Sunday, January 11, 2015

15 reasons to be cheerful in 2015


One of my most consistent New Year's resolutions is a promise to be a more positive person. This is challenging for me because I naturally err toward cynicism. When life presents an opportunity to look at things in more than one way, I will most often opt for the view most bleak.  

But I can't help noticing this has thus far failed to make me a millionaire. If anything, it's prevented me from taking enough risks, and has resulted in my being very boring to talk to at parties.

Meanwhile, I've long been a fan of people like Shay Carl and Colt Cabana, both of whom frequently stress the importance of choosing to be happy.

Cynical Chris jumps all over the flaw in idea that happiness is a choice (and as such, so, too, is sadness). That simplistic mindset is insulting to the millions upon millions of people who suffer -- in the truest sense of the word -- with mental illness. But Shay Carl and Colt Cabana make me happy, and I admire their positivity, and that they have been able to make successes of themselves outside of the traditional success machine. I want to be like them.

So, let's give it a try. Below, I've phrased my resolutions, goals and plans for 2015 in a law-of-attraction-style series of statements, as if all these wishes and wants are foregone conclusions. Because, yeah, life is that easy. We just say the stuff we want and that stuff comes to us. The poor, the unhappy and the dying are just dull-minded poor communicators.

Sorry, Cynical Chris is hard to suppress. Anyhoo, here are 15 reasons to be cheerful about the coming year:

1. Lo vado in Italia
I think that says, "I'm going to Italy;" that's the phrase I put into Google Translate, at least. Jenn and I have been invited to stay in a villa in Volterra, Italy, this summer. The folks doing the inviting are the same lovely crew with whom we spent this past Christmas.

Because the number of times I've previously been invited to stay in Italian villas can be counted on zero fingers, I feel inclined to not fully believe we are actually doing this. Maybe it was just something said in kindness under the influence of seasonal bonhomie and wine. If it does happen, however, I have already been given permission by Jenn to get to Italy via motorcycle.

That means a road trip of roughly 2,500 miles (combined), with my tentative route taking in seven countries: the UK, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. That's the sort of trip that would leave me wanting to attend more high school reunions, just for the opportunity to work in conversation starters like: "I remember when I was motorcycling through the Alps and stopped at this lovely little cafe..."

There is a possibility, though, our old pals at the UK Border Agency could spoil things. I'll soon be sending off the paperwork to renew my visa, a process that includes handing over my passport and being unable to travel. Last time I did this, the turnaround was pretty quick; if all goes well, I'll have my visa by mid-March. But it is not unheard of for British bureaucracy to move very slowly. 

2. I'll be seeing a lot more of Wales
Being sans passport won't stop me from continuing the Great Welsh Tea Towel Adventure, however. That's an idea I thought up for my motorcycle blog, giving me an excuse to go lots of places. I have a tea towel with a map of Wales on it; I've set myself the task of visiting all the places listed on it, even though some (e.g., Port Talbot) are places no one in their right mind would choose to visit for leisure. So far, I've visited Newport, Caerleon, Monmouth and Kidwelly, and already I'd say my ostensible goal of improving my personal attitude toward Wales is being achieved. My phone is littered with beauty shots of enviable Welsh road;

3. I'm going to visit at least eight UK national parks
Amongst the highlights of 2014 for me was the fact I managed to visit 10 of the UK's 15 national parks: Brecon Beacons, Cairngorms, Exmoor, Lake District, New Forest, Northumberland, Peak District, Pembrokeshire Coast, South Downs, and the Yorkshire Dales. I'm not entirely sure that time and finance will allow me to repeat such a trick this year, but I'm setting my sights on visiting at least eight. So far, I've already managed one: the Brecon Beacons (which is where the picture above was taken).

4. Northern Ireland, here I come
Also in 2014 I finally fulfilled a resolution I'd been making since moving to the UK:  I made a trip to Scotland. That means that the only UK nation I still haven't been to is Northern Ireland. Since this post is all about positivity, why not just state outright that I will be riding to Northern Ireland in 2015?

Even though I'm not entirely sure I'll get a chance to. The aforementioned Italian adventure will no doubt sap a great deal of my holiday time and financial resources. As will the next item on this list. So, I struggle to imagine exactly how a trip to "Norn Iron" is feasible. But hope springs eternal, and I have some very good friends in Dublin (apparently only 2 hours' drive/ride from Belfast) who I have pledged I will visit more often, so we'll see.

5. Jenn and I are running in the Twin Cities Marathon
Because it's not good enough to run a ridiculously long distance just once, Jenn and I have decided we want to run another marathon. It is possible that we will opt to run Dublin again, because that was awesome and provides a good excuse to see my Dublin friends, but we have our hopes pinned on being able to take part in the Twin Cities Marathon in October. Finances and the availability of vacation time may throw a wrench into the works, however.

6. I'll be seeing a lot more of Wales (pt. II)
In addition to zipping my motorcycle up and down the country's myriad twisting roads, I'll also be seeing a lot of Wales' footpaths, coastal cliffs and hilltops. Jenn has a collection of 30 walks set in southern and western Wales, and we have given ourselves the general goal of tackling all of them in 2015. That's a pretty ambitious goal, admittedly, because it effectively assumes 30 weekends in which there is good weather. That's a pretty bold assumption where Wales is concerned, not to mention those times we might be elsewhere or doing something else during agreeable weather.

7. Bang! I'm going to be doing so much DDP Yoga
Health is a requisite part of any set of New Years resolutions. Last year, I found myself strangely enjoying DDP Yoga -- a DVD-based yoga-like workout hosted by erstwhile professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page. If nothing else, it was beneficial to my marathon training. But as the marathon neared and I found myself running as much as 30 miles in a week, I suffered a kind of emotional/physical burnout and dropped the DDP Yoga from my routine. I intended that action to be temporary but have struggled to get back into the swing of things. MaƱana...

8. I'm finally publishing Tales of a Toffee-Covered Llama
I've no idea how I'll manage to do so, but I have promised myself that I will not let another year go by without publishing my third book.

On a side note: Publishers, how hard is it to email a form-letter rejection? I understand that you're busy, I understand that you get a shedload of submissions every day, but if you get a submission you're not interested in, how hard is it to at least put that poor writer's mind at ease -- give him/her a feeling of closure with you -- by firing off a simple cut-and-paste message along the lines of: "Thank you for your submission to Too Good For Your Literary Ventures. After careful evaluation of your submission, we have decided to give it a pass. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours."

It's not hard, y'all. And it makes the act of being rejected hurt just a little less.

9. I'm moving a step closer to becoming the next John Burns
One of the reasons Tales of a Toffee-Covered Llama remains unpublished is that over the last year my creative writing endeavours have taken a back seat to my writing constantly about motorcycles. Primarily, this writing has been for my motorcycle-focused blog, but in the last few months of 2014 a few freelance opportunities started popping up. In 2015 I'm hoping to expand upon that, with the hazy faraway goal of perhaps turning it into a profession. Some day. If being a novelist doesn't quite pan out.

John Burns is a writer for Motorcycle.com, and one of my favourite moto-journalists because he writes often about the emotional side of biking and its redemptive qualities on the soul. Equally good, if not better (though not as prolific, it seems) is Jamie Elvidge. This piece about how she spent her Thanksgiving in 2012 is the sort of thing I wish I could be writing. Perhaps one day I will.

10. You'll be hearing from me more often
Part of being a good writer is writing a lot. The other parts are: reading a lot, and not being Nicholas Sparks. And as I said last week, prolificacy makes me feel better about myself. I'm hoping to return to my late-2014 habit of posting to this site at least once a week.

11. I am totally going to be on top of Christmas
And by that, I mean last Christmas. I still haven't sent out Christmas cards for 2014. I will, though.  I will, damn it, I will! Who cares that people will likely be receiving cards in early spring? Beyond that, I'm pledging to send my 2015 Christmas cards on time. No, really...

12. I'll be reading a lot more
As I say above, one of the keys to being a good writer is reading a lot. I let myself down in 2014, only managing to read about 5 books. I can't now remember exactly which ones they were, but one of them was about professional wrestling. So, effectively that one doesn't count. I have long fantasised about being the sort of person who could read a book a week, but the truth is that I am an incredibly slow reader. Even back in the days when I was teaching in Ebbw Vale and had a 2.5-hour commute I didn't manage to read that much. Truthfully, a book a month will be a challenge. But that's the goal I'm setting for myself.

13. My Spanish will improve
I distinctly remember promising myself at the start of last year that I would put in the effort to achieve Spanish fluency. Then I looked at the cost of courses at Cardiff University and sort of lost my momentum. Good lord, thems classes is pricey. I used to teach Welsh at Cardiff University; if we were charging anything on par with the Spanish department I was definitely underpaid.

For all intents and purposes, my financial situation hasn't changed over the last year, so I still can't imagine being able to free up £300 for courses, even though I know they are good-quality. But, hey, remember how I taught myself Welsh to the point of fluency using only internet tools? I'm pretty sure it's possible to do the same thing with Spanish. The incentive is that learning the language will give me excuse to go to a country that is warm and has really good motorcycling roads. If anyone knows of any good Spanish learning podcasts, let me know.

14. We're getting a new kitchen
Remember a few months ago when Jenn and I decided to sell our flat and move to glorious rented accommodation? Yeah, we changed our minds on that one. Thanks to a facet of the law that extends to the times of Edward I, our flat is really hard to sell. While we figure out what the hell to do about our situation (Current plan: keep it until we die, thereafter willing it to the National Trust. -- Back-up plan: Establish close friendship with Prince William, ask him to give us our lease back when he becomes king), we have decided we should try to make it a little more desirable, i.e., more the sort of place we had hoped to move to after selling.

Stage 1 of that process for Jenn is getting a new kitchen. Jenn's plans for said renovation are ambitious to say the least, however (she wants to have one of the walls knocked out), so whether it actually happens remains to be seen. Perhaps this will just be the year that we finally manage to buy a  wardrobe -- an item of furniture we've been wanting for more than 4 years.

15. Some super awesome fun stuff will happen that I can't even predict
A year ago I wouldn't have predicted my getting free motorcycle tires and a trip to the Peak District; I wouldn't have predicted getting to spend a week house-sitting in a large country home in the South Downs; I wouldn't have predicted that people would want to pay me to write about motorcycles; I wouldn't have predicted getting to visit as many national parks; I wouldn't have predicted any number of the good and wonderful things that happened in my life.

And as such I suppose that's the great prize of life, the whole reason for carrying on: something's going to happen, and you want to find out what.

3 comments:

RolandasPT4U said...

What a great post. It really made me smile Chris, thanks so much. I like reading these a bit later in the year also, as a reminder of my own intentions. I love the fact that you will be totally on top of Xmas! :)

Moose said...

Kind of harsh to bash on Nick Sparks, I mean who else has been able to make a killing by telling the same story over and over set in the same part of coastal Carolina (per my wife). I mean, what he lacks in writing he sure seems to make up for in conning someone to publish said story again and again right?

Certainly look forward to seeing more posts from you Chris, I've enjoyed reading about your rides and have used them as a source of inspiration to get back into the saddle sooner rather than later.

Debbie said...

Really enjoyed reading that. Maybe for 2015 we will have to include a trip with us in Hester for a camping trip to one of the places you want to visit :-) xx