Shaping 2012 with three little words

This year it has actually been really hard to settle on my three words to guide and inspire me in the coming year.  To be fair, I knew it would be difficult because I have liked my previous choices so much.  Not only have they been the right words for me, they have been the right words for me in that particular year.  When I first saw the idea of selecting three words at the end of 2009, it spoke so clearly to me and the three words came almost instantly.  2010 was indeed a year of recovery, discovery and laughter as I moved through the months of heavy treatment, back to Scotland to see family and friends after so long, returning to work and finally growing those characteristic grey chemo curls as I moved towards the end of the year.

Last year’s words clearly represented a shift in where I was with “harmony, vitality and adventure”.  Harmony in terms balance in my life, professionally, personally, emotionally and physically as well as harmonious musically.  Vitality encouraged me and spurred me on to build on my daily swimming and be even more active, taking up the gym and becoming fitter than I probably have been in decades.  And adventure – well, this has been a favourite and I hav embarked on a number of adventures throughout the year, which have grown in their adventurousness as the year progressed!

So I started thinking about the words for 2012 over a month ago, looking forward to the process of selecting the words as much as I look forward to a new series of the Amazing Race!  As the time approached I would start thinking of the overall areas I want to focus on and pick up on words as I heard them, read them or even as they came to mind as I was ploughing up and down the swimming pool.

I was however, right in my guess that this year’s choice would be much more difficult though.  How could I settle on words which I liked as much and which were as meaningful as the previous years’ words?  How could I pick only three words when there were just so many to choose from?  I veered from extravagant words through to simple words, playing with each in how they balanced each other as well as how they sounded together.  It is interesting too, that the mood of the words changed somewhat as I worked through the recent thorax and Twang Arm pain and associated fears, and that is reflected in my ultimate choice. Finally, after a great deal of polishing, reflection and dictionary searching I have my three words to share:

Resilience, escapade and wonder

Resilience comes first.  This is one which I have leaned increasingly towards as the challenges of the past weeks played out, and the pain I experienced.  It expresses the priority I aim to place on building my strength both physically and mentally so that I am in a better place to deal with whatever might come my way. The past weeks showed me that despite my pretty good health, both the cancer itself, and its treatment (combination of chemo, the radical surgery, radiation and the calcium-stripping Tamoxifen bonus side effect) have led to a fragility which I have to recognise and respect.  So I intend to continue to build my strength physically, with my precious swimming, and the less popular but equally important regular gym visits and other healthy pursuits.  Mentally and emotionally I will continue to prioritise my creative time and take control of what is in my hands.  This year has seen me join a creative writing group and latterly a Book Club which have been lovely ways of connecting with likeminded souls here, as well as an inspiring way to spend free time.  These are ways of building my strength and capacity to make me more able to “bounce back” following whatever unexpecteds and unwelcomes head my way.

The dictionary definition of resilience is 1) the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress and 2) an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.  There is also a very interesting discussion on psychological resilience on Wikipedia which tells us that “Resilience has been shown to be more than just the capacity of individuals to cope well under adversity. Resilience is better understood as the opportunity and capacity of individuals to navigate their way to psychological, social, cultural, and physical resources that may sustain their well-being, and their opportunity and capacity individually and collectively to negotiate for these resources to be provided and experienced in culturally meaningful ways”.  How apt.

My second word is escapade.  I toyed with coining my own noun “escapaderie” to describe the broad concept of being involved in escapades but decided that was just a bit too inane!  An important word for in 2011 has been adventure.  I have referred repeatedly to adventures, made field trips and short breaks into adventures and plotted adventures.  These have all represented a shift in strength, confidence and independence.  Two years ago I was unable to walk unaided through Bangkok Airport.  Two days ago I returned from a fairly physically demanding trip to a remote part of the country, involving local flights, side car/trishaw transfers, exploring by cycle, pony and on foot and long boat trips which I had to board by slithery narrow planks!

It was a my Mrauk U adventure and pushed me further than I could have imagined possible at the beginning of even this year.  My 2011 adventures have included remote field trips to North Shan and the Ayerawaddy Delta, a trip to Chiang Mai by overnight train and my somewhat extravagant birthday trip to the temples of Angkor in Cambodia.

In choosing “escapade” I wanted to maintain that sense of making the most of experiences, reaching out for the new and continuing to push myself.  For me though, escapade also has a touch of naughtiness about it which appeals to the rebel in me!  This is confirmed by the definition I found of escapade – “a usually adventurous action that runs counter to approved or conventional conduct”.  What appeals additionally to me is that an escapade (in my world) can be as small as an almost imperceptible gesture through to a grand action which attracts attention.  I can apply escapade to so many actions, even to the way my friend and I behave in the oncology waiting room together, being naughty cancer rebels and giggling about the grief we are going to give our doctors in the form of never ending questions!

And my third word, wonder, came to me in the swimming pool as I was ploughing northwards and southwards, waiting for the sun to rise.  Again this has a variety of meanings.  As a verb it encapsulates the action of questioning and enquiring, descriptive of my inquisitive soul as well as critical to my work.  And there is never a shortage of things to wonder about!  As a noun, it is that almost innocent sense of being in awe of things from the most simple through to the truly breath taking and grand.  Throughout 2012 this will remind me to retain that sense of appreciation in what is around me as well as honing my natural curiosity.

As in the two previous years, I am ridiculously pleased with my words.  They fill me with optimism for the coming year and the sense that I can take control of what is in my own hands.  And that is another reminder that much as we cannot change many things which happen to us, particularly in the land post cancer diagnosis, there are many ways to shape our life and experience which are in our hands.  Only we can grasp those ourselves and we have the capacity to interpret what is around us accordingly.

And that is why I have chosen the image below.  A doorway into an unknown place, dark and frightening.  It is also an image which gives me goosebumps of exhilaration as it reminds me of the emotions and new found confidence I felt when exploring the ancient and mysterious temples of Angkor earlier this year.

I wish you a 2012 which is as kind as it can be, and for continued strength and resilience from within each of us as well as from each other.


43 thoughts on “Shaping 2012 with three little words

    • Oh yes – totally apt for you both 🙂 I would add to that cup.of.tea. 😉 Maybe see you in 2012 for a long over due cuppa 🙂 Very Happy New Year to you both

  1. Such a beautiful post Phillipa and a wonderful choice of words. “Resilience” fairly leaped off the page for me as this is something I really need to work on myself in the coming year, as I try to build myself back up physically and emotionally from the stresses of the past year. Your post prompted me to look back on an old post from my own blog on the topic of building resilience and I’d like to share the link with you in the hope you find it useful too.

    Wishing you a new year filled with all good things x

    • I so hear you Marie, and thank you for the link it is extremely interesting and so incredibly timely.

      I also wish you a 2012 which is kind and brings yu good things
      Thak you so much for your support and encouragement.

  2. Happy New Year, Phillipa! I love that you choose three words and I remember you sharing this in a #bcsm chat. I now have precisely 14 hours to figure out what my three words will be the guide for the next year.

    Your words are great. You inspire many. Hope 2012 brings you joy and happiness!


    • And a very Happy New Year to you too AnneMarie – I am looking forward to hearing your own thoughts on 3 words. It has been wonderful to connect with you in 2011 and I wish and hope that the coimng year brings you good things
      P xxx

    • Thank you so much for your support in this Dr A – it has been such a helpful exercise for me, and so simple in many ways. I am so glad it was something which you enjoyed too.
      A very happy new year to you

  3. Thanks for sharing your three words and accompanying wisdom, Philippa. I am going to get busy and pick out three words of my own and soon. So glad to have “met” you in the blogosphere. Have a wonderful New Year!

    I think I posted on resiliency once when I was just getting started blogging. I might need to go back and revisit that…

    • Thank you so much Nancy, and I am very much looking forward to hearing your choices. I am also incredibly thankful that we connected online, that has also been a topic which has shown itself to be increasingly important to me over this year. I am blown away by the incredible support and friendship from people I have never met. I am so thankful.

      I would be very interested to hear about your post on resiliency too.

      A very Happy New Year to you
      Philippa xox

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  5. thanks for sharing your words with us ,Phillippa,I thought i was having a migraine as I read this then I realised that my computer really did have little white dots floating down across the screen!don’t ask me why
    I love your resilience,still thinking about mine after a hectic Christmas and New Year

    • Thank you H – and a very Happy New Year to you, I am glad you had a good one:) Though I am sorry about the snowflake thing causing you migraine stress!! It was a feature I put o ages ago as it looked cute, and I have no idea how to take it off again! So I am stuck with snowflakes every December!

  6. great tradition, and good for you for continuing your determined march forward!

    I have heard of choosing 3 words to direct the year, but don’t think I’ve ever done it…very quickly, if I had to give 3 now, I’d choose:

    I feel 2012 will be a life-changing year for me on both personal and professional levels.

    Cheers to the best year yet!

    • Thank you Tammy and I love your choices too. The thing I have loved is coming back to the 3 words time and time again through the year. I wish you success in 2012, I am sure you will indeed thrive and that your determination will see it happen.Here’s to an amazing 2012

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  8. Dr. Attai led me to your blog. I am new to cancer, diagnosed 9/19/11. Just started cancer wellness. Baby steps compared to yours.
    Very interesting blog, have visited all the Thai places you mention, thanks for the memories.
    Three words, with no forethought, Survive, Prevail, Prosper.

    • It is so good to connect with you Terrie, and I am glad you have started on the cancer wellness path. I wish you strength and for it all to go smoothly for you. We are all in a very similar boat and it is good to have each other’s support.

      Thailand is where I had all of my treatment (although I am Scottish, but live in Myanmar) so I have many memories of here. Were you on holiday here?

      I love your words. Keep them cosy and cherish them 🙂
      thanks and keep in touch

    • This is a powerful choice, even stronger standing alone. Wonderful – I believe in you too, and your goal.
      Very warm wishes

  9. Spunk has already filled my life for 2012. Friends will continue to inspire and egg me on. And a third word is gratitude. I’ve been given so much and must return the love. I just love your words for 2012. They leave me with a sense of wonder.

    • I love it – it is similar to the way we use “guts” where I hail from. It’s kind of like courage with attitude 😉
      I am so glad that this has been a meaningful process for you too Jan
      Very warm wishes to friendship continuing through and beyond 2012.

    • Thanks K – I worked through a lot to get there but I am stupidly happy with the result! Happy New Year to you 🙂

    • Thank you R – I just love your words, they are truly inspiring and beautiful 🙂 I feel calm and peaceful reading them
      Happy New Year

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    • Thank you B – and I have just read your choices too which are wonderfully chosen. I also really like the way you describe the way they link together. Wishing you all good things for the coming year and beyond.

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  14. I was led to your blog through Nancy’s Point. The concept of the three words is so very powerful. I am tempted to immediately choose three but I think that is a waste of the power.

    The beginning of the year is a triple whammy for me – it is a fresh year that everyone focuses on, my birthday is January 2 and I had my mastectomy last year on January 3. This year I decided to join a Bead Journal Project to journal my last year through art. I am doing a different beaded necklace for each month that deals with some aspect of the last year. So I guess one of my words would have to be transform. I will have to think about the other two.

    Thank you for your post.

    • Thank you for your comment and for sharing about the Bead Project – it sounds very colourful. My goodness, I can see how January hits you with such a triple whammy. Transform is a great word – I would love to hear your thoughts on another two, but of course there are no rules, just do what works for you 🙂

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