Category: Word of the Year
Today I feel overwhelmed. Not by emotion, but by the sheer volume of tasks and appointments and activities, and by trying to keep on top of it all. My google calendar and desktop calendar and beside-the-phone calendar are all working overtime. I keep emailing my husband with more info, more FYIs. At spin class, to which I dragged my aching legs this morning, one of the instructor’s favourite calls of encouragement is: Get on top of it! But as soon as you’re on top, you’re spinning back down and around again. Faster and faster.
I’ve already decided to drop my daily food photo. With early exercise and school and work and making supper before eating breakfast, there is no time to style a plate of leftovers in order to catch the best morning light (see above: waffles, so pretty on Sunday morning). And it can still be a weekend project, aiming for two photos/week.
Back to spin class. I used to hate the fast spins: light and quick. I preferred the seated climbs, digging down, adding resistance, slowing the legs, basically pushing weight with my muscles. But the faster my legs spun around, the more out of control I felt. Here’s what I’ve figured out: the more engaged my core, the faster I can spin. With that central stability to hold me steady, my legs can whirl faster and faster while staying in control. I’m learning to like light and quick.
So what is holding me steady as my life begins to spin again, faster and faster? What’s at the core? What brings me joy and energy and determination–and stability? A bunch of thoughts jump to mind.
* time alone in a quiet house
* little adventures
None of these are going to be my word of the year (to be revealed later this week, after I’ve shared it with my word-of-the-year partners). But there has to be room within the crazy for all of these things. It might mean finding space in the midst of the hurry. It might mean turning inconveniences into opportunities. For example, this afternoon we go from swimming to a soccer practice. Swimming’s for all the kids, but soccer practice is just for one girl; in other words, the little kids have to be dragged along. This could go badly. Bored kids, tired mom. Or it could turn into quiet time spent together, doing things we don’t always have time for: snuggling and reading while we wait. That’s my plan. I can hope for the best, as Albus would say.
News! On the work-related front!
**I’ve seen the full cover for Juliet, and the book is being sent to print later today(!!).
**Next week I’ll head into Toronto to plan publicity with Anansi.
**This week I’m working on a web site to promote the book.
**Last night I sat in my office and listened to the first mix of the song I wrote and recorded for one of my characters in Juliet–my brother, who is a professional musician and producer, did the recording and production. I’m hoping to find some way to connect the two mediums.
**And today I am going to spend my writing time with The Big Fat Juicy Belly Worm.
**Also, as some of you may already know, I’ve signed on as an editor/writer for Storywell, a new local business that launches on January 19th. If you live locally, and you are interested in writing, please mark your calendars (desktop, google, beside-the-phone) and come out. Info below. Spread the word.
It’s almost time to talk about my word of the year for this year to come.
But first I want to reflect on the word I chose last year. It was HEART. Not a word you want to come across too often in a collection of poetry lest you begin to suspect the poet of being a) in need of a thesaurus; or b) someone who missed her calling as a composer of greeting cards. Yup. It’s a word with the potential to be shallow, sentimental, Valentine-shaped. And yet it’s also a word with muscle, quite literally. And that is how I used the word (or how it chose to be used by me) this past year.
When I chose HEART, I was thinking of yoga’s chest-opening exercises, of being more open and more loving and kind. But instead I found myself, over and over again, thinking of the noun, of my actual pumping heart. This past year I made my heart work harder than it ever has before. I asked it to power me through training and races at distances I’d never imagined enduring. And my heart adapted. I don’t know the mechanics of long-term training, but somehow over many months my body became more efficient at moving and using oxygen. When I began training, I didn’t know what endurance really meant; all I knew was that I didn’t have it. Over the course of the past year, I learned that endurance is mostly about the ability to recover quickly. In fact, as I’ve experienced it, endurance means many quick recoveries amidst ongoing hard effort. This is best understood in the context of a race, but if you’re a naturally competitive person, like I am, you’ll get a taste for it during every run, every swim, every bike ride. It means feeling spent, and discovering another layer of strength.
All of which also means that my word of the year was taken awfully literally. And that wasn’t what I’d intended.
Surely there’s a cliche in here somewhere, something we could put on a poster, perhaps? Yes, if I dig just a little deeper, I think there is. Because it came to me this morning that while strengthening my literal HEART, I learned about courage. I learned to see myself as courageous (on a small scale), capable of enduring despite momentary doubt or pain; and that in turn gave me courage–to dream bigger, push harder, attempt more, and above all, to trust myself. I may feel spent–speaking metaphorically–but if instead of giving up or giving in to the feeling I let myself breathe for a moment, I will find another layer of strength. How often do I feel discouraged? Tired? Doubtful? Uncertain? These are every day emotions. They aren’t necessarily enormous or overwhelming, but even on a small scale, anxiety or doubt can nibble away at resolve. To live a full life, I want to take chances, to push the pace, to try things I’ve never tried before. I want to answer that voice in my head that is whispering “Can I do this??” with “I don’t know, but I’m going to try.”
I might fail. I might run out of steam and stagger across the finish line. It might not work out this time. But if I’ve tried, I’ve learned more than if I hadn’t.
That’s where HEART took me this year. So I suppose it has been an opening exercise.
Found this German saying in the newspaper this morning: “Who begins too much accomplishes little.”
Uh oh. Is that me? As I woke at 5am, churned away at spin class, got home, ate breakfast, threw laundry in washer, thought about working on the writing project I’m developing, checked email instead, received message on how to use my camera better, spent next hour and a half playing with camera settings and taking random photos around the house, finally sat down at desk to work and started a new blog post. This one.
All the while, this is my morning to work while Kev hangs out with the kids. ie. my time is limited! And what have I done? Is it my habit to dart from project to project, from activity to activity, never fully developing the potential of any?
Maybe my word of the year should be focus. Or choose. Or limits.
Ugh. I don’t want a word like that. I want to do too many things. Not just do them, but master them, become expert at them. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?
(Yes it is, at least all at once, if experience is any guide.)
But everything in me wants to deny it. Wants to embrace the opportunities, chase all interests, learn with a hungry and curious mind.
Look at it this way:
**This morning I challenged my body and put in time and effort toward racing goals this summer.
**This morning I ate breakfast with my kids.
**This morning I learned something new and useful: how to adjust the aperture and shutter speed settings on my camera manually, and what effect these previously mysterious numbers have on the outcome of the photos I take every day.
**This morning I recorded, briefly, where my mind is at.
**This morning I connected with friends in person and via email.
And now I am going to open a word processing file and spend an hour, **this morning, working on The Big Fat Juicy Belly Worm. Yup. My project in development is a story for children. I read the first chapter to my kids last night, and I think they’d like to hear another one. What could be more motivating?
Sorry, German saying. You’re probably right, but I’m going with my manic energy this morning.
On a completely different note, this blog post titled “Read and Loved in 2011” by The Keepin’ It Real Book Club reached out of the blue and touched me **this morning. Read it and see for yourself.
home with a sick child
reading page proofs
watching the rain,
and the wind.
These are the good motherhood years. Not that they haven’t all been good years. But I’m telling you. These are sweet. For starters, I sleep through the night (I mean that literally, as all mothers of infants and toddlers will understand.) But then, my eldest is not so old: he still likes doing things with the whole family. And my youngest is not so old either: he still asks to be carried downstairs in the morning. All appreciate bedtime hugs and kisses goodbye in the morning. All are developing characters with funny thoughts and quirks and individual interests. Bursting with potential. Ages 10, almost 9, 6, and 3. This time is a keeper. Can I bottle it?
A random conversation between CJ and Kevin this morning, on their walk to nursery school (as reported by Kevin):
“Dad, Christmas is on the street now.”
“Are you excited about Christmas?”
Little dance with punches – “Yes! All the presents! How does Santa get all the gifts into the house?”
“How does Santa do magic without a magic wand?”
I didn’t write yesterday. That felt strange. But I didn’t have anything to say.
I’m not sure I have anything to say today, either. In truth, life feels a little wan this week, gloomy, rainy, pale, grey. Or is that the weather?
I am tired. I might have overdone it on the exercise front, though I don’t like to admit it. I didn’t rest after my trail race, but continued apace, training toward the marathon. And I didn’t rest after Sunday’s long run (the furthest I’ve ever run). By last night, my whole body ached in a way that was unfamiliar. It still aches this morning. I did not get up early to swim, though I dreamed it; even in the dream I didn’t make it to the pool, though in the dream, I got to lounge on a snowbank under a hot summer sun. Ah, dreams.
Before sleep, I am reading the poems of Mary Oliver for my poetry book club. I am searching my heart (it is impossible to read the poems of Mary Oliver without searching one’s heart). And I have some questions. The kind that can’t be answered by reading the horoscopes, though heaven help me, I keep reading those, too.
**Where am I heading, at my breakneck pace? **What am I failing to stop for? **What if I can’t squeeze every fascinating everything in? **What matters? **Will I always be so impatient? So goal-oriented? **Can I be both ambitious and content, or do those two states of mind cancel each other out? **Do I want to be at home, all day, every day?
That last question hangs around me this fall, dogging me. Look, there is the new porch, and at the end, there is the wall and the front window of my new office, which makes the house look unexpectedly much bigger than before. But is it big enough to contain me?
A friend from grad school wrote this heartfelt post about returning to work after spending the past year home with her son, who is now a year. I was riveted by the emotions her post raised in me. She’s a full-time working mother! She loves her job! It’s a whole new frontier! I want to know more in an almost clinical way: let’s dissect and analyze this. What do I feel, reading about her major life transition? I feel envy, longing. She is expressing her working self, participating in the larger world, working with others. But when she describes missing her son’s bedtime due to a late meeting, I am gripped by the same agony she expresses, a pit opening in my stomach: missing a whole day in his brand-new life!
It’s too late to wish I’d chosen otherwise: to wish that in the past decade I’d developed my working self. I didn’t want to at the time. Instead, I got to have all those bedtimes. So many that they blur together. They seem mundane. I didn’t/don’t appreciate them enough. All that time we’ve spent soaking into each other.
**When I unpeel myself from them, who am I? **Who am I outside this home? And the question I’m most scared of, the one I really want to ask: **How do I begin to develop my working self, now, after a decade of being mom-at-home? (Some of you might be asking, too. If you are, or if you have ideas or encouragement or more questions, too, please respond.)
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