Writers love words. Of course we do. Love to think about them, look them up, say them over and over until they begin to sound like nonsense syllables. We delight in stringing them together, moving them around, sometimes for hours at a time. We have been known to weep over our words when we manage to sort them into a sequence so beautiful it is as if all the sun in all the world has broken through to shine only on that paragraph, that sentence.
We weep again, when we realize, some time later, the beautiful words no longer work. Then we gently lay them to rest, heartsick they won’t see the light of day. We might keep them in a special notebook, handwritten and tucked up with tissue, as we bend over them promising to return, to use them again, in some other, finer piece. We whisper to them, telling of the day they might soar with their brothers into the world to inspire and move all those readers as they have moved us.
We almost never keep this promise, of course, but it eases our hearts, somehow, this ritual of saving something we have created, something beautiful, but in the end, useless.
When a new year blossoms we are tempted, sometimes shamed, into making resolutions, those great resolves for improvement, discipline, life-altering changes that often run counter to the true essence of our natures. A nine-year old child who doesn’t like to run is unlikely to grow into a fifty-year old who decides to take up jogging. It happens, of course, but I’ve seen them out there pounding the asphalt, their faces in grimaces worthy of Goya.
A friend is shifting around for her word, just one, to serve as her touchstone for the year. She writes with a group which does this, find the one word to guide and inspire them, something pithy and meaningful. A word easily transferred to a post-it note for the bathroom mirror, a word folded away with the ones and fives in a wallet, something to scribble in the margins when meetings run long.
A different friend gave me my word for this year. We were chatting and she said she experienced me in a certain way. She meant it as a compliment, and I took it that way, but I also thought, it isn’t very accurate. I might aspire to the word, might walk around in it on those days when I’m feeling imaginative and hopeful, but there is much in my life that runs counter to it.
Things that get in my way, keep me from my better self, things I do, out out habit or inattention, that hinder me in a thousand little ways. Like the principle of compound interest, little things add up, slowly at first, and then at a rapid rate. I find myself overwhelmed and set adrift, with no paddle or wind. Nothing changes. The shore always too far to reach.
Ah, but the word. If I practiced it, just a little, what difference it could make.
I am not going to share my word just yet. I know myself well. To toss it out there now is to all but toss it away. Sometimes just saying a thing makes it so, or it feels that way, and I am on to the next shiny thing, with nary a look back. I will share it eventually, but not quite yet.
Perhaps there is a word rolling around for you to embrace, to ponder and apply in your life, for snags big and small. Looking through a single lens helps us focus. Helps me focus. My breathing slows. Like tumblers in a lock, my next course of action falls into place and opens before me.
May you find your word. May you let it guide you, challenge you. It is you and it is yours, this word. May it delight you with the glow of a thousand suns.