. So sensible and achievable! Happy happy new year to you, my friend.

  8. Oh, I so sympathize with that difficulty detaching from the emotional / psychological / other states of those around you! If you figure out how to Let Them Get On With It, please tell us all how you did it. Do you think avid readers might be especially prone to this – some kind of empathy excess? Because the other person I know who is hopelessly affected in this way is my mother, who also reads all the time. In any case, Happy New Year, and happy reading, and I look forward to reading and sharing.

    • Oh I am so very glad that you understand how I feel! It really isn’t everyone who feels this way, is it? And I’m grateful to be in such good company. I notice that Jeanne further down in the comments agrees with us, and all three of us are academics. Do you think it’s a combination of reading and the natural inclination to hunt down subtext? I do believe that the more we read the more we open up our sympathies to others, so I think it’s very plausible that avid readers are affected. A very happy new year to you too, dear Rohan, may it be full of wonderful things for you!

  9. Happy New Year, Litlove! I know when people around me are very stressed I tend to take that on too. I have to keep reminding myself to just breathe! Here’s wishing you a happy and healthy new year!

    • Breathing…. now why is it so easy to forget?? I find all sorts of situations I stop breathing in – thinking hard, exercising, witnessing others too intently, worrying…. you are so right that remembering how useful it is, is the trick.😉 Bless you for the solidarity, too. Rohan must be right – it’s the avid reader with an artistic bent that ends up porous! Happy, happy new year to you, my friend.

  10. Happy new year! And I hope this is a better year for you healthwise. I think trying to not feel responsible for other peoples emotional states is a good resolution. There is little more exhausting than feeling responsible for things that are out of your control.

    • Oh you are so right – and indeed my son, husband and yes even the cat are very much beyond my control! I don’t know why I persist in thinking otherwise.🙂 Happy happy new year to you and your family, Mrs Make Tea – do keep in touch when you can. I love to hear your voice.

  11. Happy New Year Litlove! What a gift it is that you will be giving a special focus to CFS/ME writing. And may you receive many gifts in return for your empathy and care

    • Martina, thank you so very much. It’s one of those things I want very badly to be able to write about in a way that raises awareness and tries to get to the heart of the condition – which remains still so poorly understood. Definitely got to give it a go.

  12. How is it that you so often write of exactly what I know (except, sadly, for that cat and behind thing): “not, I hasten to add because I am actually responsible for the people around me now, but I still feel it, in an impotent and pointless sort of way” followed by “trying to find ways not to let the moods, desires and caprices of other people get to me so much.” It could be because we’re practically the same age, or tender hearted, or just plain dumb. Anyway, let’s kick this too-much-caring-with-not-enough-effect for 2014, shall we? xo

    • Dear Bellezza – it is always such a pleasure and a comfort to me to find people who understand! I will gladly put my hand up to being a certain age, tender-hearted and frequently dumb!🙂 That made me laugh so much. Yes, definitely, we’ll do what we can, together, to bin the excess tenderness. I couldn’t have a nicer companion on that particular road.

  13. Happy New Year to you, Victoria, and best of luck with your non-reading resolutions. I hope the year finishes with less anxiety/more peacefulness than it’s started with!

    • Richard, how nice of you to drop by. And a very very happy New Year to you, too. May it be full of exquisite books for you, and many other good things, too. (Though I can’t think what might be quite as satisfying as an exquisite book, in all honesty.)

  14. Happy new year to you too, and may it be a cheerful and healthy one. Pace Mr L, you can have a form of vertigo when not standing on a high building — I had a ten day bout of it some years ago and it was absolutely horrid. Glad your has gone, anyway.

    • Well now thank you for that useful information! Though I am very sorry to hear you had to go through it too. It’s not much fun, is it? And I do resent anything that gets in the way of my reading. Here’s to a very happy, productive and peaceful 2014 for you, dear Harriet.

  15. Happy New Year! I too need to find a way of not letting my 13yr old daughter get to me so much – her teenage brain can go from sweet to snarling in a nanosecond. I hope your vertigo (labyrinthitis?) gets completely better. Good luck with the cat!!! That made me laugh – cat klingons as I call them are not nice at all.

    • Cat klingons! I just love that – and having a term for anything always makes it better, doesn’t it? Gosh you’ve made me remember the 13-14 years stage which was much worse with regard to grunting and snarling. It does get better, and quite quickly too! But still, children get under your skin at any age – thank you for the solidarity.🙂

  16. I wish you a wonderful 2014. Good luck with any resolution. I find they do help even if I don’t stick 100% to them, they still give some direction.
    How about some Bach Flowers? Red Chestnut, Walnut … (I’m currently finishing one of three courses to become a practitioner later this year).🙂

    • I have never tried Bach Flowers – how interesting to know you are training to be a practitioner! I will have to look out the remedies you mention – I know the local health food shop stocks them. And yes, I do find that having resolutions with wide margins can be very helpful for exactly that purpose of direction you mention. A very very happy and peaceful 2014 to you, too!

      • Litlove, they work very well for anxiety as well (Mimulus if it’s general anxiety, Rock Rose for panic, Aspen if you have an irrational fear – White Chestnut helps when thoughts turn in circles).
        They do work remarkably well and are gentle and have no side effects. I can really recommend them.

  17. As Rohan also says, Letting Them Get On With It is something I think a number of us struggle with. My smaller resolution–meant to get at this from a slant–is to use more active voice. In writing an e-mail to the person I buy eggs from at work, I was tempted to use the traditional (at Kenyon, anyway) phrase “things got a little crazy” right before the holidays. Instead, though, I wrote “I got a little disorganized” and forgot to tell you I wouldn’t be in to get my weekly dozen of your eggs. It’s a small step, but how I phrase things to myself is how I end up seeing them, so I think it’s worth a try.

    • Oh I like the idea of the active voice. I have a strong pull towards the passive too, which is a good way of hiding everything I feel. And sometimes, letting people know how you feel can be a good thing (I forget that!). And given that we all know exactly what it is to get overwhelmed during the run-up to the festive season, you’d think we’d all share more openly about that, wouldn’t you? (I have a strong belief that no single day should EVER involve as much preparation as Christmas Day does, but that doesn’t stop me preparing manically!)

  18. Happy new year to you! Let them get on with it seems a good motto, but if you can’t, don’t feel guilty! I wish you great success with Taichi, I have been a convert for a few years now (although my memory of movement is so bad) and can’t wait to get back to it after the baby (that’s one thing that will make going back to work more enjoyable – the class is during lunch break)

    • Do you know I had forgotten – or never knew – that you were a tai chi person. How about that! A lunchtime class would be great – my new one will take up most of Thursday morning. But that’s preferable by far to an evening one. I like the injunction not to feel guilty – yes! Let’s give that a whirl! And a very, very happy new year to you and your family, dear Smithereens. I look forward to hearing all the news in due course!

  19. Happy, happy New Year to you and your family! Reading about the poopy plastic incident made me nod along in sympathy. First because I have also retrieved stringy poopy things from animal bottoms (dog in this case); second because I’m the same about taking on emotional responsibility for everyone around me. I had a string of counselling sessions about it this year, because I just couldn’t get over the chronic guilty sensation that I should be watchful of everyone else’s feelings and smooth them through the world. It’s a hard thing to stop but recognising it happening is the biggest change.

    • Oh that is so exactly how I feel! I am always thinking I must rush in and smooth everything over and be careful with everyone’s sensitivities. It’s that thought of stepping back and watching others hasten catastrophe that seems almost unbearable. And getting caught up in watching vigilantly, it’s easy not to recognise what I’m doing. Thank you for the solidarity – and the words with which to say it, which are often more of a comfort than one ever imagines they could be. And also with the pooping plastic thing – I had feared it was just a mania of our cat and it’s reassuring to know other animals get plastic obsessed too! A very happy and peaceful and productive 2014 to you, dear Victoria!

  20. Happy New Year! It sounds like your plans for the new year have a good balance — some challenging things to work on and then other areas that you are keeping open and flexible. Best of luck with your writing in 2014. I look forward to everything you share with us!

    • If there’s one thing motherhood teaches, it’s that you have to pick your battles!🙂 Thank you for your lovely kind wishes, dear Rebecca. Sending love to you and the Hobgoblin and your little boy.

  21. How telling is it that I make reading resolutions (of a sort) but no others to improve my life. Hmm. Maybe I have something backwards here. I am still (and this will ever be a theme with me) working on how to figure out ‘contentment’–when to simply be happy with my life and when to try to improve it–knowing that middle ground balance. There is a trick there that I have yet to figure out. I can totally empathize when it comes to feeling responsible in some way to the emotions of others–I also feel a part of that environment and wonder what *I* need to do to make others happy–or whatever–when I know they aren’t even thinking of me and having any need to be responsible for them–if that makes sense! My cat (the last one, Chispa) was quite fond of plastic too. How weird is that. Someone told me that plastic bags are made of fish oil (or it is in some way associated with the production of plastic?) so I guess there is the temptation to eat and or chew or lick it? However, I am lucky as she never actually ate enough to make its way through her um, digestive track….. Oh, so glad to hear good things about An Officer and a Spy as I had been eyeing that one myself. Happy New Year Litlove–I hope it is all you wish for and more. And if you happen to work more on the novel you kindly shared with me, I would love to know how things work out….. (And I have not forgotten the Wouk–I am only about 40 pages from Noel’s section–well, whichever section it was that you had been waiting for me to catch up on….however, if you have gone on without me, that is totally cool, too). I am so looking forward to weekend reading time! Cheers!

    • We are alike, aren’t we? I wonder what it is that makes some of us feel so responsible for the emotions of others – even when that consideration is a one-way street! I do wonder whether you are actually not a great deal more sensible just thinking about reading plans, though. They at least have far more likelihood of being under our control! I had never heard that about fish oils in plastic but it does make sense and seems very plausible – Harvey is completely obsessed with eating plastic so there must be something in it for him you’d think.

      As for An Officer and a Spy, Mr Litlove finished it the other day to the most gushing praise I’ve heard from him about a novel in a long time – he is very picky! I am definitely earmarking it for myself now, too! Bless you for saying you’ll still read for me – thank you! I need to drop you a line about all sorts of things, Wouk included, and I will soon. I’m in that post-xmas slump but will emerge from it very soon I hope!🙂

  22. Don’t try to change too much, Litlove, or you won’t be the wonderful person we all care about so much. In terms of trying not to take too much of other people’s problems onto yourself, quite seriously I would start with the cat. Cats will survive whatever we humans do or don’t do and once you’ve had proof positive of that you might find it easier to take what you’ve learnt forward. Happy New Year.

    • Oh I believe you – my cat has all the skills he needs to force someone into feeding him (which is all that matters!). I wish I could remember which psychoanalyst said it, but one of them was pointing out how incredibly hard it is to change, and saying that a 2% change was perhaps the best anyone could ever manage. But that that 2% might be just what was needed. I like that thought very much! Happy, happy new year to you, too, my friend.

  23. Happy New Year to you and your family, Litlove! May you be energized to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself. I look forward to another year of wonderful posts!😉

    • You put your finger on it there – the key is to find the energy to keep diverting from the old bad habits, isn’t it? It’s very useful, I think, to look what needs doing directly in the face. Thank you for your lovely wishes, Arti, and a very very Happy New Year to you and your family, too.🙂

  24. Happy New Year, lady! I confess my resolutions here: I want to keep up with my planner (I have bought a planner with lots of space for notes, because my notion is that if it’s also sort of a notebook, I’ll be more likely to keep it in my handbag and take it out frequently (thus update it frequently)), and I want to read twenty percent non-white authors. Or at least I want my review posts to be twenty percent about books by non-white authors. GOALS.

  25. A belated Happy New Year to you too! I can definitely empathise with the feeling too much story. I think you qualify as an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) although I don’t really like that term! One of my resolutions is that I want to connect with my blogging friends a bit more than I have done recently and I’ll be reading your anxiety posts with great interest (and your other posts too). Another resolution is to be more grateful. I know that comes with a lot of baggage (The Secret for a start) and I don’t like the idea of forcing feelings that aren’t there. But perhaps the idea is greater awareness of all the good things that life has to offer.

  26. Happy new year! Good luck with all of your resolutions especially the letting them get on with it one. So exciting you will be doing tai chi! I have always wanted to try it. Please do share how it goes. And I am sure one of these days your cat is really going to surprise you by pooping a rainbow just to prove you wrong!

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