Sunday, December 28, 2008

Word of the Year

For those who may not know, Ali Edwards, scrapbooking goddess extraordinaire, has a blog called {A}. Bracketed typographical cuteness aside, {A} is a great blog with lots of brilliant ideas for exploring one’s creativity. Ali has a son with autism, an amazing artistic eye, and a wonderful take on life.

Last year, her blog inspired me to pick a Word of the Year, one word to be my theme for 2008. Annoyed with my repeated failure in the New Year’s Resolutions department, I found the pick-one-word approach so appealing that I sent an email to selected friends and family inviting them to join in the fun. Eighteen decided to play along and shared their word for the year with me. We planned to touch base via email throughout the year to see how everyone honored their word. Most never responded to my follow-up emails, so I simply assumed they had lost interest and planned to drop it for 2009. I pester people enough as it is.

Besides, my own Word of the Year experiment met with only limited success. My word was Simplify, a good, solid, straightforward verb. I have a teeny, tiny tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be. Simplify seemed like a really good theme for me, and other people chose it also, including scores of the hundreds of people who posted on Ali’s blog.

The popularity of the urge to simplify speaks volumes to our modern lifestyle, don’t you think? I mean, isn’t everyone struggling with organizing all the rechargers for the many little high-tech devices we have to have? What about kids’ paperwork from school? Mail? Bills, some of which are automatic, some paid online, and some mailed via USPS? Clothes for children who grow so fast that the hand-me-downs are in really good shape and have to be stored somewhere? Your make-up drawer? Pantry? Basement? Garage?

Couldn’t all this chaos be, well, simpler?

I don’t think so. I’m rather organized, and while my bill paying and make-up drawer function more simply now than at the beginning of 2008, the only way to truly simplify the rest would require bombing my home and starting over again from scratch, dumping my very visual husband who likes his numerous belongings to be “out” where he can see them, and letting my children run wild with wolves. Wolves don’t have paperwork. Or clothes. Or health insurance.

On the whole, I’d rather keep my husband and children and put up with the chaos.

Life is a just a complicated mess. I gave up on Simplify in July when I started this blog, which complicated my life in a very good way. Then came August, which is insane for us given all of Jack’s doctors’ appointments and therapy re-evaluations, back-to-school shopping, meet-the-teacher nights, a trip to see Grandma in North Carolina, and getting ready for Ironman Wisconsin. Then school started, and George and I went to Ironman Wisconsin, and then came volunteering and running around to PTO meetings and class parties and helping with centers in the kindergarten class and making veggie pizza with preschoolers and working book fairs at two schools and meeting with teachers and counselors and the principal about Nick’s math difficulties and so on and so on and so on.

I was back in the familiar territory of Barely Managing Chaos.


Then one friend confessed that pursuing her word led to a depression of sorts, for which I felt weirdly responsible. When others didn’t reply to my follow-up emails about their own Words of the Year, I just assumed they had given up, too.

Never assume. In the past few weeks, five participants have asked me if we’re going to do it again and expressed disappointment when I said no. My mom wants to keep her same word—Organize—because she feels good about what she has done in 2008 and hopeful about what remains to be done in 2009.

Her enthusiasm got me thinking. Maybe people didn’t answer my emails because they were busy, not because they quit or, like me, failed. Maybe a Word of the Year really is a good idea. Maybe the need to start fresh, to try improving our lives even though sometimes we fail, serves a higher purpose. Maybe, like Ali, I should put it on my blog and invite lots of people to try it out.

Well, “lots” may be an exaggeration of my readership, but you get the idea.

If you want to take a chance with this little experiment, having received full disclosure that it may or may not work, I invite you to join me. Just pick a word as your theme for the year. Any word will do…noun, adjective, adverb, verb, interjection, conjunction. Well, maybe not a conjunction. But a preposition might do. For instance, you could choose In as your word, as in “in time,” “in tune,” “in touch,” “in step,” “in the game,” “in style.” Just find a word that speaks to your heart, your goals, and your spirit.

Once you have chosen a word, keep it in front of you all year. You can post it on your bathroom mirror or make it the wallpaper on your computer or create a work of art for your wall. One friend’s word for 2008 was Family so she beaded a bracelet with charms to remind her daily of each family member. Shortly after we started in 2008, my friend Betsy sent me a card with the word Simplify on it, credited to Thoreau, which we both thought was really funny for some reason. I tacked it up on my craft room wall.

If you feel so inclined, share your word and why you chose it in the comments below.

My word for 2009 is Fearless. Fear keeps me from trying new things, rising to challenges, and reaching out to others. Fear of failure, of looking like a fool, of embarrassing myself, of wasting my time, of being laughed at. I want to write a book about autism. I want to submit articles for publication. I want to write a card-making blog. Fear keeps me from doing these things.

I want to fear less and write more.

What do you want for 2009?


  1. What a great idea! My word for 2009 is Health. I'm tired of feeling sick and tired, so I'm going to focus on good health for myself mostly, but also for my family. (after all, if I have to give up Andy Capps Cheddar Fries, so do they! :)) Hope you had a wonderful holiday - I'll check in with you about my word, and you... get to writing, you fearless woman, you!

  2. My word has to be: NEW

    as in: new grand child, new year, new me, new perspective, new start, new focus, find a new way of looking at things, new read, new relationships, new all of the above and then some.

    This is my first time doing this, even with the disclaimers, and it sounds like I could try it out - new venture!

    Fear thou not; for I am with thee:
    be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Isaiah 41:10

    Blessings to you, Marilyn

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  4. I think that my word will be "enthusiastic." I have got to get things done no matter what and I might as well be enthusiastic about it and have fun. That's the attitude I am choosing.
    Love you Susan

  5. Fabulous thought! Off to think about my word...

  6. Probably need to redo my word from 2008 since I lost it again. Patience.

  7. Hmm, I think my word is going to be "survive", lol! Or more likely "recover" from last year. Seriously, this is a great idea and I hope some more people join you. Thanks for your kind comments on my blog. I do hope you'll start a card blog, I kinda stalk your SCS gallery. Happy New Year!

  8. Susan, p.s. NAPABA Litigation Docket is me, Stella Tsai, sister-in-law to your Lisa. xxoo Stella
    p.s.s. Lisa said: "so you're not in any trouble"

  9. My word last year was Family- which worked well until July when work hit with an unbelievable flurry of demands. I did appreciated your e-mails as they kept me on track and reminded me yet again of my focus.
    This year my word is going to be Positive (as in positive thinking, positive outlook, always searching for the positives in all areas of my life and in each situation, allowing only those positives to spill out in words).
    Susan- you are such an amazing writer that I feel a book on autism would be greatly appreciated by many- I know lots of parents who would love to hear your humorous yet informative approach. Go for it!

  10. I thought I failed last year on my word "less" as in less weight (failed), less junk food in my body(failed), less afrustration at feeling overworked and underappreciated (failed...on some fronts). But I started thinking about all the maternity and baby stuff I got rid of (less stuff...success), less use of electricity-only used AC 4 days this summer, turning lights off, replaced bulbs with CFLs, minimal use of clothes dryer in warmer months...success) I found a job in which I do feel more appreciated...success) So mixed results from last year's word...I'm sticking with LESS and now I'd better go do some exercise and get rid of some more stuff (even though my husband will fill the space with his stuff). Thanks for the inspiration. -Lisa

  11. Word of the year? Fantastic! I already have one. Humility. This will be an incredible challenge as I am a habitual attention seeker and wound tighter than a two dollar watch. I worked on it all year last year and I'm happy to keep at it this year.

  12. My word must be POSITIVE this year...positive thought process, positive feedback, positive dress, positive comments, positive, positive positive -- I need to keep my head high and feel good about myself after so many health issues last year! Positive weight loss would be great too - I'm going to take your advice Susan and cut out the sugar!!! I'm also doing the special K challenge...wish me luck! I miss you, our coffee time, stamping and hugs. Just knowing you were behind my house made me feel good.

    Love you!!!!

  13. My word for the year is "savor." As in savoring good food, good coffee, good wine, and other moments in my life that are often rushed or passed over so quickly in my effort to get to the next moment.

  14. My word for the year is restore. Last year wasn't easy and I need to find my center again.

  15. Glad to have found your blog through your gallery being highlighted today on SCS.

    This is a great idea, I think. So many words come to mind. Fearless is a good one, i like that. Absorb is one that came to mind right away, to take in those feelings and moments that are so often forgotten. Then observe, to be like more aware of not to miss out on all of life's moments around me. However, to do these things you must be able to keep ourselves moving forward each day. SO, my word is NOURISH.

    Nourish my spirit, Nourish my body, Nourish my creativity, Nourish my talents, Nourish my mind. You get the idea.

    Nourish... now I am going to type it out in a pretty little font and stick it by my bed, in the bath, by the kitchen sink and in my van.

    Thank you for such a great inspiration. OH, and by the way, your Gallery is awesome! You are one talented gal!

  16. Susan, I am so glad I found your blog! My word of the year is going to be balance. I tend to be all or nothing, so this is something I can really work on. I especially need to balance being silly with being serious. I am way too serious way too much of the time!

  17. The password is GIVE...

    As in give away (my junk and clutter that may be of use to someone else), give time (to myself and others), give up (junk food), give of myself (to family and friends), and give in (to the need to lighten up and live peacefully).

    If you're old enough to remember the original Password game with Allen Ludden, you may recall the announcer who said quietly, "The password is...." So I'm thinking I can say, "The password is GIVE" to myself as I get caught up in the day-to-day flotsam and jetsam that holds me back.

    I love the whole concept of a Word of the Year. Thank you for sharing!