I spent the first week of 2020 catching up on sleep, laying in the sun, hearing “Mama!” on repeat in various octaves, and preparing myself for the year ahead. Most days during our vacation, we went to a restaurant called Longboards for at least one meal and my sports-obsessed son (and his father) watched college football games on the television screens behind the bar while my daughter ran up and down the beachfront hill in front of our table. She would return from these excursions with treasures and actual trash from the sand. The days melted into each other and I don’t remember which conversation came from which meal or what we ate or how long we sat there and I was so, so happy.
The headline around us – the one we were ignoring by going on vacation – was about the new year. What’s your word of the year? What are your new year’s resolutions? Do you know how to manifest positivity and love in a new decade? Take this quiz and find out. I love a good arbitrary deadline to challenge yourself to become a better human (I mean.. #BeKind21, anyone?) but this year, especially sitting on a beach in Hawaii, I was coming up short on earth-shattering ideas. I knew I couldn’t keep ignoring this call to action because Lady Gaga was going to ask me to set intentions for the new year and, as a matter of fact, as I sunned myself, Oprah was asking her that same question in Florida. I wanted to have something ready for Lady Gaga, for myself, for you, our community, that would set the tone for the new year.
Lacking any internal inspiration at that moment, I watched Logan dip her chicken fingers and her real fingers, knuckle deep in ketchup. I resisted the urge to ask her to use a napkin, not eat like an animal, or just generally keep herself even minimally clean. Instead, I watched her. After her first bite she looked up at me and said grinning, “Mama, this ketchup is New York, sushi, Starbucks good.”
There it was, everything I could have asked for and more from my effusive, creative, and hilarious four year old. The ketchup that she now had covering most of her face was New York, sushi, Starbucks good. Over the course of her short life, she had already learned the things I talk about most, what brings me joy, and the places I go most often. And when she decided that something was good, it wasn’t just good, it was good in a way that she knew I’d understand and that would connect her big, exciting emotions about the ketchup to the things that I loved. I wrote her phrase down on a napkin and tucked it into my beach bag to decode later. The emotion of what she had said, the authentic attempt to connect with me in my own language, and the specificity of her joy pinpointed how I wanted to show up in the world this year and always.
So, thanks to Logan, my intentions for this year are first, to create space. I want to slow down before telling my kids to use their napkin, ask more questions before rushing to offer a young person in crisis resources when all they want is someone to listen, and be as present as I can in the interactions I have. Second, I want to find wonder and share my appreciation for it in big and small ways. This morning, the young woman who boarded the JFK-bound plane in front of me was wearing a beautiful coat, the type of coat you could tell had stories, and I should have told her it was beautiful. This morning, my husband is waiting in a long line to register our daughter for kindergarten and because I know he’s one of the few people who reads my ramblings from beginning to end, I’ll say – thank you Dave. Third, I want to be specific with both my praise and my feedback. I don’t want the team at Born This Way Foundation to know that they are just good at their jobs (though they are exceptionally good), but I want them to have the comfort, confidence, and examples of the ways in which they are excelling and the areas in which they can improve. I want my son to know that I really watched his basketball game because I saw his strong arm bars and how he congratulated his teammate on a three-point shot.
Speaking of Team Born This Way Foundation, here are a few of their commitments to themselves and to you for 2020:
I doubt that I’ll be as breathlessly cute as Logan was delivering her verdict on the ketchup but I’m hopeful, both for the work ahead this year and my own ability to describe food in great detail, that I am up for the challenge.