This holiday season, more than others, I struggled to get into a festive mood. Maybe because we are being bombarded with awful news every day. There is a crush of bad stuff happening and unlimited access to the internet only makes it worse. Online life is more depressing than enlightening. Do we really need to follow every news event everywhere in the world in real time on social media. We know how a rogue virus can bring a halt to our daily lives, but we aren’t sure whether Covid was a curse or a blessing. Or the beginning of downward slide.
At year’s end there is always a lot of coverage about the “word of the year” from the dictionary people. The Oxford University Press, which publishes the Oxford English Dictionary, has declared “rizz” to be its word of 2023. Because I had never heard of the term, much less used it in conversations with Michelle at John’s Barber Shop, I consulted Google. It is “a viral term which is short for charisma; someone’s ability to attract through style and charm.”
Apparently “rizz” can be a verb as well as a noun. I can “rizz up” someone I am trying to influence. I suppose it is better than the other contenders, such as “Swiftie,” or “situationship.” Notwithstanding that we can have “rizz” without knowing it, in my books “rizz” is a long way from an expression that is supposed to “provide a snapshot of social history.”
What should we call this messy era, when we collectively feel so little agency over the planet’s many crises? Recently, over coffee at the Bean Counter, I nudged some friends to come up with a word to characterize this period of chaos. Better than “rizz.” Like everyone, they too are befuddled by the multiple tipping points we follow on the news. Their suggestions ranged from “angry madness” and “unhinged,” to “nightmare” and “demon time.”
My twin brother, Deo, to whom I often turn in times of distress, has a different take on things. His actual name is Dane Edwin Orvald. Understandably, he prefers the acronym Deo. He thinks differently than most people: more straight drilling and less noise.
“We know there is more to come, so there is no point living in the status quo,” he says over a cocktail at Hartley’s. “Live small in a sphere you can influence.”
As much as I like to puncture family pretention, what D says makes sense in this time of extreme uncertainty.
“Work out how to live your best life now by nurturing your community,” he carries on, since, unusually, I haven’t objected. “Since we can’t do much about global events, we need to double down on smaller things that can make our lives more meaningful.”
“Live your yearn,” he pronounces with a flourish.
Deo likes to use words he thinks I don’t know to show off his vocabulary, acquired through a lifelong habit of self-learning.
“No such word D,” I chime. “‘Yearn’ is a verb, not a noun. To yearn is to have an intense feeling for something that has been lost.”
“That’s my point,” he says. “The yearn is a state of mind that can only be fulfilled by us on behalf of our community. Not a general longing but a specific desire to improve the vibrancy of our people.”
The more I unpacked the idea of a yearn to deal with the insecurities of our nutty world, the more I was attracted to it. Small and realizable aspirations to live our best life now by nurturing what makes us strong around us.
“The yearn is a way of thinking that recognizes the fragility of our lives,” Bro points out. “It’s a mindset that recalibrates regularly.”
“Sounds a bit Zen,” I counter. We had parked in the White Chapel lot to begin a walk on a fine winter morning on the Millennium Trail. The challenge was to walk as far as we could before calling for a pickup. I hoped to reach Wellington to treat ourselves to a sticky bun at Enid Grace’s legendary Piccolina.
“The Yearn is practical,” D continues. “With a goal to make incremental improvements to the quality of our daily lives. Think of the yearn as the flip side of a New Year’s resolution. Aspiration not for ‘me’ but for ‘us.’ Like in football or hockey, we are only as good as the team as a whole and the team is so much more than the sum of its players.”
As we head into 2024 a bit apprehensive about how things will unfold, I would rather work on an achievable yearn than the glam of “rizz.” We know about the tyranny of charisma, to say nothing of its falsity, its faux glitter.
My yearn? I can do much more to support the foundational institutions of the County – the underpinnings that keep us together and make us hum: the library, the hospital, the Regent, our radio station and newspapers. I would like to make my home more open to friends and neighbours in a post-virus adjustment. I don’t think we have fully recovered from a Covid-inspired reluctance to socialize in groups. And to walk every County road. And to help clean up Picton Bay.
What’s your yearn for this New Year?