January 2022: A Touchstone Word
Traditionally, we make New Year’s resolutions to motivate us into becoming new and improved versions of ourselves. January brings a swell of full exercise classes, maxed out swimming lanes, a cue to use the weight machines, as we mean to get fit, lose weight, or stave off prescription medication. In February, the gym surge ebbs and by March the health club membership returns to the usual flow of avid fitness buffs. Our eating habits, sleeping habits, and leisure habits trend to their tidal pools prior to our grandiose expectant waves of an “us-2.0-upgrade.” This was New Year’s Past business as usual. Then COVID-19 hit, turning our resolutions upside down, shifting our perspectives and priorities.
When the virus invaded, I had already left the wannabe-better goals far behind me. For more than a decade, thanks to my friend, Sue, I take a gentler approach to the coming year, leaving room for ease and grace. Rather than a striving-to-do-list, I select a word to guide my year, a touchstone to reflect upon each day. This “Word of the Year” (WOTY) tradition started in Germany in 1971, spread to the US in 1990 and expanded, assisted by self-help authors popularizing the practice. Perhaps it is now common enough that you already have a word selected for 2022.
By abandoning the continuous improvement hamster wheel swirling around New Year’s resolutions, I give myself permission to just be, to be me, to appreciate myself as I already am. At age 55, my metabolism and body parts will not regain their 20-something energy aptitude and muscle tone. I do the best with what I have, preapproving my okay to not go as far or as fast as yesteryear, adjusting to aches and pains that fortunately, for now, come and go, allowing the few extra pounds to soften my silhouette. I still care for myself with healthy eating and movement, but I am no longer competing with the younger me I used to be, the cultural standard for beauty, the BMI medical chart, or the number on the doctor’s scale. I forgo the heroic effort to be something other than I am and embrace myself and my body within a changing landscape over time.
This brings me to my touchstone word for 2022—appreciation. The Merriam-Webster definition of appreciation is: “1) a feeling of being grateful for something; 2) an ability to understand the worth, quality, or importance of something, an ability to appreciate something; 3) full awareness or understanding of something.” Appreciation.
Appreciation is not a Pollyanna word to gloss over the trauma of 2020 and 2021 or what more may come. The pandemic further schooled me in slowing down, loosening my productivity standards, relaxing my former expectations, proving the adage that less truly is more and that simply being is enough. Surviving yesterday is enough. Existing today is enough. Breathing now is enough. A worldwide threat of life and death sharpens our insight on what is and is not important or essential both for our singular selves and the larger whole.
Even as I occasionally fail at my appreciation attempts, and I will, each moment provides me the opportunity to reconnect with my word and succeed in increments of increased appreciation for the people, places, and events in my life. I already appreciate seeing my clients, working in business for myself, reaching others with my book and music, being surrounded by friends and family, and this is just the beginning of a long list. There is much to appreciate even when nothing in life is perfect (far from it) including our imperfect selves. I intend to become more appreciative in both gratefulness and understanding for myself and for those around me.
I appreciate that the past two years have been hard on us all and devastating for too many. We struggle to find a collective understanding of the common good. The push to “return to normal” disregards how we normalized dehumanizing sectors of our community, allowing profit and discrimination to normalize limited access to healthcare, normalize paying less than a living wage, normalize poisoned drinking water/land/air, normalize massive debt with higher education, normalize prioritizing warfare manufacturing budgets over the survival needs of the citizenry. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness currently reserved for the privileged few must expand to include the masses, to include each one of us. That is the new normal I would like us to cocreate. And I appreciate that my energy towards that result will require the momentum of others beyond my lifetime.
May we all appreciate ourselves, each other, and our actions to make liberty and justice for all inevitable!
If you are inspired to choose a touchstone word to guide your journey through 2022 and want to share, please send me a note with your newest intention. I look forward hearing from you. Happy New Year!