Word of the Year: 2022

I never was much for Resolutions. Didn’t like the nature of them, or the tendency for them to push the social agenda on us to continue having unrealistic goals to pursue someone else’s “ideal” for our bodies, our lives, our energy, our pursuits. Nope. Not a “resolution” kind of gal.

However, there was a time when having a “Word of the Year” or a “theme” made a LOT OF SENSE in my life. I’d stumbled into a passionate, heart-consuming pursuit of dancing and made DANCE the word of 2012. The third time I picked a word, 2014, I selected CREATE which also really resonated all the time, and one might say has become a permanent part of my life’s posture.

The rest of the words selected along the way? Maybe they made sense, maybe they were already part of my make-up, maybe they’ve just been superficial sign posts in life that didn’t always work the way I’d hoped they would. The other theme words along the way included Focus (2013), Mastery / Color (2015), Habits (2016), Goals (2017), Practice (2018), Strengths (2019), Intentional (2020), and Present (2021). I look at those words and none of them really made a huge impact the way DANCE or CREATE did in all those years.

But then again, the world around me has intruded in ways I never could have seen coming.

Today marks 661 days since I was sent home from work at the first start of the quarantine, March 11, 2020. There was a brief stint in July 2021 when we were mandated back into the office, but then Delta surged and we were sent home again by the end of the month. I’d already gone home after only two weeks and told my boss I wasn’t returning yet.

And in these past 661 days, my world has almost exclusively consisted of “one bedroom, one studio, one dining room, one living room, one kitchen, two bathrooms, and two adults.” My Sweetie has been the primary leave-the-house human: Getting groceries, running errands, exercising by taking walks in the evening. I spent the first 17 of 21 months doing almost no movement at all: Sleep, sit at the computer, sit on the couch, sit at my crafts, rinse, repeat.

After 17 months, I finally noticed the not-so-healthy trend (can you blame me? survival in quarantine also meant zero understanding of time!) and so I got a fitness tracker and started “taking walks” in the house, working towards improved health at a nice, incremental pace.

Then Santa season came upon us and my walk-through-the-house routine was paused as I did administrative support for our home-business. I can proudly tell you that I’m pleased with how “the Santa months” went. The paperwork was all caught up on 31-Dec, the candy canes are sorted and put away, the dry cleaning has been sent out, and the house is not a disaster. In fact, we managed to keep up with the house demands regularly. It was never a complete disaster.

But overall, what’s been going on in the decade since my first theme word? While Dance was a huge part of 2010-2020, when I went on hiatus it seems that I set down dance for longer than I meant to. I’m still not sure if/when I might bring it back. But that was a great decade, so I have no regrets. I came away from it with an amazing set of experiences, memories, and some stellar close friends. It might not be part of my current life, but it fed me well for a full decade.

I went from 42-years-old when I found that dance passion to facing 2022 New Year’s at age 53. Coming into my 50s has been a time to clarify what matters to me. Less expanding to add things to my world, more contracting and concentrating and focusing on the pursuits that matter most.

It also meant shaking up my understanding of the world. I cannot just ignore the injustices in the world. I cannot “just leave politics out of things,” because honestly how we treat other humans is embedded in all of our history and all of our present (and by extension, all of our future). There’s a lot I still need to learn about what’s embedded in the assumptions in society and how I can push back against injustice, how to advocate for the under-served around me.

I’m not sure if that helps me find my “word of the year” or my “theme” but I know that I’m looking at the connections I make with individuals. So I suppose I’m looking at how I interact, what assumptions I can dismantle and fix in my own world views, how I can actively try to improve the world.

And as I do so, I’ll be spinning yarn, weaving, memorizing weaving knowledge that’s been entrusted to me from my indigenous friends in Peru, and trying my best to make human connections that improve the world.

Last year I stared down the barrel of 2021 and thought all I could do is be PRESENT.

I suppose this year I know what I want to do is make CONNECTIONS with people, to let them know that they matter to me.

You matter. My life is better because you are in it. 💖

You. Yes you. You matter to me. Thank you.

Word of the Year: 2021

It’s funny how many different posts on social media I am tagged in nowadays when it comes to the last week of December and the first week of January. In 2012, I decided that I had a “theme word” for the year rather than a New Year’s Resolution. I’d found a community of dancers and a dance style that truly resonated with me, in June 2010, and I dove in head-first, specifically with the intention to learn and then teach this style. 2012 was deep in the full pursuit of this challenge, and so the theme word DANCE made tons of sense. I was still doing other pursuits, spinning and weaving, volunteering and organizing, traveling even! but as a theme word, that’s where it all started.

Some years, when I chose a theme word, I really pursued it most of the year. Some years, I barely even remembered the theme word as the year got under way. But the process of stopping to think about things has been a process I’ve enjoyed now each year.

Last year, none of us had any idea what was in store for us. I selected the theme word INTENTIONAL as a means to say what I would pursue would be what I *intended* to pursue, not just based out of habit or declining obligations. Of course, as of today, I’m still under work-from-home pandemic quarantine. Today is day number 296 for me, since I was sent home from work. This week, our CEO announced that the two US offices (in CA and in NY) are back under mandatory work-from-home through the end of February (all previous optional come-in-to-the-office has been rescinded). I don’t miss the commute, but it wasn’t originally my intention to remain mostly locked indoors.

Which brings me all to this year. What theme word resonates with me today?

PRESENT

I feel a little bit like a Dickens ghost, the Ghost of Being Present. In the Muppet version of the story, the Ghost of Christmas Present cannot even remember having introduced himself to Michael Caine’s Scrooge, he’s so embedded in the present. There are days when I *only* know what day it is because I keep a large calendar widget on display in my laptop desktop. I have to look up what day it is, what hour it is, heck what month it is, sometimes.

But also, thinking about going forward, I refuse to make long-term plans right now. Until there is mass vaccination throughout our town, county, state, country — there’s no point in making plans to travel and gather. I cannot risk getting infected and being either asymptomatic and spreading the disease or being symptomatic and risking hospitalization or death. Our hospitals are nearly out of oxygen. There’s 8-18 hour waits, outdoors or in your car, until you can be seen (that, or drive two hours to a different hospital two counties away). So I can only live in the present when making plans for “what do I want to do next?”

But living in the Present is also just a healthy approach, too. I want to be present and in the moment with my Sweetie, the only other human I see every day. I want to be thoughtful about my interactions online, over text, or over video. I want to be aware of my surroundings, right now, and be involved in what can be done here, now, in this moment.

Because that’s all I have.

I live right here in this moment, in the PRESENT, and why not take advantage of this opportunity?

Here’s to living in the PRESENT and making the most of it

The Words-of-the-Years List

Word of the Year: 2020

Right before New Year’s, I was pondering words and phrases like “TAKE RISKS” or “STUDY” or even “DECLUTTER,” but these weren’t quite right for my own theme for 2020. As my friends do, several jumped into the discussion to make suggestions or share their word of the year. A few observed that my thoughts sounded like “simplify” or “align” or “nourish,” all of which are very worthy themes indeed.

But since Wednesday, I just keep coming back around to the same word:

INTENTIONAL

The more I settle into the new normal for my age and interests and abilities right now, I am being more carefully INTENTIONAL about how I spend my time and energy. For example, sometimes habit kept me teaching. And while I adore my students and I really loved sharing dance knowledge, it was getting obvious I needed a new training and treatment regimen. I’ve had knee troubles and lately low back pain, and it just didn’t get any better by ignoring it. (Duh.) So I’ve put my dance teaching on hold, a very intentional hiatus, for the express purpose of training my body back into a more healthy state.

My time spent in particular hobbies has changed drastically. Some of my choices have been intentional changes to remove myself from environments that have some problematic community trends. There are times when it’s no longer my calling to fix everything that’s broken in some spaces. And that’s okay. I have no regrets for the years I spent in some activities, and I have grand friendships from the experience. But I don’t have to attend every event to still show love and affection for friends I value. Instead, I can choose intentional interactions with these friends.

My own artistic pursuits are somewhat broader and somewhat more narrow than ever before. And that’s okay. I’m perfectly happy being very intentional about what arts I spend time on now. And this also means that I’m looking for ways to gift some supplies to others who will be more likely to use them in the pursuits I’m no longer chasing. It’s a time to send the treasures to other homes, where they’ll be used immediately.

The past several years, my immediate family at home and I have been watching specific TV shows together in order to grapple with the state of the world and our nation. As we dig into these discussions, I’ve found there are some topics around which I want to intentionally engage with the world. Likewise, I have to choose the audiences with whom I will engage. I’ve intentionally walked away from some interactions because I’ve lost hope that some minds will change. And that’s okay. Not every fight is my fight. But the fights that I want to be intentional about? Those I refuse to be silent out of laziness or silenced out of fear or other pressures.

And there’s just the time spent with family. Rather than allow time to just disappear, I want to embrace intentional time with those I love and that I am closest to.

Intentional. These are the things I *mean* to do. Yes.

The Words-of-the-Years List

Fire Hair: Intentional Use of Color

Word of the Year 2019

What I’ve Been Thinking About This Week

My astute readers will know that I’ve been thinking through my Word of the Year for the past week. In As the Year Winds DownI summed up the past several years’ words I’ve declared.

  • 2018: PRACTICE
  • 2017: GOALS: achieved by finding both TIME and SPACE
  • 2016: HABITS
  • 2015: MASTERY (and COLOR) + “Finish the Unfinished Objects”
  • 2014: CREATE
  • 2013: FOCUS
  • 2012: DANCE

When it started in 2012, making DANCE my word of the year was obvious. I found ATS just 18 months previously, and I was smitten and dancing every moment possible. I had a five-year plan in mind, a first end-goal, and wild dreams. The notion of FOCUS hails back to my SCA mentor in all things artistic, Mistress Tonwen (Rae). When people would ask her was I was apprenticed to her “in” as an area of study, she’d laughingly say, “FOCUS!” I’m still not always completely focused, but it was a good reminder that just wildly chasing all the colors sometimes can result in a muddy result.

CREATE was a very fun year for me. I really did try to post hashtag photos of #CREATE almost every day of the year. It was enjoyable to see how many ways I do create and make things in my regular, every-day life.

Both HABITS and MASTERY (and the illusive “finish the UnFinished Objects” in my life) both speak to me about how one goes from a Wish to a Plan to an Accomplishment. I’m still on a life-long pursuit of improved habits and mastery of skills. I often suggest that someone can start with “Just One Habit” that takes them towards their goals. I would love a clean house, so right now as a family I’ve asked to work on “Just One Habit” and keep the living room couches (and their associated end tables) clean every night before bed. Just one habit: Pick up the living room at night. It’s been working for 9 days so far, and I’m feeling optimistic. Mastery of my artistic pursuits or my business skills—this also requires layering my habits, one upon another.

GOALS and PRACTICE were natural continuations of the same path I’d been pursing. It’s not enough to just build any habit, not without knowing what the GOAL should be. And having set those goals, it’s a matter of practice to get to the level of mastery I’m looking for. I cannot call 2018 any measure of success toward #practice, as this fell off quickly. It’s not that I didn’t practice things, but it wasn’t as powerful a beacon word for me as the months went on. I think I had my attention on “regular life” and keeping up with commitments, more than pursuing practice techniques and time.

But then this week, when I posted Careful What You “Wish For,” I was specifically trying to avoid setting myself up for failure with a Word of the Year that didn’t motivate me, or only set me up for learning hard lessons in weird or terrible ways. By Find Your Strengths I was reminded that my favorite way to improve life is to take what I’m doing well now and apply those lessons to what’s next. Lessons learned are important and should be headed. And the more I considered Strengths and Follow-through, the more I knew what I want is to be reliable, complete, and thorough about what I attempt. And applying those lessons learned is my tried and true method for success in life.

What I’ve Concluded

So where does that lead me? Pedestrian ideas swirled in my head like  “CALENDAR” or “PRIORITIES” or even “TASKS.” But those didn’t seem to tie up the loose ends properly. They also looked like the kinds of words that could go horribly wrong. I mean really, “Calendar” as a word of the year? Please laugh along with me when these things came to mind. I’m laughing at myself. No, it’s much simpler than that.

My Word of the Year for 2019 is STRENGTHS.

  • Play to my strengths
  • Learn from my strengths
  • Apply my strengths to habits I want to develop
  • Use the lessons learned to extend my strengths
  • Build my strengths
  • Share my strengths with others
  • Honor my strengths and make them count
  • Support the strengths of others and lift them up

How do you think of your strengths? Do you honor them? Do you work to build them further? Do you share your strengths? Do you showcase the strengths of others in your life? How do you build toward strength?

Some Fun Visuals

Now, it wouldn’t be an effort of mine if it didn’t have a visual element or a nice tracking system, right? I just recently read about a “Year in Pixels” as a concept. Here’s some links for those who would like to know more.

And while I do like the apps on my phone, I’m also a spreadsheet user and a Google Drive aficionado. So I created a custom file on my Google Drive, with different tabs for different topics to track.

The idea is to fill in a block per day. There’s a column for each month and rows for the day of the month. You decide what color coding system appeals most to you. I love yellows and oranges, so I made the “best” or “highest” value in my color keys into “Golden.” I’ll be able to update my tracking from my phone and make changes on the fly throughout the year. I’ve already added another tab since I took these screenshots, to track spending time on studying ASL on my own.

Templates ready for tracking a Summary of my day, Movement, and Crafty pursuits

In case you’re unable to read the details on the screenshots, here’s my personal scales for tracking (for now).

  • Summary of my Day: Scale includes (1) Golden, Best, (2) Green, Still Good, (3) Meh, Middle, (4) Cool, Could Be Better, (5) Fork in me, Try Tomorrow
  • Movement tracking: Scale includes (5) Five minutes, (15) Fifteen minutes, (30) Thirty minutes, (60) An hour, and (61+) Over an Hour
  • Crafty tracking: Scale includes (5) Just a few minutes, (4) A nice break, (3) A great session, (2) Committed time, and (1) Dude, Whoa!

Strengths and Follow-through

After thinking about how I work to play to my strengths on habits I want to improve, it also reminds me that these are about matters with follow-through. Completing the starts and stops or deciding it’s not something worth completing. Let your Yes mean Yes and your No mean No. Setting priorities, and even shifting priorities when need be.

Sure, I’ve collected lots of crafty supplies. But are all of them destined to be used? Hmm. Good question. It reminds me of those “new year’s resolution” suggestions that tell you to turn all your hangers backwards. Only turn them right-way again if you wear the outfit. At the end of a year, remove all the clothes you didn’t wear that year. Well, first that supposes that (a) all your clothing goes on hangers in the closet and (b) that all clothing should be worn every year. Now that I live where it’s almost never cold or never raining, there’s some things that get used only every 2-10 years when it’s finally cold and/or wet. So that’s not practical.

But the core thought does seem to have some resonance with me. Which crafty pursuits of mine are actually things I plan to work on? Am I ever going to use XYZ supply? Or is it time to stop being the foster-mom of these supplies and find instead a forever home where someone else would be happy to use the supplies?

Also, there are quite a few “irons in the fire” projects that are part-way started, lurking around in my life. Granted, the reason is usually because they are each better suited for different places and contexts. There’s two projects next to my spinning wheel, both are only for the wheel. There’s a single box filled with a carding project, best for in front of the TV. The flower work bench has all the flower supplies, and there’s two deadlines looming over there. My work rolly cart always has a supply of hand-spinning for when I’m caught somewhere with extra time. My short deadline project at home was finished a week early (which makes me happy) and makes me wonder what’s my next deadline project for home.

There’s always a running list of computer tasks, weekly updates, some regular tasks to finish, and some current deadline projects. And in the distance, the looming prospect of carving out time to try to de-clutter my storage unit. Then there’s costuming needs for SCA events or for storyteller outfits or next Santa season.

Everything we choose to work on says something about our priorities, even when we didn’t mean to make commentary on them. But when I half-remember a promise to do something for a friend and then I forget, that’s a poor commentary on my half-promise. I want to do something about that, to improve and be more reliable, even if it’s just my own hidden integrity that no one knows about but me. Heavy thoughts for a December 30.

Ten years ago, my view out over the ocean in Malibu