Posts Tagged ‘reflection’

Katie ww run selfie trail

I know, I know: it’s the second week of January and everyone is all new year new you new habits new word. A couple of friends (and my husband) have already asked if I have a word for 2019. This is not surprising, because by now I generally do. (I often find Susannah Conway’s free Find Your Word exercises helpful, in case you’re still searching for yours. Not sponsored; just sharing a resource I’ve enjoyed.)

But as I said to Roxanne last week, in some ways I’ve still been wrapping up the year past. Not wallowing in nostalgia, exactly: 2018 was a wild, unsettling, hard and heavy – though also joyous – year. It was full of (more) transition, personally and professionally, and as Jen keeps reminding me, it takes a while for these changes to settle into our bodies and our souls. (One of those changes is inked visibly onto my skin now: just before Christmas, I finally got that brave tattoo I’d been thinking about for over a year.)

My one little word for 2018, which proved more apt than I could have known, was grit. And while I haven’t written about it here for months, I carried it close to my heart (and in the treads of my running shoes) all year.

heart sneakers trail

Grit, for me, was often about doing what had to be done: staring down yet another work crisis, sending out resumes and email queries after I lost my job, keeping up with dishes and laundry and other daily-life details. It was also – to my great surprise and delight – about digging deeper physically: throwing myself into Monday night boot camps, and pushing myself to run farther, faster and more often than I ever expected. I have become, in the last year, a runner, and I love what that habit is making of me.

Far harder than the to-do-list type of grit – or even the physical kind, which has often been its own reward – is the emotional grit sometimes required to keep steering through life. I am not the sort of person who weathers storms – internal or external – with undisturbed equilibrium. I go on, as Rilla Blythe says, “but not calmly – I rage and cry.” I handle change, but I do it slowly. I have a long runway. I am strong, but I am not invulnerable. I often need a minute (or a long run, a cup of tea, a listening ear, or all of the above) before I can pull it together and move forward.

I’m learning that grit can include all these self-care moves, instead of being the white-knuckled thing that replaces them. I am learning to ask for what I need, and that, too, takes grit. But then – as Rilla also says – “when it’s over I vow I’ll show them.” And this year, I have kept going: down the river trail, through the email inbox, back and forth across the Charles River about a thousand times, deep into the territory of my own heart.

The work of grit isn’t finished for me. I suspect it may never be. The thing with some words, like brave, is that they get under your skin (or, eventually, into it), and keep tugging you toward a stronger version of yourself. I think grit is the same. I’ll be following a new word this year, but grit will still be there, pulling me forward into whatever’s next. I’m glad to have it with me, whether I’m running or commuting or simply walking forward into each day.

Did you follow a word for 2018? What did it look like for you?


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gumption style charm

My one little word for 2016 is gumption.

Since 2010, I’ve been choosing a word to focus on each year: to guide me, to lead me into new places, and (sometimes) to spark needed change in my life. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that brave, my word for 2010, had an especially powerful impact on me. (I still wear it around my neck, and I feel like I talk about it all the time.)

Last year’s word – quiet, unobtrusive and much needed – was gentle. Throughout an often difficult year, I spent a lot of time practicing gentleness with myself and others. I was ready for a more active word for 2016, but I was surprised when gumption sneaked in.

I first read about gumption in Anne of the Island, where Aunt Jamesina teasingly refuses to define it for Anne’s friend Philippa, saying that “anyone who has gumption knows what it is, and anyone who hasn’t can never know what it is.” Even at eight or nine years old, I sort of knew what she meant. I figured gumption was a combination of common sense, intelligence and spunk. (I even refused to look it up, thinking that would be cheating.)

When The Holiday came out a few years ago, I fell immediately in love with Kate Winslet’s character: sweet, bookish Iris, who travels to L.A. over Christmas to nurse a broken heart and begins to discover a whole new life. I especially love her relationship with Arthur Abbott, the retired screenwriter played by Eli Wallach, who says of his late wife, “She had real gumption. She was the girl I always wrote.”

I’ve watched The Holiday over and over, and I always love seeing Iris discover her own gumption – through Arthur’s wise friendship, the strong leading ladies he advises her to emulate, and her budding romance with film composer Miles. Near the end, when she finally tells off her toxic ex-boyfriend Jasper, I always want to stand up and cheer right along with her.

iris gumption kate winslet the holiday

Gumption is, of course, closely related to brave – but it strikes me as a little quirky, a little bit whimsical. It seems to bespeak an inner resilience – grit, yes, but also a lightness. A quiet confidence that it’s all going to work out. A willingness to say yes to new things and ideas. And a bit of sparkle.

I’m still in the middle of some uncertainty as 2016 begins, and I want to acknowledge that, but not to be ruled by fear. I want to face each day with courage and joy, common sense and pluck. I want to savor small pleasures and dream a little. Gumption seems to embody all those things – with a wink and a smile. I’m looking forward to where it might take me.

(Print from ACDShop on Etsy. I bought it for my mother last year and might be buying one for myself.)

Have you chosen a word for 2016 (or done this in the past)? If you have a word, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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If you blog or tweet, you may have heard about a little thing called Reverb10 – a way to “reflect on this year and manifest what’s next.” I’ve gotta say, I’m more comfortable with the first part than the second, since “manifest” sounds all New Age-y and abstract to me. But I like the idea of preparing for the year ahead, thinking deeply and intentionally about what I want it to be. And reflecting is something I do often. I’m a writer, a blogger, a memoirist. Reflecting is my bread and butter.

The Reverb10 team has gathered a bunch of great authors and asked them each to submit one daily prompt, then left it up to the rest of us to participate however we like. I’m a little late, but here are my answers to the first couple of prompts:

Dec. 1 – One Word
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today; what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Gwen Bell)

If you’re a regular reader, you know my one little word for the year has been BRAVE. I’ve followed it into a freshman English classroom, to New York in April, to St. Louis in May, and to Boston in August. I’ve followed it through challenges in my personal and professional life, and I’ve been wearing it around my neck on a pendant since May. This year has demanded a lot of me – creatively, personally, emotionally, financially – and I have a feeling it’s not over. I’ll continue to wear the pendant into 2011.

However, as I continue being brave, I think a new word needs to come alongside it, and right now, I think that word is COMFORT. I need to seek ways to create comfort in my life as I’m still adjusting to a new city, searching for a full-time job, enduring my first Northeastern winter, facing so many unfamiliar things. And I also need to get outside of myself and help create comfort for others. I want my life and my house to be a welcoming place, where others can lay down their burdens and rest, and be comforted.

December 2
What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing – and can you elimiinate it? (Leo Babauta)

This one’s easy: I spend too much time on Twitter/the Internet, clicking links and searching fruitlessly for inspiration. Twitter has brought me lots of great online (and a few real-life) friends, and sometimes it provides a brilliant creative spark – but I need to know when to get OFF and go somewhere, wash the dishes, or just close down the Internet browser and write, write, write.

I’m still thinking about the Dec. 3 prompt, which asks me to choose and describe a moment this year when I felt most alive. I may wind up writing about more than one. We’ll see.

Are you participating in Reverb10? Whether you are or aren’t, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the prompts above. Share, share!

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