Three little words

Just as 2009 was drawing to a close, my attention was taken by a friend’s note that she had selected three words to guide and inspire her in the coming year.  It instantly resonated with me, as I reflected back on the cruel and unexpected surprises which had landed in my lap during the year. 

The passing of a year is an important transition to me.  As are dates. I guess I am a “remember the date” kind of girl.  I attach significance to dates and can remember all sorts of fairly banal events and the date they happened.  A colleague of mine mentioned yesterday that it was nearly a year since he had arrived in country.  I took a few moments to think, and then corrected him.  I told him that the anniversary of his arrival was actually 2 days previously.   I just have that kind of memory.  There was not big deal to remember his arrival, I find it easy to associate things with other events and dates stick in my mind.  Heavens, I wish I could remember if I turned the gas off, or locked the front door as easily!!

So dates and years matter to me.  As we leave one year behind, I always have a feeling of being able to put baggage behind me and embrace the opportunity to click the refresh button in my life as we move forward to a new year. This notion of selecting a three word mantra for the year came to me at the most perfect moment in 2009.  Although I was in the thick of treatment, I desperately wanted and needed to be able to look ahead and indeed beyond the days when cancer and treatment were relentlessly dictating so much of my life.  I spent almost a full day deciding which words I would select for the coming year, and had a real sense of optimism and achievement when I finally settled on my words for 2010 “Recovery, discovery and laughter”.  I took delight in playing with the extra layers of meanings within these words.  And more than anything else, I relished returning to these words throughout 2010 both as an affirmation as well as an incentive and encouragement.

This is how I described my words at that time:

Recovery – this is obvious.  I still have months ahead of heavy duty treatment.  This will be followed by long term medication and screening once (and, if we are honest, if) the oncologist and surgeon are satisfied that the breast beast has been truly banished.  It also refers to mental and emotional recovery – being able to sleep at night without waking and worrying, and being hassled by the scary thoughts.   And on another level, it could even refer to lovely white scalp which very much looks forward to being re-covered with real, if grey, hair!

Discovery – this has so many dimensions.  Most of all, it is a great way to approach absolutely everything!  There is so much to learn and discover at all levels.  Professionally it is important to be continually learn and developing, especially in my role!  Discovery is lovely way to view learning – exciting and bringing surprises.  I am also at an early stage in life and work in our new place, and I have so much to find out.  I have much to learn about the country and city we live in, and get to know our new friends.  There is a real opening for spiritual development and discovery which is appealing and healing.  Most of all, I want to make sure my eyes are really open to what is going on around me and to see the new and interesting in everyday life, rather than wallow in the tough stuff.

Laughter – this is probably not a surprise!  Many people joked when I had my surgery, that the knife did not find wherever my sense of humour was located.  Most wished it had!!!  This journey has shown me over and over that I cannot change what is happening, but I am the only one who can control how I approach it.  Humour is a tool for me, and a survival mechanism.  Of course I have cried (diagnosis time, hair loss time and other vulnerable points which are often unexpected) but whenever I can, I try and turn the wobbles into giggles.  It’s also a great excuse for truly dreadful jokes and puns so this is advance warning that 2010 will see a proactive effort to bring smiles and fun into life.

I was delighted that these words really worked for me, and i did revisit them time and time again throughout the year.

In December last year, I started thinking about selecting 3 words for 2011.  It was not so easy.  I had particularly liked my 2010 words.  It took more time, more deliberation and to be honest a greater number of words to choose from.  Finally I settled on Harmony, vitality and adventure for the following reasons:

Harmony is the main essence of how I want to see the year.  It represents the need to maintain a balance in life, especially between work, health and leisure.  It shows the importance I hold in keeping a space for creativity in my life.  It also shows my dislike of conflict and wish for peace, in my life and in the wider world.  It also has the dimension of being in harmony with my body.  Much as I wish for NED I know that there are no guarantees.  So no matter what the year throws at me, I intend to be at one with how I handle it physically.  And in a very different vein, harmony in the musical sense shows my love of music and its importance in my life.

Vitality covers my wish to feel the full benefit of feeling well, and enjoying life to the full.  In a wider sense, I feel it can also cover a broader approach to life, embracing each new day and new challenges.

I decided to pick adventure as my third word, as it also has a range of meanings which I feel will guide and inspire in the coming year.  It shows that I want to push myself and reach for new experiences.  If we look at its origins – (I knew learning Latin all those years ago would have a use) the word is made up of the verb to go, or move.  The prefix “ad” brings the notion of forward to the motion.  So adventure also represents moving forward.  I most definitely intend to keep moving forward, no matter what the year throws at me.

This choice has also worked really well for me.  I am still aiming for harmony, even though it is not always easy.  I keep cranking forward the physical exercise machine, swimming daily before work, working out (bleurgh but it is good for me!) and paying great attention to my wellbeing.  And adventure!  Gosh, I have been amazed at how much I have been able to regain confidence, and have had a number of adventures through the year, including a return to field work in remote parts of the country, a trip to Chiang Mai by overnight train and my wonderful birthday holiday around the ancient Angkor temples.  And now I am plotting an adventure for Christmas……..  watch this space.

So that brings me to an interesting place.  If I found it hard to pick this year’s words, and went through quite a process of deliberation to arrive at the words I did.  And that paid off for sure.  I regularly refer to these words, both in my mind and more explicitly.  And they have been the perfect fit for 2011.  So now I feel that my task of finding three words for 2012 will again not be easy.  However, arriving at a sense of the key areas in my life which I want to focus on and then play with the various words which can express that is in itself an inspiring exercise.  It is one, which I think will take a bit more time this year.  And that’s why I am starting to think about it now.

14 thoughts on “Three little words

  1. Great post, and got me thinking, too. I know I’d have to pick ‘laughter’ for sure, and perhaps ‘equilibrium,’ which is a variation on your word harmony. I feel like I’ve spent so much time doing a balancing act since I was diagnosed. It’s constant & tiring to keep juggling life to get some equilibrium, but worth striving for. Plus, our Twitter convo has made me appreciate anew how powerful the word ‘planning’ has been for me recently. Thank you & Jody for that. It’s crystallized & helped me articulate a great deal of what has been so immensely powerful and healing about all the recent home fix-ups I’ve been engaged in. Have been wanting to write another post about it, and now I’ve got a compass for that. So, thank you!

    And ‘appreciation’ is a good word, now that I think of it.

    A wonderful exercise and food for thought.

    • Thanks Kathi – I like equilibrium – hmmmm, that could have a place in the three I choose…

      Isn’t it lovely when we can suddenly see how much we have shifted, such as in planning. And how healing that has been – I am looking forward to reading your post about your house project.

  2. This post is definitely food for thought. I agree with Kathi that I would have to pick “laughter” as one of my three words. “Spunk” is another one that comes to mind as I lead off with a new life of my own. I can found out who (and how spunky) the real Jan Hasak is, like in that old TV show “To Tell the Truth.” The third word is likely “faith” or “friends” as I venture into the unknown, financially and emotionally. I’ll need faith AND friends to carry on. Indeed, this is a wonderful exercise and I appreciate the opportunity to reflect.

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  4. The word that’s playing through my mind at the moment is connectedness – and you have no idea how much it means to me to see how our words and spirits are woven together like this. Thank you for sharing your words and practice.

    • I am so thankful to you for introducing this idea to me, Joanna – it has become a really important process and concept. True connectedness.
      Thank you 🙂

  5. Thank you so much for this. I am such a big fan of the three word idea and first chose mine after reading a Martha Beck article in December of last year where she encouraged her readers to pick three words to describe how we wanted to feel in 2011. I chose inspired, healthy, and loved and I have had so many incredible blessings because of those three words. I too will struggle with coming up with the perfect words for 2012. But, as I write this comment, I realize maybe one of my words should have something to do with letting go of perfection 😉 I know for sure Free is one of the words I will pick as I prepare to travel the globe. I know my travels will bring me to Asia and I hope we have the chance to meet in person. Vietnam has been on my heart for awhile now, so I want to volunteer there for 3 weeks, but with hopefully one week of downtime, maybe we can figure out a way to connect, or you can come join me in Vietnam. Can’t wait to see what your words for 2012 will be. Big hugs! T xo

    • Thanks, Terri – it is good to hear how it works so well for you too. I refer to mine time and time again, and I cherish them.

      I am so looking forward to seeing you when you are in this part of the world – we will connect, I am sure.
      x 🙂

  6. Philippa, Well I’m back here reading this post a second time. I’m still thinking… I also read Jan’s post. I’m definitely going to think about using this as a kind of New Year’s resolution type exercise. I’ll let you know what my three words are, whenever the heck I can decide on them! I always overthink everything! I also want to mention that I loved your post on JBBC about friendship. It was so lovely and quite poignant.

    • Thanks for the double visit Nancy 🙂 I really look forward to hearing how your three words develop. I am also quite good at overthinking and I am in a bit of a “wordmire” at the moment as I work towards refining my choice, but I am loving the fact that I have time to work through a process which should take me to the right words in time for the New Year.
      Thanks for your lovely words about the JBBC post too – you are all my inspiration.

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