Why not enjoy the view from Cook’s? (Erin O’Mara photo)
I’m disingenuous about New Year’s resolutions, so I quit making them a long time ago. In the very moment I’d vow to lose weight, exercise more, cook nutritious meals with joy, and somehow be a better person, generally or specifically, my inner voice mocked my earnest intentions and I knew I’d never follow through. When everyone else is frustrated in the third week of January because they haven’t made it to the gym at 5 a.m. three days a week like they promised, I’m at peace, self-satisfied and way ahead of the acceptance curve.
You’ll never hear me share my New Year’s resolution but I’m a sucker for a theme.
A well-considered, intentional, meaty, sink-my-fingers-in-and-hold-on theme is a beacon and an animating force. And thanks to creative friends and respect for tradition, I’ve lived more annual themes than I can remember.
We declared one year “The Year of the Hard Body” and since my friends share my resolution apathy, we gave ourselves lots of latitude. We could live the theme by improving personal fitness or by dating someone who was fit. This was a spectacular failure, for all of us, on both counts.
There was “The Year of Amore,” when I dated a very nice guy with a cheese phobia, though he claimed to love pizza. He planned a date at a pizza joint and when the cheesy pizza he picked arrived, he sent it back because the cheese gave him a bad feeling. I endured the waiter’s imploring looks as my date assured him that he absolutely wanted cheese and he’d know it was right when he saw it.
As our puzzled waiter walked away, my date explained that Parmesan has a similar composition to vomit and I decided I wasn’t hungry and I needed more boundaries.
The following year was “The Year of the Bitch.”
When we wanted to emphasize the importance of laughter, we ushered in “The Year of Fun.” Do you remember times when you laughed so hard you cried and your cheeks cramped? Times when laughter has a life and momentum, and if you’re able to stop laughing to grab a breath, you can’t look anyone in the eye without bursting into giggles? Movies like to write these scenes into funerals, and we wanted to appreciate all laughter whenever and wherever real life allows.
The next year was “The Year of Yes.” I’ve come to believe all those childhood promises: ask and ye shall receive, you reap what you sow, I’m rubber and you’re glue. It felt reckless for “yes” to be the standard for the year since there are lots of things nobody should say yes to and there’s no need to invite those things around. I’ve come to understand that being too open-ended or too narrow is a problem.
We had a “Year of Adventure” and defined “adventure” as anything new. “The Year of No Fear” was awesome because the theme rhymes and because it was about going after dreams. We probably came up with it the year that meme went around asking what you’d do if you knew you couldn’t fail.
The “Year of Well and Good” followed. After the highs of fun, yes, adventure and no fear, everyone needed rest and balance.
We’ve rolled through purpose, beauty, reckoning, harmony and bitch (again).
Looking back, it’s easy to see how our chosen themes mapped our reactions to our lives and world, pinging from one standard to the next as we tried to find the recipe for a rich, contented life.
If a theme could have all the answers and a tweak in mindset could stiffen our spines, could make us laugh more and achieve more with an abundance of joy, then it was certainly worth a try. When things felt out of control, we buttoned the year up. Need to push back? We’ve got a theme for that. Need energy to harness talent and pay attention to the future? Done. Need to recuperate and reflect? We got that too.
2021 was the “Year of Silver Linings.” It seemed like a good time to count our blessings. 2022 was the “Year of Possibility” and, because we continue to count our blessings, it hasn’t disappointed.
We’ve learned a good theme requires nuance. We don’t have perfect answers or a perfect path and we can be humble and thoughtful. So when 2023’s theme came up and someone suggested it could be the “Year of I Don’t Care,” we paused and dug in. This group cares deeply about many, many things, so what were we going for?
A friend explained that a project detail kept tripping her up. She couldn’t quite place the problem but couldn’t ignore it either. Then she had an aha! moment and realized she was agonizing over a pebble, not a boulder, and for now, she could stop ruminating and step over it. In this moment, she shouldn’t care.
The problem, or rather the epiphany, is that sometimes, there are some things that don’t deserve our energy.
This aha! moment led us to consider “The Year of Aha!” but epiphanies are stunning and profound because they can’t be planned. Like watching a pot waiting for water to boil, waiting for an aha! seems like a guarantee it won’t come.
2023’s theme had to leave room for possibility, for being open to letting go of petty annoyance and things out of our control while still moving in a positive direction. Why not? Why not ask for everything or nothing or something in between? 2023 is “The Year of Why Not?”
Why not chat with friends about the year that’s passed and the time ahead, and why not keep important connections and traditions alive?
I wish everyone a 2023 full of blessings. Why not?
Erin O’Mara lives in Harpswell and serves on the Harpswell News Board of Directors.