I’ve never been keen on making resolutions for the new year, largely because I have always broken them. Why set myself up for failing to get fitter, drink less, eat healthier, or fold my clothes like Marie Kondo? I’m not alone. It’s estimated over 80% of us who manage to make resolutions lose resolve by mid-February. I get it. The very thought of a resolution nags “I must” or “I should”. And if I don’t, I have failed, which is a lousy feeling. It’s simply too much pressure. What’s with all the hype if they so rarely work?
My resolution failings are in with the majority, but I wonder what percentage misses the mark within the first few hours of the new year?
Rather than making a list of resolutions, Roger and I have a slightly different tradition on the last night of the year. We sit by the fire and explore the question: “What are the areas we want to bring into focus in the new year?” To do this, we each write on a piece of paper those things from the previous year we’d like to let go. Sadness. Anger. Stress. All the biggies which can get in the way of having fun. We then burn the paper and with it, those burdens. It may be a little new-agey to do this, but admittedly, it is very satisfying. It’s symbolic and we both privately say goodbye to things that have been weighing us down. We don’t discuss our regrets; we just burn them and then switch gears to forward thinking.
Next, we make a little list of a few items we’d like to do in the new year. Again, these aren’t so much resolutions, but more guidelines. We both agreed that we wanted to be more creative, tart up Crockern with specific projects, increase our travel, address fitness levels (okay, a little more exercise and less drinking come into this, which sounds perilously close to resolution territory), go to an Exeter Chiefs game, and try to go to the movies from time to time. While we came up with these ideas independently, our 4-5 items where completely in synch with one another. We’re off to a good start!
As we sat by the fire, discussing some of our plans for the new year, we both confessed that we wanted to be more patient about the things which make us nuts: People driving up the track, climbing our stone walls, blocking our gate, or leaving poo bags in places along the track that mean we either continue to look at them, or we have to clean them up. It’s a big ask for both of us as our tolerance for what seems like completely oblivious behaviour on the part of the general public reached an all-time low last year. Still, it’s not making us happy or stress free to focus on it, so we both agreed how we might go about “letting go”.
When I mentioned this intention to a friend, he quipped “I suspect it is easier for an addict to give up heroin than it is for any of us over a certain age to become more tolerant.” Hmmmm.
Alas, he may have a valid point. Day one of 2020. It was a foggy holiday morning and we are enjoying a leisurely breakfast. The morning air is chilly and there is a moody fog across the valley. I’ve already built a fire and we are both looking forward to a long walk with the dogs after we finish a few chores. It’s a lovely start to the new year and so far so good with our non-resolution resolutions. Traditionally, on this day many people set out on a walk. Eight-thirty a.m. and we could see we were in for a busy day on the footpath past our house. Still, we were feeling positive about the new year ahead.
Suddenly, Roger flies out of his chair and shouts, “There’s a dog running in the yard!”
We are outside faster than imaginable. Millie and Brock bark with excitement but are quickly stunned into silence when Roger roars, “NO!” at a black springer spaniel who had captured and killed our Wee-Cockerel Tommy.
We rescued Tommy several years ago. He was a Bantam Cockerel, and about half the size of our hens. Never once did he miss crowing his start of the day at 4:30 a.m. Never once did he get up and about before 8:00 a.m., having woken everyone else. When first introduced to our flock of hens, he stood his ground despite his size disadvantage. A twenty-minute power struggle ensued between Tommy and the top hen. After much chest thumping and chicken growling, the challenge ended. Not clear who was the winner, but Tommy earned his wings and respect from the existing flock and us. He was graced with black and iridescent green feathers, which upon first appearance rendered him rather drab – yet when the sunlight hit just so, he shone resplendently. Always friendly toward us, the dogs, and our flock of hens, he never bullied, and was a sensitive little chap. We always knew when we had a chicken who wasn’t feeling well as Tommy would not leave her side. He was courteous and served his duty to his flock of hens with honour. He also was fun to watch when he ran, swinging his feathered spurs left and right from under his body in a pirate like swagger. He has been a friend to all of us and to our hens and we’ll miss him terribly.
The encounter with the couple and their dog cut short our tolerance goal for the new year. We had no patience for endless apologies. We had no patience for explanations about how they were “unaware we had chickens,” their dog had “never done anything like this before,” and “we had no idea he could climb a fenced wall.” No, we plummeted into resolution failure. Our newly resolved patience as measured through limiting the use of colourful language was a fail. We out Samuel L. Jackson-ed the man himself.
It’s true, eighty percent of people lose their resolve to making changes within the first six weeks of the year. Some of us in less time than that. Tommy the Wee Cockerel was murdered by our front door by an unsupervised dog who jumped our fence. Roger and I failed with our first effort at improving our tolerance. Given the circumstances, it was a big ask.