In 2020, my word of the year was “gorgeous.”
I thought the number 2020 itself was gorgeous: twos and zeros are voluptuous shapes with a lot of potential: Zero can only be built upon, and two is auspicious as far as romance goes. A new decade felt inherently gorgeous in its possibility and opportunity for reflection, and I wanted to personally summon in a gorgeous Jazz Age vibe for my entrance into our own Roaring 20s.
Despite the, hm, twists and turns of early 2020, I was committed to my word. I loved it and I wasn’t ready to give it up. I noted the gorgeous cherry tree blooming outside my window which beautified those isolated afternoons, gorgeous views from my walks across the majestic Manhattan Bridge while avoiding the subway, gorgeous hand-written letters left on my doorstep from neighbors when socializing was dangerous.
The year felt soaked in strange gorgeousness by the end. There was even some gorgeousness about the loneliest saddest Christmas, an opulent level of melancholy that was just so outlandishly tragic that ‘gorgeous’ took on an entirely new definition.
I’m not sure that I’d be as attentive to the soft pink tree or the melodrama of a solitary Christmas spread if not for my guiding word. It was my first year committing to a word; I’d tried some other more studious ones in the past like ‘growth’ or ‘gratitude’ and, for obvious reasons (snooze), they didn’t stick past the third week of January.
The key to choosing a theme seems to be: I have to actually enjoy this. ‘Gorgeous’ is a whole lot more fun than ‘resilience,’ for example, and looking out for gorgeousness was its own form of resilience.
The past couple weeks, I’ve waffled over my new word for a year that could go in any number of directions. I considered the drab word “nourishing” for 2022 until I realized that I found it supremely boring. I didn’t even particularly enjoy the way it felt on my tongue—a far cry from the evocative syllables in ‘gorgeous’ which bring to my mind images of chandeliers, emeralds, and desert mountain ranges.
However, I took the essence of ‘nourishing’ and realized that a suitable synonym would do the trick, and was delightful upon the lips: luscious.
And thus, I want a LUSCIOUS 2022. This basically means a nourishing 2022, but it sounds more glamorous. When I think of luscious, I think of an elaborate meal or rich wine or juicy conversation, and I want my year to feel a bit more like all three.
As beautiful as 2021 was (for its theme I reclaimed the loaded word ‘happiness’), it was not a particularly succulent year. To cope with fatigue or avoid tough feelings, I spent time numbing myself out with scrolling and the same TV shows. I didn’t feed my brain with as much nutritious feasts as I would have liked, too often letting it subsist on crumbs of fast food: internet holes, well-worn songs, opinions I already agreed with.
Now I’m seeking more of a challenge, the way I would walk up a steep hill just to feel the burn of my calves. I want to feel my mind burn. I want to disrupt her own algorithm. I want to feed her with luscious banquets of new music, different opinions, tough books, vibrant detours. I’ve been noticing some mental ruts that I suspect are contributing to a decrease in creativity and even a fear of what a new idea might lead to: criticism or apathy, all from strangers on the internet.
Who cares! It’s time to be bold! One of the glorious things about reading books written pre-2010 is that you remember that, oh yeah, art and literature have existed since the advent of the human spirit without the expected accessibility, quick consumption, and instant reactions that social media have splashed upon them. This, in turn, helps me remember that I am free to create, guided by my soul and not a comments section.
As I get to know my soul better and better over time, I’m convinced that one of her goals in this lifetime is to be an open-minded witness: not a witness only to beauty, but also to boredom and grief and weirdness and miracles. To fulfill this purpose, I want to sharpen my eyes and perk up my ears, and sink a little deeper into the luscious life that is available to me when I close my laptop and let my eyes do their favorite job.
Here are a few ways that I’m setting my year on track for lusciousness, aware that lusciousness has a life of its own and may present a new definition of itself with the vagaries of the year:
1. I’ve deleted Instagram from my phone: I can still visit via desktop if there’s something I specifically and desperately want to look at, but the scrolling had to stop. Though I’m pretty good about tucking in my phone for most of the day, I found that I’d absentmindedly tap on the app when I felt tired or irritable, rather than do something nourishing—er, LUSCIOUS—instead. I'm not banishing it from my phone for any particular length of time, but I can't say I'm aching to return any time soon.
2. And, in a domino effect, I’m reading a lot more: And I’m specifically seeking books that are meaty, demanding, intense. It’s been two years since I’ve traveled—something that once regularly fueled my mind—so reading has taken over as my source of creative power. That's some pressure to put on Heidegger but he can handle it.
3. I’m going through the BFI’s 100 Greatest Films of All Time, committing to two movies a week that I wouldn’t have watched otherwise. I’ve just started, but already I’m feeling the luscious effects of exploring other eras and languages and scenery and themes. They fill up my idle thoughts and inspire vivid dreams.
4. I’m listening to a new album every day—bonus points if I haven’t heard of the artist. I’ve found that beginning my work day with a different sound and voice shift my thoughts around and trigger my idea machine into action. Everything in my mind begins bouncing. This is a weird, interesting feeling, which is much more than I can say for the feeling I get when I start the exact same playlist over again.
5. I’m going to enrich my habits: For instance, I’m slowly replacing my kitchen supplies with cookware that I actually LIKE to use, an inexpensive project that has already added a great deal of merriment to my nightly tasks of boiling rice and mincing garlic. Chopping an onion with a sharp knife is as pleasurable as a bubble bath, and upgrading a wooden spoon from one I've had for 20 years was an overdue new lease on life.
There are easier enrichments too: If I’m going to drink water, why not add a lemon? Why not light a candle with lunch?
I’m vividly remembering years when I worked multiple tiring, low-paying jobs with limited time and money for common rituals of “self-care,” but little luxurious details like cinnamon in my coffee or beautiful music accompanying my shower added some abundance, some lusciousness, to daily activities. I’m remembering those years as I boost my tasks with a bit of artistry, which takes slightly more effort but often no extra money.
6. I want to approach my challenges with the spirit of lusciousness. It has occurred to me that the avoidable losses in my life happened over a long quiet period of barely-noticeable decay, until one day I look up to find something I built completely eroded.
Just as I want my mind to burn, I want my heart to burn too. I don't want to avoid problems or let challenges fester or let "I'm tired" be any kind of excuse or explanation for stagnation.
To be human is to experience disappointment, worry, change, and regret, but can I bring any passion and wonder to the inevitable setbacks or even disasters of the year? I don't actually know, but I do hope the concept will guide me into a changed perspective and more energetic attention to stumbles and sadness.
This list will definitely evolve over the year; I don’t have any dogma around my goals, as I know that lusciousness will inevitably show up in ways I haven’t thought of yet. But, these initial practices are helping me get in the groove and start training myself to focus on this ridiculous word that I’ve selected to guide me through an entire twelve months.
Fun guiding words I’ve heard from others recently: breezy, eccentric, experiment, try, romance, weird, gather, and aplomb.
For the love of legumes, please tell me if you have a word of the year! I love hearing them. If you want to share yours on a slightly broader platform, the New York Times is collecting them here. If your word of the year is actually a phrase, and that phrase is “get my name in the New York Times,” now's your big chance!