I did a vision board for the first time since—maybe ever?— and my word for 2021 is . . . TOGGLE.
Basically, we’re still living inside a dumpster fire. So all those epic, pretty-sounding words like THRIVE just feel . . . contrived. Things are an absolute mess right now in our country. I’m not without hope, but I am not going to pretend I’ve got this all figured out, neatly packaged up into a sparkly verb. I’m not going to pretend I have some grand plan for the year, some perfect sketch of quarterly goals. I mean, fantastic for you if you can do that. But I’m a child of the world right now. I am IN it, and I can’t just do business and goals as usual.
Hence, toggle. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
Some examples from just this week: I’m going back and forth between writing about pulmonology and refreshing Maggie Haberman’s Twitter feed. Between writing a piece I don’t care much about but pays well and working on a project I REALLY care about but is yet to be determined if it pays at all. Between Zoom calls and email chains and multiple Slack channels and several text threads. Between being informed and stepping away from it all.
I chose toggle because it means other things, too. Things that aren’t to do with productivity.
To toggle is to switch between two different activities or states. And I’m switching back and forth many times per day in my states of mind. I go back and forth between this sense of almost austerity—the idea that I better save as much money as I can because who knows what is going to happen with the economy—and this sense of wanting to give everything away to help people, because people are suffering so much.
I go back and forth between thinking I need to just stay in my lane, keep my head down, and do what I know is right . . . and feeling the need to call out every single moron who won’t wear a mask and is wholly uninformed about, well, most everything.
In this particular moment, this particular week, it’s the fluctuation back and forth between cutting certain people out of my life because they are toxic in their beliefs and holding to the notion that people aren’t all one thing. I did a huge purge of Facebook “friends” over the weekend, including relatives who seem to be fully ensconced in a brand of toxic, white nationalist-driven, cult-like Christianity. It felt good to not have to ever see their ignorance again. To never have to witness their sick perversion of ideas. I don’t want them in my space, I thought. Then I woke up at 4 a.m. and wondered what’s the point if we stop talking to each other.
Except, do I really want to talk to someone who I don’t share basic values with? Someone who glorifies hypocrisy, instead of calling it out?
And yet, instead of spending all my energy judging others, shouldn’t I look at my own actions? Didn’t I just write an entire book about this?
And on and on.
This is the toggle.
And it’s so, so trite. I’m in a sea of people trying to figure this out. We’re a distracted mess.
But I don’t want to extricate myself from the mess. I don’t want to just retreat into well, that’s not really my problem.
So I am celebrating the toggle and surrendering to the back and forth. To the this way and that. To the interruption. To the flow and the dam. To the sprints of productivity, followed by the long minutes staring out the window, thinking and grieving. Probably followed by a Zoom call.
I just wrote this essay for Cincinnati magazine. Ostensibly, it’s about the joy my patio provided last year and how happy it made me to finally find the right string lights to adorn it. But really, it’s about the fact that we are called to help each other and shine our light in any way we can. I believe that. I also believe we have to spend a significant amount of time rooting around in darkness.
Back and forth we go.