This is my 2021 word-of-the-year.
Every year for the past 4 or 5 years, I’ve set a word of the year. I learned this from Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project. https://gretchenrubin.com/podcast-episode/306-choose-your-one-word-theme-2021/
For me, it helps to set intention moving forward. Unlike a New Year’s resolution, there’s no guilt associated with not achieving it and there’s always a ton of room for interpretation so you can always find a way to achieve it.
I’ve never been good at New Year’s resolutions, always feeling guilty when I didn’t go to the gym 5 days a week or lose 10 lbs. or whatever. Because the word of the year is more a suggestion than a goal, it can sit and percolate at the back of my mind all year while consciously or subconsciously guiding my choices. I can use it as a touchstone on which to make decisions: For example, one of the things that really fills my soul is watching plants grow. Not literally (ok, sometimes literally) and this year I’ve put a lot of energy into my garden, which just by its very nature defines rejuvenation. Vegetables, flowers, citrus trees, succulents, “cultivated” weeds you name it.
My garden starts working to rejuvenate me first thing in the morning. I wake up and wonder what the leaf miners have eaten or whether the deer ate the heads off of more flowers. I fantasize about picking the ripe red strawberries and plan my dinner around what’s ready. As soon as I get up, I go out, make sure my newly installed irrigation system is doing its job (trying to save water!), pick snails, squish caterpillars and listen to the birds in Pudding Creek. Once that is done, and I’ve picked all the chard I can possibly eat that day, I go sit at my desk and write. Not for work, but for creativity and pleasure.
Sometimes I write this newsletter (ok, not lately admittedly!), but most of the time I write fiction. Stories where I can let my mind wander, work out any issues that might be floating around and think of the world in a very different way than I do in the day to day. Rather than writing a journal, I write stories that allow me to get outside my head and into the mind of someone else. It increases my empathy as well as my acceptance of others. Everyone has a story. I’m really having fun creating those stories and seeing things from different perspectives.
“...[it] creat[es] cognitive alienation from the world you’re in. It’s like your world. But it’s unlike your world. And so the normal ways that you would absorb patterns and gestalts begins to erode. And you can see the same things anew.” Ezra Klein https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/02/opinion/ezra-klein-podcast-jeff-tweedy.html
All this creative time and fresh air starts my day off in a calm and grounded place. It is breathing new life into my routine and is helping reinvigorate things that had withered. I wish I could say it works everyday and that my climb upwards is steady and true, but honestly, it’s more like a constant struggle to remind myself of my path. But as long as I keep looking up and trying to move forward, the world and my life keep feeling lighter and brighter. As we move further away from 2020, I hope they do for you too.