January 12, 2011

Just One Word

My friend Mary from "Play off the Page" wrote a thought-provoking post recently that challenged readers to think of one word or phrase that would comprise their theme for the coming year. I promised her I'd think on that and get back to her. So, I'm coming through for her, in essence, by borrowing her idea for my post this week. (Thanks Mary! I owe you!)

Seriously, though, I think it's a brilliant idea. I've always been challenged by and attracted to the thought of themes. Perhaps it comes from my years as a newspaper reporter and the pragmatic need to come up with an appropriate headline. Or my training as a journalist in need of a good lede, or start to a story, and then the subsequent need tie it all up in the end.

Themes are a strong part of story, so why not in the story of our lives as well? Rather than it being confining, I find it freeing, a way to help focus.

I once wrote a post relating to the writing audience and how necessary it is to not become overwhelmed by audience, and how writing to just one person (real or imaginary) can really help one's writing come alive. Whether that one person is oneself, a parent, a spouse, a sibling or a trusted friend, this seems a very powerful and important writing tool.

Another time, I pondered how each of us has a certain theme that we tend to come back to time and again in our writing. Each of us has something of importance to share with the world, and though we may say it in a million different ways and through hundreds of different forms, each piece we compose connects back to that one thing we are meant to say to and share, and in the ways only we can.

These things are not always easy to pin down, especially when choosing a theme for a year that has yet to unfold. But doing so can have the added benefit of setting the tone for what is to come. Mary did a great job of naming her "one word" themes for the past several years. I know Mary well so it was easy for me to see how close she'd come in her selections: 2008, Courage; 2009, Healing; 2010, Rhythm; and 2011, Embrace. What a great word, that last one! It's full of such possibility! I'm glad she's claimed that word for the coming year.

So, I'm following Mary's pattern, not only thinking up my new word for 2011 but naming those from the three previous years. Here's what I've come up with: 2008, Awaken; 2009, Healing; 2010, Transition; and the word for 2011 (drum roll please...): Pursue!

A couple of reflections: I hadn't noticed until writing this post that we'd both chosen "Healing" for 2009 (I'd written mine down on a scrap of paper at the Y with my computer nowhere in sight to be reminded of her choices). But it doesn't surprise me to see this. That year, Mary and I were very connected as we worked through our healing, both together and apart. It was a special blessing to be able to share our insights and develop a similar language to express what we were going through. I'd like to think we helped one another in our healing.

And pursue...this feels like a very active word to me. And it seems a great one to follow transition. Last year was all about reorienting myself as I prepared my youngest child for kindergarten. It was as if I were floating, getting ready for what was next. I savored as much of that alone time with my son as I could and I don't regret a moment of it. But now, with a few months of lead time, I'm feeling readier than ever to pursue. Not in an aggressive way, but in an active, purposeful sort of way. To me, this implies movement and it feels exciting and adventurous and even a little daring. I think it's a great word, and I hope that by the time the year comes to a close, I'll realize the word was well-chosen.

Q4U: So now it's your turn. What's your one word or theme for the coming year?


Saumya said...

Acceptance :)

Rebecca Ramsey said...

I think it's peace. It's a big word, but one I'm already starting to learn. Peace to accept whatever happens, peace to ride the waves, peace as I look for ways to serve God.
Thanks for the post! Very thought provoking!

Christina said...

What a cool exercise! I'm going to take your cue and do a couple years. It's helpful to see the arc.

2009: Beginnings
2010: Anchor
2011: Flight

Roxane, I agree that pursue is daring, full of possibility. It seems like a great choice for where you're at and I wish you lots of thrilling, life-giving pursuits!

Carla said...

Engage! (though, if I think too long I might change my mind!) I have so many things going on that I really spend a lot of time engaged. I also picture myself as the captain of a star ship announcing, "Engage!" to the helm and then zooming off on great adventures.

I've enjoyed looking around your blog...I'm a new follower. :)

~Carla (carla-jansen.blogspot.com)

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Oh, these are all great words, gals. I'm liking this little exercise more and more as I hear what you've all come up with. These are actually quite profound words/thoughts. So much packed into one word that represents a year in our lives!

Becky, I use the word "peace" a lot and generously, but I also realize that is carries a lot of meaning, and should not be taken lightly at all. There are many variations of the word, too. I once wrote an article about finding peace and it was much more challenging than I thought it would be at the onset!

Mary Aalgaard said...

We were on a similar path these past few years. Awaken is profound. I like how Christina points out the arc from naming the past three years. Yes, we were both healing in 2009. Such a good one. I can already see in on full-throttle with "Pursue." You're doing great!!! I'm so excited to see you pursue your authentic self. You are terrific. Thanks for linking to me today. Sorry I was a little slow in coming here. I was busy embracing my community in an outreach project today. {hugs}

Laura Marcella said...


Great idea! I'm going to start doing this and keep track of my words each year. I think I might come up with monthly words, too!

Far Side of Fifty said...

I did not leave my word for Mary..but she was the one that got me to thinking that I better decide on one..the one I chose was kindness.
As a very opinionated person..I can be reminded often to be kinder:)