A few years ago, novelist and NN.C internet-friend Laura Lippman started a New Year’s tradition: The one-word resolution. No long lists of overly optimistic goals, sure to be abandoned by January 23, but just one word. A verb, obviously, since a resolution implies change, and you can’t change without taking action.
I can’t remember what all of hers were; one-word resolutions are personal enough that if they aren’t yours, they’re not exactly memorable. I took her up on it, and remember a few of mine. Focus, for one. Finish, for another. Breathe was the year I got more serious about my fitness regimen; most of the breathing was deep or fast and accompanied by a quicker heartbeat. Last year’s – Twerk – was a total failure; I just don’t have the lumbar suppleness anymore. But if you take it metaphorically, I guess I did some twerking. Kinda.
This year’s isn’t entirely gelled yet, and may change, but I’m leaning toward Tune. It’s a transitive verb, so it’s not quite right. Tune what? A radio? Your engine? In my case, I want to tune in and tune out, which may blow up the one-word rule entirely. But here’s how I’d explain it:
I want to tune in to things that seem to pay real dividends, in either personal happiness or professional accomplishment. I want to read fewer words online and more of them between covers, and have a good stack of novels already in hand. I want to take more time, productive time, to work on writing and editing I’ve been putting off too long. Pay attention to good things, or interesting things, in other words.
And I want to tune out the daily outrage machine that has made 2017 so, so trying. Sorry, but I just don’t have it in me to read one more well-crafted takedown of the president, or Congress, or whoever is cranking the dials on any given day. Nor one more tweetstorm. Nor a hot take from a surprising source, or whatever. I’m not going to stop paying attention; no one can afford to do that. But the accumulated static, the constant clanging gong of OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING? That has to go, or at least be put in its place. These are important and transformational times we’re living through, and I understand that. But we can’t properly focus on our work if we are standing in this firehose of hot takes, laughing, jeering and, of course, the screaming inside our own heads. Arm’s length on this stuff in 2018.
I guess both of these boil down to Focus, again. But isn’t that what all of us are trying to do?
And this will wrap 2018 for NN.c. I’ll be back…New Year’s Day, most likely, maybe later. In the meantime, I’ll be cleaning, organizing, throwing stuff away and throwing a fancy dinner party. Or rather, a casual dinner party with fancy food. (Prime rib.) Stop by.
One bit of bloggage:
Many of you may know that Michigan State University is going through some hard times of late. A doctor to the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team, employed by the university, sexually assaulted female patients, including many of those gymnasts, for years, while parties in a position to sound the alarm averted their gaze and made excuses and let things go on and on and on. The same story we’ve seen more than once in recent years. So far the administration appears to be resisting the sort of accountability that translates to people losing their jobs. It’s causing front-page editorials in newspapers and a great deal of anguish for the school’s vast and loyal alumni community.
Well, all involved parties might want to take a look at this story about the Penn State scandal, six years down the road. These wounds don’t heal quickly or cleanly.
So, everybody? Before I go, thanks again for your readership, your participation in our lively comment sections, and just showing up from time to time to read what you find here. It’s all I can ask for, and I’m grateful for it. Especially grateful to J.C., who keeps the machine running. Happy New Year to all of us.