Sometimes when a phrase or word pops up in different situations in quick succession in my life, it is a sign I need to pay attention to those words. The word(s) for me recently, this week especially, were “my story”. I am a lover of the word and the Word. Life to me is one giant puzzle and words help me fit everything together. Today’s blog post will add a few jagged pieces to the outskirts of my jigsaw, just inside the straight edges of the border, about an inch in.
A few weeks ago, Texas Belle, in an effort to motivate me, told me about an acquaintance of hers, Joni Marra, who is director of community relations of Common Ground in Cleveland, Ohio, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conscious living. When I checked her out, she had a blog post called One Word, in which she discusses selecting a word for the year to meditate on, the idea of which came from a book, published in 1999, called One Word That Will Change Your Life. This sounded all too familiar.
For the past 5 (?) years, my mother (a.k.a. The Radish) has encouraged our family to pick a word for the year. She has even roped in my in-laws. I cannot tell you what my words have been in past years, mainly because a) I thought it was a bunch of BS and I wanted to placate my mother and b) by February the word was still hanging around on a primeval level but by March, it was a thing of the past. Last year, I think my word was GRATITUDE as I was turning 50 and I was GRATEFUL. But I honestly can’t swear by it. It was the theme of my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, however, so it must have stuck by September.
I did a little research this morning on the one word subject and it turns out my mother got the concept from a dynamo called Ali Edwards, not the above cited book. Ali Edwards has a memory making blog that, quite frankly, scared me to death due to its extreme professionalism. A younger, sexier, more focused Martha Stewart, Ali has been doing this word practice since 2007 and has even trademarked a section of her blog called One Little Word. (I don’t know how to put the trademark thingy in there or I would). I do not know if Ali has ever read the above referenced book – I was only skimming her posts, visually stunned by her incredible production. In any case, Ali is a creative tour de force, who inspires and encourages her readers to write/create/memorialize their story as she documents her own. She lives in Eugene, Oregon. QUACK.
This year I decided I needed TWO words: QUIET and PURGE.
2014 was, quite frankly, a blur for me. Thing 2 graduated from high school and went off to college. I spent a summer on ride-alongs with Things 1 & 3 as they learned to drive. I trained for a pilgrimage with Mr. Understanding and then went on said pilgrimage in Spain and France. I cleaned out a house, sold it, and moved it. In the meantime, I made everyone happy.* Hence, the need for the word QUIET.
Part of being quiet this year is reading and going to yoga. As I don’t think I am actually going to have a quiet year, I need to be quiet on the inside. Both activities calm my brain. I have not had time, until this last week, to actually think about the pilgrimage I took in the fall, a fact that seems rather obscene to me, but I need quiet in which to do this and that has been in short supply.
One of the books I have been reading lately is called, simply enough, Prayer, by Timothy Keller. One of the methods he advocates is mediating on the Word or even breaking it down into each individual word. Strangely, I had already been doing this for the word purge. In Greek, purge is kathairo (to cleanse, to prune) or katharos (clean, clear, pure). The name Katherine means pure. Think catharsis.
PURGE. You would think that I would have done this already if you are reading carefully. I did a lot of it in 2014, even though it wasn’t enough and it wasn’t my word. All that purging actually made me want to vomit – a double purge, as it were – at all the waste and stuff. As I am still surrounded by stuff/crap that I need to unload, the word needs to be at the forefront of my thinking.
You are going to think I am in left field with this one but stay with me. Let me introduce a little bit of American culture, the guilty pleasure of bad-for-you TV, in the form of the show The Batchelor. Having lived overseas so long, I am not in the habit of watching anything on TV, except for news and the occasional sitcom. But my children got me hooked. On Monday of this week, one of the contestants, “Kelsey” talked about “her story” of being widowed. One would think this would generate empathy. But no, it just made me want to gag. Storytelling as manipulation in its most tragic and transparent form!
And then I went to relaxation yoga last night in the middle of a snow storm. My favorite yoga instructor, whose voice coats the brain like honey, had us meditate on the stories we tell ourselves. I laughed to myself, vis a vis Kelsey, “What story have I told myself lately that was false? Tragic? Spun in my own brain?”
What I came up with was the story of my blisters on the Camino. After the first day of the Camino, my walking companion and dear friend Maria, acquired a blister on her big left toe. I had none. I chortled to myself and pride entered in. Long story short, she only got the one and I suffered numerous. The story I told myself was that God was laughing at me for being prideful. Was perhaps the real story, though, that I was just a dumbass and thought my fancy REI moisture-wicking socks would do the trick? That I did not put on enough Vaseline? Perhaps a lot of both – lessons learned. (Now that I have coughed up that little nugget of self-condemnation, I am letting it go.)
As I said good-bye to the yoga instructor, who is traveling to Seattle tomorrow for a healing workshop, I gave her the website info for Glassybaby and told her to check out their new store at SEATAC. She responded that she loves the Pacific Northwest – she had gone to school there. QUACK! Just like that, two stories intersected and two random little bits just clicked into place. I can’t wait to see what fits in next!
Q: What stories are you telling about yourself or someone else that you need to eliminate? What would your word be for the year? It’s only February – you can pick one (or two!).