You Have My Word
February 2, 2008
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” –Mark Twain
I recently started reading the highly acclaimed Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Almost immediately, I found myself laughing out loud as I read page 2, and was hooked.
Gilbert’s memoir recounts her travels through Italy (eat), India (pray) and Indonesia (love) following the chaotic dissolution of her marriage. Now that I’ve reached the penultimate chapter of the “Eat” section, I’ll be sorry to see all those robust and flamboyant foods disappear, slick with garlic and olive oil. But I am also looking forward to delving into the next section and the solemn world of spirituality as it’s presented by this enviable wordsmith.
In one of the Italy-based chapters, Gilbert discusses the theory of a friend of hers, who asserts that each city, based on its communal “personality,” has a single word that epitomizes the very core of that city. In the case of New York, for instance, it’s “ACHIEVE.” (Yes, Gilbert writes these words in all-caps). For Rome, says her friend, it’s “SEX.” (He explains, “If you could read people’s thoughts as they were passing you on the streets. . . you would discover that most of them are thinking the same thought.”) Dang, those randy Romans!
If I had to propose a word for Toronto, with its most-ethnically-diverse-population-on-the-planet claim to fame, it would have to be “ACCOMMODATE” (not to be confused with the defining word for the country as a whole, which is “POLITE.”).
This little word game got me thinking. What would my own personal word be? My first thought was, Well, that’s easy. It’s “FOOD.” No, I soon realized, that’s The Girls’ word. (“And what’s wrong with that, Mum? No, seriously. What’s wrong with it??“)
Upon further reflection, I decided my word was closer to “SEEK.”
In truth, I suppose these two concepts, eating and seeking, coexist in my life, and even work in tandem. In both my work and my play, I’m frequently surrounded by food and on the lookout for that classic, “perfect” recipe. At the same time, I’m a perennial seeker (the better way, knowledge, inner peace, what that comment really meant, self-improvement, weight loss, le mot juste)–basically, I am made restless by the status quo, inevitably searching out something–sometimes, anything–else.
In my quest for that elusive something, however, I have on occasion lost track of the present and all the wonders that exist with me now. Perhaps my new word should be “APPRECIATE,” as I remind myself to take stock of what is going right, right now. Steady income? Check. Great guy? Check. Dear, long-term friendships? Check. Two dogs I am crazy for? Double Check. Beautiful winter weather for 5 months? Hmm. And I was going along so well there, for a moment.
On another note, this blog has been indispensible in my quest for what’s good, and what’s next. I’ve read about all kinds of approaches to eating, weight loss, and life in others’ blogs and found humor, new perspectives, and inspiration there. As I continue to seek out the best of healthy and, at the same time, tasty, recipes, I simultaneously discover what works for me, which foods appeal and which allow me to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. It’s work, but it works, too.
With luck, my word will continue to evolve over time. Perhaps “FOOD” and “SEEK” will commingle, or perhaps the constant striving toward some elusive “better” will eventually be eclipsed by another, more appropriate, word. I’d happily accept “SATISFACTION” or “GRATITUDE” as my life’s new keyword.
Until then, the search continues. But for now, it’s on to the next chapter.
What would your word be?