I don’t like these games. There’s a carnival barker in my head, holding out an enormous deck of tarot cards: “Pick a word, any word, just one word to be your guiding light in the coming year…” No! I sense a trap. Resist… yes, that’s a good word. The whole idea triggers an obstinate resistance. I balk. I feel tension, the fight or flight response. In fact, the first (and maybe only) time I did this, I chose “commitment,” and proceeded to demonstrate less commitment to my New Year’s Resolutions than ever before. I am too ornery for this. I don’t like to be pinned down.
I think of the mountain, resisting the wind, the incessant flow of a gentle creek. I think of the Grand Canyon. Resistance is futile…
The mental image that springs to mind is my box of Crayola Crayons. I will not buy a box with fewer than 64 colors, and would prefer 128, if half of those weren’t just garish, sparkly variations on the original 64. I like “periwinkle.” No one else seems to. It’s a marvelous name for a fairly tepid shade of blue. It hints of delicate mischief in the springtime sun. A grandmother, spiking an otherwise innocent punch to serve at a church ladies’ brunch.
My husband would prefer it if language were clear and unambiguous; he sees little need for Roget’s Thesaurus. It muddies meaning, to his way of thinking. To mine, it adds dimension, nuance, and shading – it lends precision. We need “periwinkle.” To his, it’s obfuscation and “weasel words.” “Blue” should suffice. To my mind, it is the difference between a screw with 9 threads and one with 15. A carpenter, an engineer, or an architect might care more about the threads on a screw than a writer or an artist. The driver of a car, the inhabitant of a home – one hopes they never need to think too deeply about the importance of a few threads on a screw, more or less. Stay out of my lane, you sensible, pragmatic man; give me back my unabridged dictionary, my billion shades of light.
Neither of us is wrong. It’s all a matter of perspective. I point out to him that Esperanto was a noble idea that never really caught on.
Further, it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. A man’s, too, for that matter. There are so many words, a sparkling, azure, white-foam-tipped tsunami of words, one might choose in any given month, or day, or hour, for that matter. Strength is an hourly office word. As in, “Lord, give me strength…” Perhaps the word of the day is patience. Or, maybe, determination. Kindness is a good word; kindness should our #WOTY, every year. There is never enough kindness in the world. But neither commitment nor kindness should be aspirational, lodestar words for a given year. These should be character traits, running through the very fiber of our being, by the time we’re old enough to think of resolutions and directional words for a given year. These are not “words of the year,” but words for a lifetime.
Limitless. My brain whispers the word, insinuates it into every word-mulling inner dialogue. Limitless.
“What the hell does that even mean?” I ask the brain. “What are you thinking?” Limitless…
Words, like spontaneous, float up and pop like soap bubbles inside my head. In the mind’s eye, there’s an image of me running towards a wall, but instead of banging my head against it, repeatedly, it melts away and I am running through it, arms flung wide, as if I always knew that the bricks were nothing but an illusion. In another, there’s a big scary creature. Instead of pivoting, running the opposite direction, heart racing, I start to laugh. I throw my arms around its neck and it tosses me onto its back. Nahh, that image probably just clung to the mental cobwebs in the visual cortex after watching “Gods of Egypt.” You get the idea, but no worries – I’m not taking up bull-riding or hunting bareback on a fire-breathing cobra’s head. There are limits to my limitless, and the very real likelihood of excruciating pain is one. I’d don a wetsuit and ride a killer whale, though.
Limitless. Other words, like courage, come to mind. Maybe that SCUBA diving lesson in a six-foot pool is a metaphor – taste everything, test the limits, don’t be stupid. Try it, sample it. “Would you order it again?” The box has lots of crayons in it. No need to use one up before moving on to the next. Courage and a willingness to try new things is not the same as fearlessness or recklessness or utter stupidity. I am not “risk averse” but I do consider the cost of things. Whether I can afford – or even, am willing to pay – the worst case scenario price of a thing gone wrong. The brain pipes up with, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger…”
“Sure, brain, sure.” It can also break bones. I haven’t the patience for that, this year. But I do want to try new things.
“Six impossible things before breakfast!” the brain squeals, excitedly, warming to the idea.
“Down, girl.” Six challenging things in a week, maybe. Other words, like embrace begin to float and dance, a limitless ballet with a chorus of opportunities and challenges, embraced without myriad excuses to hesitantly hold back.
“Embrace the suck!” I’m jolted from the daydream by a voice that sounds like Paul Lynde.
“Shut up, Prunebutt, you cynical dust bunny. YOU suck.” I smile at the snarky little fuzzball that passes, now and then, for my Muse. He smirks and rolls lazily back under the bed, where he promptly begins to snore and growl, rather than working on a clever concept for my next novel.
Limitless. The word, like the world, is full of possibilities.