Whispers of cloud, streaked pink and gleaming are scattered across Yangon’s sky as the sun creeps over the horizon carrying promise and hope of a new day, of the first day of 2013. The shrinking flames of the candle flicker at the shrine beside the tree where the Nat spirits live. It is the right time to share the three words which I have selected to encourage and guide me for the coming year …………
This is now the fourth year which I have used the “three word” exercise instead of resolutions, to inspire the coming year and to use as a motivation for change. In fact, I really did not make resolutions before then. They did not hold much meaning for me. Of course, there were things I wanted to do or change, but I did not necessarily find that the New Year was timely, or adequate, for that.
When I first saw the three word exercise, in the final hours of 2009, it instantly resonated with me. The timing was exquisite, coming after my diagnosis and in the midst of chemo. The words tumbled into my mind easily, singing encouragement and hope. They formed a mantra which truly enabled me to think forward, and explore what my priorities should be for the coming year as I moved through treatment and into a new unknown. It was motivational, affirming and inspiring.
And doing this exercise as the year closes has continued to be so. I feel that the three words chart my hopes and priorities for the year, and give me something to focus on. They whisper to me as I continue through the years, and I cherish them. I can tell so much about those years from these words:
2010 Recovery, discovery and laughter
2011 Harmony, vitality and adventure
2012 Resilience, escapade and wonder
It is fascinating to look back and see, through these words, where I was emotionally and physically this time last year. And to reflect back on how apt they might have been for 2012.
In terms of resilience, oh my goodness that has been apt. It has been a reminder throughout the year to really focus on emotional and physical wellbeing in order to have reserves to draw on when needed. And how they have been needed. Serious health issues for me and close family members have led me to sink time and again into the bank of resilience and, I hope, have to a certain extent lessened the struggle.
I am glad I also selected escapade. This has been a reminder to carpe that diem, and do things in the here and now. My pulmonary embolism in July, and the fright in October, with the bone scan and raised tumour markers reaffirmed how important it is to do the things I want to and not have regrets. These do not need to be Big Things, although trips to Hong Kong, Timor Leste, Indonesia, Cambodia and Norway are pretty big in the scheme of escapades! Just as valid have been those spontaneous and smaller escapades, such as cycling off down unknown paths with my fantabulous bike, or taking the circular railway around Yangon on Christmas Day.
And as for wonder, this lives in my very soul. I am curious by nature, and my mind wanders off on trails of thought unbidden, leading me to fascinating destinations and passing through unexpected places. Watching a kingfisher at the poolside took me on an incredible journey of wonder in every sense. I know I need to hold on to that awe and appreciation in what is around me. I know that a healthy curiosity is critical to my psychological and emotional wellbeing. That is the way I rock and roll!
Truly, these words have both guided me, serving as a reminder of priorities and also served to preserve the essence of what turned out to be a tough year for me.
So as the year has drawn to a close, I have been wallowing in word choice again. Last year I was awash with words and found it quite difficult to choose. The process took me many days. This year the words came to me with little searching. I selected three words almost immediately and although I have tweaked and refined as I have taken time to deliberate and really live with those words, two out of the three are my original choice, and the one changed is very close to my original selection. And those words for 2013 are:
Focus, treasure and design
Last year I spent a great deal of time selecting the right three words for the year – “resilience, escapade and wonder”. And of course, just a few days into the New Year, I was already wondering if I had made the right choice. I am a bit of a butterfly and flit from task to task, from idea to new idea and am easily drawn away in unplanned directions. I remember thinking that I needed to focus, to see projects through after the novelty wears off and to set clear goals and objectives as well as commit to seeing a task through. I particularly like the fact that focus exists as a verb as well as a noun and thus expresses deliberate action as well as something tangible to aim for. It will remind me that I must focus on my health, on ensuring a balance between work and leisure even in such an exciting, changing and increasingly demanding environment. Ensuring focus will also help to bring clarity, in the literal as well as the figurative sense. Yes, focus is an important word to set the tone for my year.
The second word has been a bit slippery! My earlier choices included nurture, nourish, cherish and embrace. With embrace, I wanted to capture that sense of not just accepting whatever comes my way, but moreover to grasp it fully and transform it into something positive and to my advantage. In my mind is the shadow of my January checks and the checking of the tumour markers. Whatever the tests and the future holds, I must own it. I must accept and take control of all that I can. Embrace had appealed in that it conveys a sense of acceptance with the added element of taking control. I had also been taken by nurture, with its essence of encouraging growth and creation through care. If I had to select just one word for the world, then it would be nurture. We need to nurture all around us, our children, our partners, parents and family, our colleagues, friends and acquaintances. We need to praise and encourage. Then I settled on “cherish” which is a beautiful, rich word. I felt that it conveyed all of the previous aspects, as well as a beautiful sense of when caring for the most precious things to us, protecting and treasuring them. And that is when “treasure” came rushing in from the wings and swept over cherish gently setting it to the side. Treasure has been my final selection because it has a wider range of meanings, which include cherish. I also love the fact that it is also a both a verb and a noun, and that symmetry really calls to me. In its verbal form, it is very close to cherish, with the added sense that it is something very special. I love treasure as a noun too, because we are surrounded by treasure, in even the most ordinary, everyday entity. I love to pick fallen frangipani blossom in the morning, and call it morning treasure. As modern life becomes more sophisticated and complex, maintaining a sense of naivety and wonder is refreshing if not essential to our emotional well being. I also apply this concept to my physical well-being and know that I must continue to focus on health and activity. My wonderful morning swim and cycle routine is a treasure indeed.
It is so important to notice the simplest elements in our surroundings and value them. We really are surrounded by treasures.
My third word is design. Again it is a noun and a verb, and again it has a variety of meanings which speak to me for the coming year. It represents the importance of creativity in my life and serves to remind me to prioritise those creative activities which I so enjoy. I need to ensure that there is space for art, reading, writing and imagining, and that I must ensure balance in my life. Design also conveys a sense of deliberate action, as in the phrase “by design”. This chimes with me so much. No matter what challenges are thrown in my way, I must retain control and make wise decisions as I follow the path I choose. I must ensure that I invest effort and due consideration and don’t just allow myself to be swept along. Life is not about what happens to us, but how we deal with what happens to us, and we must remember that.
So these are my three beautiful words, my mantra for 2013 and my guiding star. The past year has been tough in so many ways, and I hope for a year which is kinder. I know that the dark shadow of the oncology review is in the first days of 2013. I move towards that, holding tightly onto these words, trusting that no matter what this brings I will be guided through it.