This week I followed along to Susannah Conway’s Word of the Year series. It’s a five day series that coaches an individual through finding a word that they can live on for the next year. For me, living on a word focuses me on what I want to pursue, what kind of habitat I want to create for myself, how I want to interact with those I love and with strangers over email. (I have the big problem of typing before thinking).
My friend Nat is constantly telling me to read (or reread because I’ve skimmed-ish) The Four Agreements, a Toltec Wisdom book by Don Miguel Ruiz. I’ve gotten the quick gist of The Four Agreements before, but that definitely doesn’t mean that I’ve lived by them. I make assumptions about tone in every email I receive, particularly from high school parents. Whoops. I keep my word, but I don’t always say exactly what I mean and then I get frustrated when people don’t understand my frustration. I take everything, everything, personally. I am the definition of what David Foster Wallace calls living in my “water.” I live in a world of my own creation. It caused a lot of problems for me this year. For instance, I never saw Trump coming because I had never had political discussions with anyone who disagreed with my viewpoint. The only person I knew who was voting for him was BJ’s Nana and I knew that her constant stream of Fox News wasn’t going to come unhinged by my points brought to her from Slate Magazines, Huffington Post, and Politico. (I swing pretty left, ya see).
Other ways my water sucks me dry is when my best friend was arguing with people on Facebook who didn’t understand the Oakland highway protestors when yet another black man was shot by police officers. He kept saying, you don’t understand, the whole point is to interrupt the everyday, to bring something into your day that is jarring you from your own sphere. I didn’t get it until I looked at my water and realized how much I needed to be moved.
And thus, my word of 2017. It was almost move, and then almost linger, but when it really came down to what I needed to do in my world, I chose the word Tend(er). Yes, I couldn’t really decide between tend and tender and so I used my impeccable grammar (HAR HAR) to help me out. Here’s a few things I journaled about the word tender. For me, it means to “stay soft, give into feelings. Soften the edges. Love harder. Let the intimate moments come / stay. Be less in your head and more in your heart.” To the actual dictionary people on their high horses it means, “showing gentleness or concern or sympathy.”
I want to be more kind, more soft-hearted, more compassionate outside of my own water. But I want to be tender with myself as well. My goal for this year is to get essays and poetry published in print literary journals and print magazines. In order to do that, I have to quiet the critic in my head and nurture the pen in my hand without judgment of what that pen is gushing. There will be days when I sound like a thirteen year old girl in a mall walk conversation and days when I sound like Orwell. My attitude towards each of these days must be tender.
Tender might also change my relationships with friends and family. I tend to be a blunt, straightforward hardass. I like to believe that I’m openminded and I listen well, but this is only true in certain aspects of my life. While I was watching the horrible, but delectable show that is Timber Creek Lodge yesterday, one of the cast members said that he doesn’t believe he’s above anyone else or that anyone else’s role is below his. I need a little bit of that humility. My scrappy fight to the best and the strongest at everything (really I think that’s a feminist drive that I would never want to squash) has led me down a path where I forget the small things, and I do less giving. In order to be tender, I have to be less selfish and more in-tune with other people’s needs, particularly my parents and my soon to be husband.
I compiled, and probably need help with the last thing. There’s a list of books that I think will help me bring out tenderness in my life and if you have recommendations I would love to hear them. I wrote about this on my book blog here. Skip on over them and leave some comments on books: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, travel, memoir, comics, whatever, that you think brought out tenderness in you and I will add them to my list.
What are your resolutions and goals for the coming year? Have you chosen a word? Untidy Grace also wrote about her Word of the Year. She’s been thinking about it for three months ya’ll, that’s crazy awesome. Visit to see another perspective there.