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One weird Wordle word stressed me the heck out, and taught me a life lesson

Commentary: As "Wordle 219 X" trended on social media, I faced down my own word game demon.

wordle219
Here's my Wordle 219 pattern.
Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

I have yet to share my Wordle results on social media like everyone else on the planet, but I've been quietly obsessing over the breakout daily game that challenges you to guess a five-letter word within six tries. I picked it up about a month ago and look forward to it with joy every morning, but something went sideways this week, and I have only myself to blame.

The sun wasn't yet fully up. I had to leave at 7:30 a.m. to bike to school and teach a class, but had gotten up plenty early so I could have a cup of black-as-midnight coffee and play Wordle on my laptop at the kitchen table, as has become my habit. Usually, this is a time of contentment and pleasure as I drop in my favorite starting words ("teary" and "pious") and puzzle my way through the possibilities with good humor. 

But Monday morning found me leaning forward in my seat, grimacing at Wordle, down to my last guess, furiously writing down inane possibilities on scratch paper. My heart rate rose. I had to leave soon. Should I just toss in any old word and accept failure? Keep pushing? Run late for class? I was stressed out, and that's not what Wordle is supposed to be about. 

University of Florida social psychologist Matt Baldwin thinks there are a lot of factors at play in Wordle's appeal, from its delivery of an "aha" moment of revelation to the way it has become a shared experience that connects us to friends and strangers alike. "Shared experiences give a lot of meaning to life," said Baldwin in a statement earlier this month. "They help us orient toward what's good, what's meaningful and what's worthwhile."

Today, my finish-what-you-started nature crashed into my painfully punctual self and melded with a particularly challenging Wordle word. I'm accustomed to knocking out Wordle in four tries. Sometimes I get lucky. Sometimes it takes one more. I rarely have to go the distance. I got Wordle 219 correct on my last try and slimmed out the door with seconds to spare, but I was missing the sense of satisfaction, the little self-affirming fist pump, I usually get from Wordle. 

Thanks to the social-sharing phenomenon of Wordle, I know I'm not alone. Comics maker Sanitary Panels dropped a spot-on set of scales illustrating the pain of today's Wordle.

Twitter user Avi Seth did what I had contemplated: "I just gave up and smacked the same word thrice to end my misery."

Some questioned if the answer was a real word. It is. It's a bit goofy looking, but it's real. 

I realize Wordle has become a harbinger of the quality of my day. Knocked it out in three tries? It's going to be a great day! Four tries? Fantastic effort, I can do anything! Five tries? Way to demonstrate perseverance and ingenuity, Amanda! Down to the wire? What is wrong with me? I was an English major, damnit.

The problem isn't Wordle. Wordle is a beautiful little thing. The issue is how I relate to Wordle. Today's lesson isn't about remembering the existence of a mildly obscure word, it's about recognizing why I fell for Wordle in the first place. It's about the charmed morning moments when it's just me, a blazing mug of coffee and a collection of green, gray and yellow letters. 

So tomorrow when Wordle 220 rolls around, I'm going to sip my French roast, watch the sunlight slip through the blinds and embrace that oasis of calm, whether I get it on the first try, the last try, or never.