It seems like the big thing these days is to have a “Word of the Year” to focus your life around. Different from a resolution, this is supposed to be a theme, a touchstone, to guide your life as you move through the next year. More clear and concise than a list of impossible resolutions, you’re supposed to tune into your inner needs and be hit upside the head with a single, powerful word that will strategically guide your every day and decision. Apparently “Simplicity,” “Balance,” and “Patience” are popular selections, although I know an impossible goal when I see one.
You can even pay people to help you figure out what your word is, in case you are completely un-self-aware or have a limited vocabulary.
Since I was down with the flu on New Year’s, I didn’t fall prey to the normal urge to make lists of impossible resolutions and buy excessive amounts of kale. And because my birthday is in mid-January, I tend to get a double dose of Resolutionism, as I not only feel the excitement of the New Year but also look back at my failures from the previous year, more than at my successes.
Anyway, this “Word of the Year” thing is making the rounds, even with us aging yuppies (as if there’s any other kind). Some of my friends are very clear about their word; others are afraid to even say it out loud, for fear that it might jinx the whole thing.
On Friday, at the office, Maureen and I were talking about whether we had a “word” or not. Frankly, I’d been spending most of my creative energy lately coming up with new words for snow and ice that the Inuit people hadn’t already have thought of. (And I wish I was the clever person who came up with “snowverlode” and “blizzaster.”)
Since I had done no inner pondering, I said, uncharacteristically-impulsively, “Yeah, I’ve got a word of the year: Change.” I didn’t have an agenda for that word or any particular change in mind, other than the usual…exercise more…lose weight…more godforsaken kale…watch less…read more. “Change” just fell out of my mouth like a mouthful of sea water I didn’t plan on taking in.
And, of course, when it comes to Change, I only want the good kind. The “I just won the Powerball!” kind of Change. Or “A miracle happened and I woke up with the body I had when I was 30!” kind of Change. Not the “Gary is leaving me for a boat-owning, supermodel who loves to fly fish!” kind of Change. Although if he can pull that one off, the more power to him.
So, a day later, here I sit, on this birthday, barely able to see the house across the street, and hoar frost everywhere. It’s hard to imagine Change in this deadly still and white landscape. It’s hard to imagine even taking the trash out on Wednesday, for that matter, considering how treacherous our driveway is.
Regardless, I am looking at my 62nd trip around the sun with a hopeful dose of optimism, wondering what Change I could bring into my life immediately. And then I realized that only a disgusting winter day like today can make me feel good about my treadmill upstairs; you know, the one with the dust all over it.
I decided to hop on the treadmill while my favorite NPR game show was on, “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me.” After confusing the dogs by putting on my running shoes for the first time in months and then NOT heading outside with them, I turned on the radio and treadmill. At first, I was a little bummed because the usual host of the show, Peter Sagal, wasn’t going to be hosting…but then I heard that Tom Hanks (yes, THE Tom Hanks!) was going to be filling in for him, so maybe I won’t die of boredom on the treadmill after all…Tom Hanks is a great Change!
Forty-five minutes later, all giddy from making my first positive Change by walking/running for the first time in months, with Tom Hanks, I decided to explore the subject of Change a bit more.
My thoughts turned to a book that someone gave me years ago, called “Destiny Cards.” It’s a system of divination that is numerology- and astrology-based and, while I don’t know much about either of those subjects, it’s a fun book to pick up every year or two, especially with girlfriends, after a couple of glasses of wine.
Every year of your life, the book provides information about what’s supposed to happen as you move through the astrological houses of the year, from being in Mercury…to Venus…to Mars…and so on. I don’t really understand this stuff, but I figure this book might provide some insight into this year’s theme of Change.
So, I looked up my new age and discovered the following, in summary:
- The most important card is the “Long-Range Card,” which represents the major focus of the entire, fun-filled year. In my case, it’s the Jack of Hearts, which doesn’t mean a thing to me, but according to the Destiny Cards gurus, it’s the “Sacrifice card,” taking the spiritual high ground and making personal sacrifices to help someone less fortunate. Hey, I’m happy to help someone out, but spending a year doing it? This isn’t really what I had in mind.
- The “Pluto” and “Result” cards are interpreted as a pair and are supposed to represent the biggest challenge I am going to face this year, and then what the result will be of facing that challenge. More good news. My Pluto card is the 9 of Spades and my Result card is the Ace of Hearts. The 9 of Spades in Pluto is one of the most challenging cards imaginable. In a word? It’s the card of Loss. Completions. Potentially poor health. Oh, and even maybe Death.
- And the Result of this hellish Loss vibe? It’s the Ace of Hearts, a card of new beginnings, new affections or love interest, or a child. For heaven’s sake, not a child. Well, yeah, if something big comes to an end, then probably something brand new somehow needs to start. Again, this is not what I had in mind. Unless we’re talking about my losing my job and then winning the lottery, in which case, I’m good with that.
I shut the book and put it back on the top shelf, until next year.
For a simpler and far less thought-provoking approach, I consulted a little book called “A Year of Fortunes,” given to me by my friend, MJ. There is nothing serious about this book, as its title indicates, a year of fortunes, but without the cookies.
So, here is my fortune for my birthday…ready?
“Celebrate boredom. It’ll make it less boring.”
This also is not what I had in mind.
I looked further. Perhaps Chinese astrology has more answers for me about this year’s Changes. Thanks to the wonders of Google, I quickly discovered that my Chinese zodiac animal is the Goat. Among other things, I found out the following about us Goat people:
- We are patient, quiet people, who are good caregivers. NOT.
- We like routine, don’t like to initiate things, and are not interested in management positions. NOT.
- We should seek careers as teachers, operations officers, support officers, and hair stylists. NOT.
No, this is not what I had in mind either.
Thankfully, I have no other sources for prognostication on my bookshelves.
With still no sense of what I wanted from Change this year, I couldn’t help but flash back to the 1970s and 1980s, to David Bowie’s song, “Changes.” For the first time in forever, I watched one of his videos on YouTube and, as always, was surprised that I still knew almost all of the words, including, of course, the iconic “Ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strange…” refrain. And I knew this would be my next, multi-day earworm. This particular part of the lyrics rang true:
“I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet…”
The great Mr. Bowie died right before my birthday last year, at age 69. Maybe he had the 9 of Spades as his Result card? No, let’s not go there. Life is short, as he proved.
So, for once, I don’t want to overthink this Change thing. Some of it will be Change that I create, some of it will come out of nowhere and be forced upon me, and some of it probably won’t be fun. But some of it will be GREAT, so that’s what I’ll focus on for now. I think Bowie said it just right:
Thanks for reading. I know how busy you are.