I had brunch with my lovely niece on New Year’s Eve and, inevitably, the talk turned to New Year’s resolutions. We composed our lists independently of each other and then shared what we wanted of them. It turned out we had a few that were the same – one being to go to bed earlier and to get up earlier….. yawn! I yawn not because the thought of going to bed early and getting up early induces tiredness, but because I’ve now decided I couldn’t have picked a more boring and sensible resolution. I wasn’t always a night owl but I might be turning into one, and whilst I don’t exactly lie in bed all morning I am definitely not up with the birds. But it works for me, and so, on reflection, two days into 2018, I’ve ditched the early-to-bed, early-to rise resolve. Sleep is fantastic and on those occasions that I get a good night’s sleep I should be happy for it; after all, I know so many who can’t sleep the night through because of insomnia, because the worries of the world are weighing upon them, or because they’re driven by a turbo charged will-power to get up and do something edifying at 5am (not me!). Once I’d back-peddled and unhooked myself from the ridiculous notion, I came across a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, which – if one believed in ‘signs’ – must surely be read as such.
‘Grown-Up’, by Edna St. Vincent Millay
“Was it for this I uttered prayers,
And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs,
That now, domestic as a plate,
I should retire at half past eight?”
Absolutely, Edna! I couldn’t agree more, there has to be some benefit in this growing up lark, and if staying up late and sleeping on late – well beyond the larks – is one of the advantages of growing up (if you’re not a dairy-farmer, that is), then do it! My friend’s father is a man of great wisdom and has many pithy sayings, one of my favourites of his is: “get a name for an early riser and you can lie on till dinner time.” Please note that in the country in Ireland ‘dinner time’ is in the middle of the day, so he is not advocating to lie on until 6pm in the evening! I don’t seek the accolade of achieving a name for an early riser, but it has become (and I think unjustly) synonymous with health, vigour and discipline. Yet, those four words, ‘domestic as a plate’, ring in my head as a warning against tucking oneself away like the good china and rising in the dark as a form of self-improvement. One word: Pah!
There is a young Australian poet called, Joel McKerrow who says “The wild ones amongst us are our only hope in calling us back to our true nature.” We have become the most domesticated of creatures but we are, each of us, quite wild and we should take our wild-selves out of the cupboard instead of making resolutions to tame our wildness further. When I was growing up it was a word that was used in a ‘tut-tutting’ sense – “oh, that child is wild!” – as though s/he needs to be reigned in and ‘broken’ like a bucking horse. But we are wild: we are drawn to nature, and the wilderness; to dancing and music; to marvelling at storms and high seas; to staring at the stars and the rising full moon; to ploughtering up muddy hills like Traprain Law in East Lothian to get as close as we can to the wild ponies; to hurling ourselves into the freezing water of the North Sea on the first day of the new year; or to just lie in the sun like a lazy dog. If we don’t indulge our wild side more often, we will go mad; mad with self-imposed discipline and structure.
If, like me, you’ve duped yourself into making some sensible New Year’s resolutions, well, you’re not letting anyone down by jettisoning them as quickly as you can. Believe me, it’s easy! And here’s an alternative you might consider: be irrational, passionate, wild and rash; rush into things headlong; if your gut says ‘yes’ then let your mouth say it too, don’t wait until your head catches up and gives you a different answer – especially one that tells you to go to bed early!