Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Word for the Year

Since 2008 I have given up New Year's Resolutions for a simple guide word to keep me on track throughout the year. If you don't know what I'm referring to, you can read about "Resolution Revolution" on Christine Kane's blog here. After what turned out to be a rather grueling year (where my word "persevere" held me in good stead), I returned from my holiday travels with an unexpected optimism about 2014. I started thinking about my word for this year right away, wanting to find something upbeat and happy to fit my renewed sense of optimism.

I go through stages of wanting and needing to soak in every inspirational quotation, article, piece of artwork I run across, gathering courage from stories of other's journeys that remind me of my own, casting about for things that will put me on track. I think this is ok, up to a point. But eventually the sponge that is me becomes too saturated for more, because suddenly I want the outside influences to stop, I want to turn off what has become distracting noise, I realize I must stop gathering and start doing. That's how I felt as 2013 turned to 2014 and I spotted blog posts recapping the accomplishments of last year and lining out what 2014 would look like. People started talking about their own resolutions and resolution word selection and I realized I did not want to know - not until I'd settled on my own. I didn't want to be influenced perhaps, or distracted from my own search & thinking about what I wanted the year to be like overall, and what direction my quilting would take. I didn't even want to check the list of possible words Christine provides. I wanted the word to come from deep inside me.

And it did. I can't remember exactly what I was doing when the voice in my head spoke, but I think it was while I worked through a prompt for an art journal spread (something new for me which I'll tell about in another post). "Exploration" the voice suggested. Yes, that's what I was doing at the moment - exploring a technique with paint on paper. But it didn't take long for me to realize two things. First, I'd started exploring some different things last year, like linocuts, and did not spend as much time on these things as I had wanted. As I thought about how I might spend this year, I knew I wanted to continue those explorations. Second, the more I thought about that word, the more I realized it summed up my whole life, from my first memories to the present. Whether it be artistic or cerebral endeavors, interaction with others, time spent in nature, vacations, cooking, photography, computers - I can hardly think of anything I do that doesn't have some component of exploration to it. I have a need to know, a craving for learning, a delight in mastering, a satisfaction in making connections while sifting through information that seems unrelated. I get cranky and sullen and even depressed, I can see, when life's vagaries interrupt my explorations.

Of course, it's not always uncontrollable life that's to blame. Sometimes I lose my nerve, let fear of the unknown keep me from risking security, find excuses to let inertia take over. That trip to the Southwest to immerse myself in a landscape so different from my usual source of inspiration? Gosh, it's a really long drive to make alone and maybe I can't afford to rent a place for two weeks and what time of the year would be best to go... Those surface design techniques I keep saying I want to try? It's so overwhelming deciding which to try and I'd hate to waste paint and fabric until I know more. I'd better keep reading up on it and gathering supplies...  The family history research and organization of photos/documents/letters I'd really like to make progress on? I'm not sure I can afford the time and where should I start and what should my system be... The parks and trails and scenic views nearby that I have yet to experience although they've been on my to-do list for a couple of years? Oh, I have a raft of reasons depending on the day - it's too hot, it's too cold, it's too late, I should find someone to hike with me, I can't afford the time right now... Yes, I'm great at procrastinating and talking myself out of things and avoiding change and risk. That's when I'll pull out my resolution word and remind myself that all of life is exploration, it is at the core of who I am and always have been. It's what makes life interesting and exciting for me and I need not play it so safe - whether it be with my art or any other part of my life. Explore...that's what I'll be reminding myself to do this year. That's what I'll be telling myself the next time I choke working through a quilt design or its construction, or when I'm tempted to put off the hike for another day, or when I stand in the office looking at the file cabinet of family memorabilia and history, or when I wonder if I should make some time for travel, or think I'm wasting my time with a computer program. Explore!    


Christine Staver said...

What a great word. I think I will borrow it this year if you don't mind. I agree that we have been doing it all along and for a very long time. I have been exploring since I was a kid. I even do it in my teaching. Interestingly I never have the self doubts when trying new things in my teaching, but find it hard to do that in my art. I have so many more doubts and insecurities when I make a quilt.

Let this be the year to overcome procrastination, self doubts, and hesitation. Let's explore like we were kids again.

Lucia Sasaki said...

Hi Sheila, thanks for your posting!
I, too, have been reading many blogs about this "one word for the year" topic. For me is a novelty and I have been commenting it with some friends. I thought about it for some days and decided to make an adaptation and I choose to to chose an "Scripture for the year". And incredible as it was, I heard a whispering in my mind saying aobut this scripture!
It is 1 Peter 5:6-7.
Well, I think it is because I am so an anxious person and I need to learn to "humble before God".
It will be a deepening experience about trust.
Thanks for sharing.
Indeed, your word choice is so compatible with you.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Chris, be my guest! Since choosing it I have discovered I am not the only one thinking it is a good guide for the New Year.

Lucia, I like your adaptation of scripture of the year and you have picked such a good one. I had to look it up, of course, and verse 7 is one I have underlined! I know all about being anxious and wary of trusting but I've gotten much better about it these last few years. When flipping to that verse, I noted another underlined passage - verse 1 of chapter 2. It would also make for an excellent scripture for the year. If you give up your worries to a higher power and stop hatred, dishonesty and jealousy, your life just has to get better. Good luck!