[01 one word]

This year I’m taking part in #reverb11, an online initiative that’s all about reflecting on 2011 and looking ahead to 2012. Each day in December will bring a new prompt to reflect on. You can find out more here.

Day 1 – One Word. Encapsulate the year 2011 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word.  Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2012 for you?

I lay in the bath last night and tried hard to think of a good word that sums up the year, something that was a little more eloquent than ‘bloody awful’, which was the first one that sprang to mind and technically doesn’t count,what with it being two words and all that. I settled on arduous, although it felt a bit dramatic and not entirely accurate. There are lots of positive things that have happened in the past year, and I don’t even have to think that hard to remember them: I’ve met new friends, went to a brilliant festival with my son and acquired the world’s naughtiest kitten, but despite that it feels like it’s mostly been one long slog.

I put out the call on my Facebook wall, to see if my friends had any good ideas, only to find them posting words like challenging and harrowing and sisyphean. I think 2011 has been a difficult year for a lot of people. Amongst my close friends there has been illness, bereavement, financial worries, job problems and a whole host of other things which just tend to make life crap. Some of these things are ongoing, without there being any sense of a light at the end of the tunnel.

Despite that, we’re all still here. I’m still here, a fact which surprises me, sometimes. It’s easy to forget that while you’re thinking you’re weak, and that you can’t cope, the non-thinking bits of your body are soldiering on, fighting all those pesky infections that gang up and pick on you when you’re run down.

Your body keeps blinking, keeps breathing: somehow you keep going.

My word for 2010 was perseverance – I acknowledged my inner strength, and tenacity. I like the word tenacious, it literally means ‘not easily pulled apart.’ I know I started off saying that my word for 2011 was ‘arduous’, but I’m going to scrap that.Every time I say it to myself I’m seeing myself in a theatrically tragic, woe-is-me pose, complete with back of the hand wafting my fringe of my forehead, so it has to go. Tenacity is a much better word.

~

This time last year, my word for the year ahead was embrace. I said, “I want to swim hard against the tide and jump into waves instead of treading water and slowly getting water-logged and heavier.” I think I squeezed every last drip out of that metaphor, didn’t I? Flowery prose aside, I can put my hand on my heart and say I really pushed myself to take risks, and embrace new opportunities this year. I reached out of my comfort zone and did things that were unimaginable a year ago, but if I tell you what they were you might not come back and read any more, which would be very sad indeed because I’ve spent all morning when I should have done the laundry grappling with graphics and layouts and buying a domain name. See – I am tenacious to the core!

~

Edit: I’m trying not to read anything Freudian or symbolic into the fact that in my original draft of this post I completely failed to choose my word for 2012. I’m not sure I can pull one out of the hat at this stage, but I promise I will revisit this as and when one comes along. It needs to be a good word, a word that encompass change, and freedom, and movement – I’m sure it probably exists in some other, more ambiguous language. When I find it, you’ll be the first to know.

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Reverb 10 – Dec 31 – Core Story

What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)

(Author: Molly O’Neill)

Heart, South Beach, Aberystwyth - Dec 2010

Gosh. My last #reverb10 post.

I started something, and then I finished it
.

And in between those two important achievements I put in a fair bit of work. It was hard, sometimes, fitting in posting around preparing for Christmas and doing a job which has a tendency to sap both my mental and physical energy, but I chose to keep going, because I believed in the project – and crucially, I enjoyed it.

I’ve just spent some time quietly reading back through every post I made, marvelling at the way my posts developed. I began to find places where I could use photos that I’ve taken over the past year: photos that sat seemingly forgotten on my hard drive were given a new lease of life through being shared with you.

My writing has loosened up and become tighter at the same time – does that make sense?

Taking part in reverb10  led me in new and unexpected directions: now I’m reading about the intersection between productivity and creativity and communication and having flashes of inspiration about how these ideas could be applied to my day job to improve the quality of patient care. The more I stimulate my mind, the more it works in exciting and surprising ways; I’m one of the Ideas People again.

One of the things I love about writing is that however measured and deliberate you are, every single word also exists in the much larger context of everything else you’ve written. Reading back through the larger whole – as I have done with my #reverb10 posts – has thrown up some interesting patterns that I wasn’t aware of when I wrote them. I’ve made some connections which seem blatant in hindsight but to which I was oblivious at the times.

It struck me how often I’ve written about being blessed with wonderful family and friends.

From the nucleus of myself, Leo and my son, to my extended family, and my friends – who I like to think of as my ‘chosen family’ –  it’s been the people who have made this year worthwhile. I used to think that having too many friends or a large and bustling family would be overwhelming – too demanding and too much pressure on my time. I’ve changed my mind. I want lots of people in my life – loads of them, in fact! – what I have to give I have in abundance and there’s enough to share with everyone.

This last year has been one of looking at what worked in my life, and what didn’t. And then working out how to make things better. I decided I didn’t want to be an angry person any more.

I worked out that trying to be in control – and inevitably failing, because being in control of everything ever is simply not possible, no matter how much time and energy you devote to trying- was at the root of a lot of the generalised, but exhausting, day-to-day crossness and niggledness I was feeling. This was a massive revelation!

But, you know, allowing events to take their own course, letting situations develop in their own organic way is OK. Nothing got broken and nobody died, and the time and energy saved allowed me to step back a little, to find moments of  stillness where there was no need for frantic mental chatter. When things got hairy, I knew that my instincts – which I’d allowed to flourish – would guide me safely.

It’s been a funny old year. Micro-analysis suggests I had more than my fair share of challenges to deal with, and yet the resounding memories are of learning and growing and feeling proud of myself for getting through them. I don’t always believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger –   it might not destroy you but it can still leave you feeling battered, broken and sorely disillusioned – but I feel curiously self-contained and capable right now.

I’m moving into the New Year with a feeling of purpose and direction
.

Note that I said ‘a feeling’ there – I’m not entirely sure what my purpose is or which direction it’s taking me in; I have some ideas – and one of my resolutions is to make sure I start capturing all these ideas – but I’m excited, you know?

The possibilities are endless, and I’m looking forward to all of them.

Reverb10 – Dec 30 – Gift

This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

(Author: Holly Root)

My iPod. In its new pink skin.

Tempting as it is to spend another post waxing lyrical about my wonderful family and friends – because having special people in my life is the gift that just keeps on giving – when it comes to stuff, the best gift I’ve received this year was my iPod Touch, which Leo bought for me in the spring.

It’s meant I can take oodles of music wherever I go, and when I’ve heard something on the radio that I’ve liked, iTunes has let me buy it before I forget what it is.

Being able to check my emails –  and the ubiquitous Facebook and Twitter updates –  anywhere in the house has brought me back to the bosom of my family rather than being squirrelled away in my study.

Having weather updates, a spirit level, and a planetarium in my pocket has been really useful – I actually used the iHandy Level app to put up some shelves. Angry Birds, DoodleJump and Words with Friends have kept me amused – sadly the virtual aquarium was less riveting and Leo has frequently chastised me for letting my fish die. Again.

Up until a few weeks ago, I’d never really got into podcasts, but on a whim a few weeks ago I searched for some relaxation/ meditation ones and the choice overwhelmed me . Some of them, it has to be said, are less wonderful – the man with a voice like a robot who sounded like he’s recorded his podcast in a very echoey public toilet is my favourite for all the wrong reasons, as is the lady who obviously kept dropping things while she was recording. I’ve been saying for a while I should record my own: I think I’ll add that to next year’s to-do list.

So yes, the iPod wins, but honourable mentions do need to go to my Pandora bracelet – complete with one-of-a-kind mammoth charm; the Vivienne Westwood skull and crossbones earrings my best friend bought me for my birthday; the set of photos that my son took of me for an art project; My Philippe Starck Louis Ghost chair from my parents, and last, but definitely not least the Fame lip balm which is the only one which never dries out my lips.

And if that list makes you think that I’m horribly spoilt, well you’re right. But in my defence it was my fortieth birthday earlier on in the year, and all those lovely people whose presence in my life is such a treat really did spoil me rotten, I know that. I just hope that in the next year, and the year after that, and all the ones that follow, I’ll carry on being deserving of such thoughtfulness and generosity.

Reverb10 – Dec 27 – Ordinary Joy

Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?

(Author: Brené Brown)

 

Cinnamon Cupcakes

 

I’m not sure I can narrow it down to one single moment. I find joy all the time, often in the most unexpected places, and yes, usually during quite ordinary moments. Here are a few off the top of my head:

  • Making cupcakes, and watching people enjoy them
  • Hearing my son belly-laughing to himself
  • Travelling from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth on the Cambrian Coast railway line, and seeing the sun set over the Dyfi Estuary
  • Remembering that I live at the seaside
  • Laughing with my patients
  • Painting my nails and not smudging them
  • Surprising my best friend’s little girl by picking her up from school when she’s not expecting me to
  • Having a day on my own in the house, just pottering
  • Having hot rosy cheeks on a cold day

Reverb10 – Dec 26 – Soul Food

What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?
(Author: Elise Marie Collins)

Pretzel & Pear Cake, Berlin, April 2010

Pretzel & Pear Cake, Berlin, April 2010

This was my Easter Sunday breakfast, eaten al fresco at a cafe beside a pond, in the middle of some woods in the Tiergarten, Berlin. We’d already walked a few miles that morning, around the back of the zoo where we saw elephants and flamingoes through the fence, and by the time we found the cafe we were ravenous.

Huge mugs of coffee, even huger pretzels topped with great big boulders of salt and heavy, sticky cake with whole pears embedded in it.

We ate with little birds pecking at the crumbs by our feet, rosy-cheeked from the April air and energy restored for a long day walking through the city.

Reverb10 – Dec 25 – Photo

December 25 – Photo – a present to yourself

Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

(Author: Tracey Clark)

My son took this photo while we were eating at Wagamama, just off Leicester Square. We’d been in London for a few hours and were on our way to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the theatre. I’d been promising to take him to Wagamama for ages, and he wasn’t disappointed.

We had four days of proper quality time together in London, doing whatever he chose, as his eighteenth birthday treat. It was both exhausting and exhilarating.

I don’t know how he manages it, but usually when he takes photos of me, I look absolutely dreadful. This one, though, is lovely – and also proof that you can totally mix leopard-print with tartan.


Reverb10 – Dec 24 – Everything’s OK

What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

(Author: Kate Inglis)

I’m not sure that this year was a year of big events and grand gestures. I think the moments when things felt like they made sense of the bigger picture were quite small, almost serendipitous.

There was the day when I’d been reflecting on being more open, more approachable, and letting more people into my daily life, and then I went on a walk just a few hours later and bumped into someone I knew down at the beach, and instead of making my excuses and running away I let myself be carried along by the situation, and we sat and watched the sea, and chatted and smoked some cigarettes, and I went home realising that it was OK to do that – more than OK, and actually pleasurable and meaningful.

There were a few times when I had to stand by – and sometimes fight for – my beliefs and principles in the knowledge that I was going against the flow, whether it was popular opinion I was spurning or my own internal anything-for-an-easy-life-ometer. Not only did things work out OK, but I found more respect for myself from others, and more importantly from myself.

Every time my son passes a module, or gets another competency ticked off in his driving lessons, I’m reminded that things are going to be OK for him, too. His journey through life is going to be different to most kids his age, slower at times and with different challenges, but he’ll get there.

I don’t get stressed about people not washing up straight away, or being as obsessive about housework as I am any more; I’ve trained myself to examine priorities – mine and other people’s – more, and be more empathic, and look at the whole picture because, you know, it’s OK to leave the dishes until the morning. The worst that can happen is that they might need soaking a little longer but that’s all: there’s no deeper meaning, they’re just unwashed dishes.

 

Vision Map for 2010

You know, it’s funny. The ‘Future Tool’ included in this prompt is How to Create Your Own Personal Manifesto, and one of the things Gwen Bell suggests is to make a vision map.

By freaky coincidence, I made mine a few weeks ago; I used pictures and words cut from magazines to make my own personal collage which now hangs in my study. I stuck various words and phrases on it, but the first one I found was the one that says, ‘Hey, it’s OK…’



Reverb10 – Dec 23 – New Name

oil painting, girl with red hair

Image by freeparking via Flickr

Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?
(Author: Becca Wilcott)

Years ago, my university tutor complained that he couldn’t read my signature. I was a bit taken aback by this, because I didn’t realise people would want to actually read it. I thought it was just a unique and inimitable scribble which was mine and no-one else’s, and which marked everythingI wrote it on on as somehow mine, too.

He squinted at it and moved it back and forth in front of his face, trying desperately to decipher it. In the end he shrugged and said, it says, ‘Mimi Houlihan.’ I’ve used Mimi Houlihan as an alternate identity a few times (she even has her own Facebook profile), but until today I never imagined what she’d be like, or what I’d be like if I was Ms Houlihan.

I’m thinking she’d be tall like me, but with an Irish-sounding name like that I’m guessing she’s a redhead; dark copper, with a hint of a wave, and green eyes – brighter than mine, which are a weird sludgy green – and covered in freckles. She’s got a loose walk, and she walks everywhere.

She can play the piano, but secretly she wants an orchestra-sized xylophone. She’s always the first one dancing at parties but she doesn’t drink much. She always has the wittiest responses on the tip of her tongue but you rarely hear her say a bad word about anyone. She has lots of friends, and always manages to remember people’s birthdays. She comes from a big family and is loved by her nephews and nieces.

She rollerskates and has a secret thing for seventies songs with jazz flute middle eights. She can’t draw to save her life. She collects old buttons – preferably still stitched on their little square of cardboard – and postcards of staircases.

She sounds like fun. I’m liking her already. I think I want to be her friend.

Reverb10 – Dec 22 – Travel

How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?
(Author: Tara Hunt)

Off the top of my head, I think I stayed in at least four hotels this year, so I must have travelled a little! In January, Leo and I stayed in Wolverhampton when we went to see Henry Rollins, and we returned (but to a different, and considerably more sleazy hotel!) in May to see Florence + the Machine. I took my son to London for three nights in February, as part of his eighteenth birthday treat, much of which revolved around buses: we rode on a Routemaster, visited the London Transport Museum (which has as much to offer the graphic design geek as it does the bus fanatic), and saw Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Red Squirrel, Berlin - April 2010

And, of course, in April Leo and I went to Berlin. We walked miles and miles that weekend, and still didn’t get to see everything we planned to. We ate at some wonderful restaurants, took in history from as far back as pre-Columbian Mexico to the twentieth century DDR, spotted red squirrels in the Tiergarten, drank enormous glasses of beer, and generally had a marvellous time.

We every intention of going back to Berlin – whether or not we’ll manage it next year, I don’t know. We’ll definitely be going away on holiday somewhere; I’d like to go back to Thailand – I think Leo will love Bangkok – and I definitely need some sunshine. I’d like to go and have a few days in London, too, and hopefully I’ll get to spend some time at my parents’ home in France. I reckon if I fit at least two of those in I won’t be doing badly.

 

Zoologischer Garten, Berlin - April, 2010

Das Denkmal für die im Nationalsozialismus verfolgten Homosexuellen, Berlin

 

 

Reverb10 – Dec 21 – Future Self

A nice cup of tea - gwaan gwaan gwaan

Image by papalamour via Flickr

Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead?
(Author: Jenny Blake)

Time travel always confuses me. So let me get this straight, this is me in five years time writing to me now, advising me about the coming year…

  • Stay focused. It’s not always easy for you, but it’s worth it.
  • Enjoy being organised, and the freedom it brings.
  • Keep learning about productivity, and take what you learn into your workplace, because you can help bring about positive change.
  • Be mindful.
  • Be as strong as you can, but remember it’s OK to ask for help sometimes.
  • Cherish the people you love.
  • Drink tea not coffee!
  • Don’t be afraid to grasp life tightly with both hands.
  • Make time for you, and use it productively.
  • Remember that by looking after your body, you’re also looking after your mind.
  • Meditate.
  • Slow down and take it all in.
  • Blink
  • Breathe
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