Three words to guide and inspire through 2017

This is my last day of retreat in the hills. Tomorrow morning will see me on the drive along a winding mountainside road before descending to the main road and then strangely ascending to the capital. From there, and after a little exploration, the long journey back to Africa will begin.

I am having some difficulty concentrating, as the cloud formations on the hillside are changing constantly, the little blue tanagers are flitting about in the avocado tree. Two exquisitely coloured humming birds continue to tantalise with their brief appearances, hovering for a few seconds, yet not long enough for me to be able to capture their bottle green plumage or quivering wings on my camera. (Fortunately, this excellent site has images which show how beautiful these little birds are).

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Image credit – Ray Wilson Photography

I am compelled to pause and take in these sights and sounds while I can. Yet, resist and concentrate I must. There are three words in my mind and they are urging me to capture and share them. The three words of 2016 have served me well, “reorient, nurture and crystalize” but they are ready to step back. A three word mantra for 2017 has taken shape and is waiting to lead the way ahead.

The past year has seen enormous change for me individually, not to mention in the wider world. My three words are fiercely personal to me, and I trust them to help to move me forward.

My first word for 2017 is emerge. The past months have seen me living life very quietly and low key. There has been a stillness on this blog while I process and work through my way forward. This has been a time for nurturing and healing. I feel that the time is now right for life to be breathed into this quiet and for me to emerge and find my space again. I want to regain and rebuild my confidence in this new place. I want to seek out like minds and souls with whom I can grow. It feels as if the gecko has been in hiding under some rocks and it is in need of some sun and fresh air to breathe, just like this giant turtle which I saw the other day. (This photograph is one I took, part of a story waiting to be told in the coming days.)

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My second word relates to the new environment I find myself in. Africa! Now that I have been through this major reorientation, I have been working to settle and crystalize in the later part of 2016. Now it is time to explore. I have a new city to explore, and people to meet. A new country to find out about and many neighbouring countries to get to know. I wish to explore my new surroundings with curiosity and humility, and maintain that sense of wonder and respect. We learn something new every day, but must keep our eyes and minds open to be able to do so fully.

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A photo from my explorations in the past week

My third word is intend, and aims to keep me focused and ensure that I live intentionally. The health blips of 2016 need to taken seriously and I need to be vigilant and deliberate about my health and wellbeing. The new environment brings with it a new diet, and different surroundings and, more particularly, rather cold swimming pools! I need to ensure that I am proactive in keeping active and finding the happy place for my mind, soul and body. There is a great deal of discussion about mindfulness and I have found that this has been a practice which is of great benefit to me. I want to strengthen this in the coming year and beyond, and embed it into my routines. Intend also reminds me to value time and resources. These are finite. The five sticky plan (which I still use and love) is one technique which reminds me not to squander precious free time. Most of all, intend is an additional prompt to maintain integrity in everything I do.

 

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Cactus in the late afternoon sun

So, there is my 2017 three word mantra – “emerge, explore and intend”. May these words guide me well, and inspire me through the year in the face of challenges, opportunities, laughter and tears. Whatever is in my path will be faced, whether difficult or easy. What is changeable is how I navigate the way forward, and I trust in my mantra to enable me to embrace this with strength, courage and enthusiasm.

May 2017 be kind, inspiring and enabling to you all.

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.