In this last month of the year, two thoughts bubble up: What’s my word of the year (WOTY) and what’s my challenge? Many of my fellow bloggers here are thinking about their words. Nicole, for example, says she is looking for a word that expresses the opposite of existential dread. I look forward to what she comes up with. We will have more WOTY posts, to be sure.
Last year my word was enough. For the early part of the year, I reminded myself with some regularity what my word was. I needed the specific boost. Just now, when I sat down to write this, I realized I’d forgotten what my word was. Yet, when I looked back and found my word, it was like a carillon. Oh yes, now I remember my word and I didn’t need the reminder after a certain point in the year, because I had installed an enough-ness fuel gauge in my bodymind dashboard and was taking conscious note of the fuel level on a more regular basis. That realization, in and of itself, topped up the fuel in my enough-ness tank. My word did its job. Pause for mini-celebratory dance.
In a recent Peloton class one of my favourite instructors, Christine D’Ercole, said that we should give ourselves user names that, when we say them out loud, have the same effect as an encouraging hand on our back. That’s the effect I’m looking for in my WOTY. A word that encourages me. A carrot word. Not a stick word.
This year’s word builds on enough. I’m not going to give it to you straight out. There’s some stage décor to put in place first. It turns out that enough is a pretty damn bold word. Enough gives me the courage to plunge into learning new modalities (including two separate yearlong trainings, one in Non-Violent Communication and one in Internal Family Systems). Enough inoculates me against being overwhelmed by the voices in my head and in society, who say that I’m past due on expanding into new disciplines. Enough grants me the audacity to incorporate these new techniques into my work now with the simultaneous confidence of a seasoned practitioner and the caution of a novitiate. I am integrating my existing skills base with the fresh skills I am learning and honing to offer more holistic coaching and workshops.
At first, my word for next year wanted to be something like mastery. But two reasons held me back from that choice. First, the word is outmoded and even ugly, in a world that is waking up to all the hidden and subtle ways we perpetuate inequities. Mastery comes with a heavy burden of colonialism and racism.
This first reason would have been more than enough to keep the word out of contention. But there’s more. The word feels static. As if we can master something and then that’s it. One and done. Thank you very much. You may now come to me with questions. I’ve moved on to answers. No. That’s not how I feel about the skills I already have facility with, nor how I feel about the new tools I’m adding. There’s dynamism in the process. Learning is cyclical, not linear, building and looping back on itself to collect new gleanings.
I wanted a word to express my desire to keep learning, integrating, experimenting and refining. In that spirit, my word itself is freshly coined, by me.
That’s my word. Say it out loud. Feel it on your tongue. Listen to it come out of your mouth. Do you feel how open the word is? Versus, for example, the word skillful, which closes in on itself with that final letter L.
Skillflow: (noun) the continuous, regenerative cycle of learning and applying our skills; the flow of fresh skills mixing with honed skills in a reciprocal renewal of energy.
I am already enough AND I’m going to learn so much this year. I’ve got my word.
So … I wrote all those words above yesterday and I felt plugged in and buzzing with possibility. Excited for the year to come. Up to the task. Empowered. Then I woke up this morning with a possibility hangover. That’s when the part of me who is fearful of failure gets very loud. I was down in the dumps. Questioning everything from my right to even propose a WOTY to my very existence. Apparently, my word is threatening to some part of me that fears that a hand on my back will push me right over a cliff into a humiliating failure; that I’ll choke on my carrot word. Sigh. Thank you, fearful voice. Breathe. Notice that I am learning new skills around befriending that scared voice. Allow her words to flow through me, instead of getting stuck inside like a brick in an impenetrable wall of the-truth-of-who-I-am.
My word for 2022 is skillflow.
How about that challenge I mentioned? Challenges are my version of resolutions (but not). A friend calls them my annual devotional tasks. They are ways of being I want to try on for size, with no commitment to extend after the year is over.
Last year my challenge was twofold—to continue not to shop for anything from Amazon.com except books and movies (an extension of my 2020 challenge) and to commit to a poetry exchange with my friend (and fellow blogger here), Kim. We agreed to send each other new poems we’d written every second Sunday. We have two poem cycles left and the whole process has been fresh and bracing, plus liberating and connecting. Excellent. Last year, I wanted a challenge that wasn’t all about self-discipline and denial, which has characterized quite a number of my challenges (like not shopping for clothes for a year). This year I want a challenge … well … I have no clue what to do this year.
I’d love to hear your WOTYs and any ideas for a challenge.