In Scotland, the stroke of midnight heralding the New Year is known as “the bells” and it takes us from Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) in the past forward in to the New Year. In Scotland the bells have now rung, and we have stepped into the New Year, 2023.
I hug my 2022 words close as I lay them aside, thankful for their company and guidance. They have helped me navigate an eventful yet ordinary year. Again, the year has thrown surprises amidst careful plans and my words have kept me on track.
This time last year, I was reflecting on more than the previous months and was aware of a growing sense that I wanted to slow down and spend more time on the things I enjoyed. That was captured in my first word, “unfurl”. I was exploring that balance between “living to work” and “working to live” and wondering how to feel in control of my time. While I am not quite old enough to receive the state pension, I was increasingly aware that health has been challenging and I am being realistic, not morbid to acknowledge that I am only a number of months away from the age that my mother died. These are precious years, and I want to enjoy them. A year ago I wrote:
“I am increasingly reminded that I do not want to spend my golden years working flat out. Moving to part time working has affirmed that, and whet my appetite for slowing down even more. My mother died on her 65th birthday and as I approach that age, I want to step off the speeding roundabout and enjoy the benefit of having worked for the past 40 years, rather than work up to my last email breath.”
Over the end of year break and with the benefit of time to think, I reached a major decision. I would truly unfurl by stepping back from the stability and security of employment.
This connected with closely with my second word “forage” as I had to be realistic. I would need to find assignments and small pieces of work which would pay the bills and provide the necessities. Having refined life quite considerably intentionally as well as reactively from the pandemic and health issues, as well as having moved to part time work, this was not as scary as it might have been just a few years ago. I knew I could “forage” for work and draw on the resources I have to live. And I have been extremely fortunate that things have found me, as well as me finding them and I am content in a modest lifestyle.
Which confirms that I “savour” what I have, my third word reminding me to appreciate and value my life and everything I am fortunate enough to hold close.
Again, my mantra has guided me through the year and 2022, the year where Covid played a less prominent but not insignificant role, is characterised by those words “unfurl, forage and savour.”
This is now the 14th year that I have chosen three words for the coming year. Every year is a little different. Sometimes the words land quickly and easily. Sometimes they take longer and throw up more options. But every year, they settle and once my mantra is in place, I feel my shoulders relax and I am comforted to adopt the new words. This year, the words settled fairly quickly and I have been trying them on, ready to wrap around me as 2023 begins.
The first word arrived very quickly and easily. I am a hoarder in that I gather and treasure little things that have meaning. I was struck during a recent writing group by mention of a “word hoard”, words which Seamus Heaney used and which chimed with a number of us. 14 years of 3 word mantras has provided me with a very rich word hoard. In addition to that though, I have a treasury of precious bits and pieces. But by that, I don’t mean valuables. I am surrounded by little “treasures”. A Prague bus ticket, a bookmark from a little bookshop in Cambodia, a little water colour I found in a tiny shop in Zanzibar, a set of tea light holders from Morocco, a notebook from a women’s project in Nepal, an eternal desk calendar from Borneo, a lacquerware box gifted to me by a friend in Myanmar … These are treasure in that each one holds memories and sentiment which come rushing to me if I pick them up. They take me instantly to that place I was exploring and learning about and the people I connected with. That is the real treasure. I have a lifetime of memories, mega bytes and mega albums of photographs, snippets of half written poems and stories and I want to make the most of these. My first word will guide me, as I plan to “harvest” this rich hoard and shape it into something which I can share.
That connects with my second word. In order to shape my harvest of goodies, I need to be structured. In fact, I need to ensure that in a life of unfurlment, I need to have structure to make the most of time and energy. My second word is “sculpt” and that will prompt me to shape and structure my life and activities. I will be reminded to bring form to what I am doing, but this will allow me to be creative and incorporate new ideas and opportunities. My mother was an artist, mainly painting and sketching but later in her life, she began experimenting with clay. I am not sure of how things came about, but her work attracted the attention of the art department of Aberdeen University and they gave her a scholarship to attend for several weeks to develop her skills and learn techniques. She would produce batches of pottery pork pies as kitsch mementoes for Melton Mowbray, the town she lived in, renown for pork pies. She didn’t enjoy making them at all, but she called them her “bread and butter.” In other words, they provided the income and means to enable her to sculpt the pieces she loved creating. Harvesting that memory now, 25 years after her death, I realise I am doing something very similar and the word “sculpt” holds that additional precious association. I trust it to help bring shape and meaning to the coming months, and hopefully bring to life some tangible results, particularly in the form of writing.
My third word particularly complements “sculpt” by recognising how easily I am distracted by tiny wonders from the corner of my eye and new thoughts and ideas from the corners of my mind. I am like a butterfly and when I “flutter” from one thing to another, new ideas emerge and I find myself off another adventure. That spontaneity is important to me and while I do need structure, I must allow myself to follow those flitterings of notions and ideas and see where they take me. Butterflies fascinate me, and I write about them as well as while away happy moments watching their own flutterings.
And so my words have settled into their mantra, and I can hear them whispering encouragement as I step into the coming year.
“Harvest, sculpt and flutter”
The sun struggles to rise at this time of year, but as we reach this New Year’s Day, I am comforted to know that the days are slowly gaining additional seconds of daylight. I know that January is a cold and dark month, and with festivities behind us is tough emotionally as well as physically. So I hold on to the knowledge that the days are moving in a direction towards spring.
And I walk towards those spring days with my words to guide me, and wish to each and every one, a happy, healthy and fulfilled 2023.