I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I’ve always been a cynic at heart and I’m the type to bite my thumb at the notion, to trot out some tired trope about real change coming at any time. Which would be fine, except I’m also stagnant at heart, so real change rarely comes. I love a rut. Show me a rut and I will stick myself in it, only venturing out if there’s a new Sondheim show in town. But then, at the tail end of 2015, lots of things happened: I got a new job, I broke up with my boyfriend, I stopped taking the pill, and suddenly 2016 was looming and I thought, fuck it. So I wrote a list. It’s not a list of resolutions because steady on, I’m working against a lifetime of negative feeling here and some things you just can’t shake. And if we’re being pedantic, I didn’t write it: my flatmate did, while I dictated, because she’s a positive and helpful person who will push you in the right direction. But it’s my list, and it’s a Joy List.
The concept of the Joy List is simple: it is quite literally a list of everything that brings you joy, no matter how small or big or frivolous. Having one, it turns out, is amazing. My mind is busy and cloudy, and things I am bang into include over-thinking, second-guessing and being generally anxious about stuff. I often have no idea what I want to eat, to wear, to do with my life. It’s easy to lose track of yourself when a million different things get in the way; desire is easily overshadowed by obligation or expectation, and on especially cloudy days it feels like all you really want is the absence of everything else. But a Joy List is tangible, true, and here for you. It is the voice of your best self telling you to Do Those Things More. It is standing on the tarmac in a hi-vis jacket, waving those paddles around, guiding your plane home.
My joys are pretty simple, too. I love singing, so sorry to my flatmates who now have to put up with my frequent shower renditions of Good Morning Baltimore. I love riding bikes, and while I can’t quite commit to the 20-mile round trip that is my new commute, I’m packing up my panniers and cycling to Southend. I love painting my nails and catching sight of them during yoga practice, because damn they look good. I love the buzz after exercise, those endorphins, that dopamine.
Since I made my list I have run more often, and further, and faster. I have made breakfast and lunch in advance. I have bought not one Sainsbury’s meal deal. I am writing this: my first non-work-related piece of writing in over a year. None of these things are themselves on the list, and had I made a resolution to run morefurtherfaster I doubt I’d have kept it, because arbitrary goal-setting is meaningless to me. But here I am, doing it. It is much easier, now, to draw a path towards happiness and comfort, and to trust in the decisions I’m making to get there. There’s no need to “give myself a break” because it’s only February and I’ve already cracked under the New Year, New You pressure. There isn’t any pressure. It’s going to be ok.
So yes, my advice to you, dear reader: make a Joy List. And probably stop taking the pill if you can. Following your gut is way easier when you can actually hear it.