My #OneWord365 for 2021

My #OneWord365 for 2021

Do I dare?

I mean, it just feels like tempting fate, at this point. Resolutions – SMART goals – used to work well enough. Specific. Measurable. Aspirational. Reasonable. Time-bound. This #OneWord365 business, though? For several years, for all the good it’s done me to choose a word to serve as a guiding beacon to my intentions, I might as well choose Death, War, or Destruction. It would practically guarantee immortality, peace, and growth.

I’m not good at this. This year’s word? Oh, such a wonderful word, when I chose it in 2019. I even gave a Toastmasters speech about it.  Can’t remember, now, what I blathered on about. The word was #Observant. I suppose if we count #NavelGazing as observant, I have mastered it. I am ready to move on. In all seriousness, I suppose that I have been observant within the four walls of my home. I have observed my husband and the myriad ways he cares for me, for our family, and for our home. I could stand to be more active than observant.

Somewhere in my psyche, there is a disappointed child, pouting. That child got what it deserved, for rudely kicking 2019 as it headed out the door, I suppose. But for that child, 2020 was like Ralphie expecting the Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle and unwrapping the box to find soap and underwear and a little lump of coal. Unlike some people, the pandemic has not inspired me to learn six new languages, create and care for a sourdough starter, paint the walls (or anything else, for that matter). Like others, it has thrown me for a loop. I am not depressed; I’m just…on hold. Like a plane, circling O’Hare or JFK at Christmas.

I am at least as functional as a snarky coffee mug, and compassionate enough to admit it to my fellow dishware and say that maybe we should just rejoice that we’re still able to hold onto our coffee.
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I am at least as functional as a snarky coffee mug, and compassionate enough to admit it to my fellow dishware and say that maybe we should just rejoice that we’re still able to hold onto our coffee. A sturdy mug needs do no more. It is enough to stand, stalwart among the others, confident that it will be plucked from the shelf, filled to the brim, and warmed to its core – if only it weathers the settling dust, the occasional waterboarding in the dishwasher, the mockery from newer crockery. We don’t need to be glazed over; we need to tell the stories hinted at by our crazing, tiny lines, and cracks.

If #Observant is a way of seeing, I’ve written more poetry this year than I have in a decade, and a few readers seemed to enjoy it – even egged me on to write more of it. I have written or recycled 170+ stories on Medium. That’s paid only slightly better than child labor wages in a third-world country, but this “gamification” of writing has kept me writing. At about a dollar a day, it has paid for the web hosting of this blog that I have, ironically, neglected in favor of it.

As I was cleaning up for the holidays, I ran across the dusty optimism of Writers’ Market 2020, purchased in 2019 – its price now a penance, like an unused gym membership. But it is still there. Are the publishers who are listed in it? Are they still there? I wonder. 2020 has been hard on everyone. We’re not “all in it together,” but there is a common thread that that connects us all, in some way, isn’t there? I run a very small writers group on Slack, for writer-friends, where we can escape the din of rancorous politics and the staticky noise of social media to focus on writing, helping one another out, and keeping each other accountable – if that’s requested – for our stated goals.

I’m grateful for teachers and editors who taught me not to fear the red pen, and for mentor-managers who instilled in me a work ethic and the ability to detach from the product when it came to writing that has spilled over even into blogging and self-publishing. Do your best, be grateful for the editors who keep you from looking stupid in public, and when everyone misses that glaring error and it’s there in print to haunt you forever – let it go. Let it serve as a reminder that perfection is unobtainable. “Better” is a good goal. And “good enough” is truly good enough – for today. The ability to practice observe-and-release, in life, is a gift. It helps break us out of holding patterns, lets us land, so we can take off for new destinations.

To answer the question I posed at the start: Of course I dare.

I am dragging that recalcitrant, pouting child out into the sunshine. “Hello, Brat. Talk to me. Or run across that open field and play. Get out of the corner, stop reading about microbiology and economics – you’re boring yourself to death over there – and stop acting as if the world’s stopped turning, because you know it hasn’t. You’d have flown off its surface, bumped into the gnarly branches of your favorite tree, and had all the oxygen sucked from your lungs while you freeze-dried yourself and shattered into a million sparkling shards, only to melt in your next encounter with a star. So get up and throw yourself down the rabbit holes.”

Rekindling the magic of imagination doesn’t happen with a cutesy spark of inspiration, clearly. My Muse, such as it is, requires reaching in with both hands, rooting around in the brain for it, wherever it’s sulking, then grabbing hold with a determined snarl and giving it a yank.

My #OneWord365? IMAGINE.

Imagine that.

Fish Heads, Fish Heads

Fish Heads, Fish Heads

I am a huge fan of “novelty songs” and satire. “Fish Heads” was never my favorite Dr. Demento hit, but the story of how it became a hit at all just tickles my funny bone. If you’ve never heard Barnes & Barnes “Fish Heads,” watch the video below. After you’ve recovered from the “What the hell did I just watch?” feeling, check out the interview with Bill Mumy on how it came to be.

One day, I hope to win the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest. Why? Because it appeals to my “weirdly competitive” side, whereas “win a Pulitzer” or “win a Hugo” seems like one of those goals you sneak up on, strolling along, whistling nonchalantly, pretending like you don’t give a damn, lest the universe send you fish heads in the mail.

UPDATE 12/24/2020 – OSAKA POPSTAR

I have a new follower on Twitter @OsakaPopstar. I don’t know if they saw this post, or it’s just a funky coincidence – but here’s a fun, updated, punk version: