Word of the Year

noname-7

“Light”
photo by Greg Markway

Did you know there is actually a word of the year? According to Dictionary.com, the word for 2012 is bluster. This is how they define bluster:

1.
to roar and be tumultuous, as wind.
2.
to be loud, noisy, or swaggering; utter loud, empty menaces or protests: He blusters about revenge but does nothing.

They cited the election and the weather as being the two big stories of 2012, and aptly noted that there was a lot of bluster involved in both.

There is also another Word of the Year project that takes place. I first heard about it from reading Brene´ Brown’s blog, Ordinary Courage. She selected a single word that she used as a touch point to guide her through the year. Her word was “light.” Brene´ got the idea from Ali Edwards, who runs an entire e-course on using a word of the year for self-growth.  Ali writes:

A single word can be a powerful thing. It can be the ripple in the pond that changes everything. It can be sharp and biting or rich and soft and slow. From my own personal experience, it can be a catalyst for enriching your life.

As 2013 approaches, I started to think, “Maybe I need a word for the year.”  I tried talking with Greg about it. After explaining the concept to him, our conversation went something like this:

Barb: I wonder what my word of the year could be? (not getting much of a response, so I prod him.)

Greg:  I don’t know. Maybe your word should be “word.”

Barb: What? Why would my word be “word”? That makes no sense. You’re not taking this seriously.

After bantering back and forth a bit (good-naturedly, off course) , I decided there is a gender difference in what gets written and read on the internet. It’s not that he’s not taking it seriously, he just doesn’t relate. He’s the most caring and sensitive man I know, but he doesn’t read the same kind of blogs I read.  Selecting a word for the year simply isn’t something he’d ever think about doing.

I’m going to pick a word for the year. I’m not yet sure what it will be, and I wonder how I’ll ever keep it to a single word.

Brene´ said she didn’t want the word “light” to be her word (I’m not sure why; it’s a good word). She said that the word picked her. It kept popping up in her mind.

Ali says the word can be practical or fanciful. It can be a feeling word or an action word. It can be a word that represents what you want more of–or less of–in your life.

Later in the day, we were shooting some footage for a new video I’m working on. I was throwing colored tissue paper scraps into the air when Greg exclaimed, “Your word should be color!” At least he was trying.

“Color”
photo by Greg

Owning Our Story

These are some notes I jotted down while listening to an interview with Brene´ Brown, which was a part of the Alchemy writing class I took a few months ago. This post has been in my “drafts” waiting to be developed/polished, but I think I’ll just post it as is. #nomoreperfectionism

  • We are hard-wired for story…it is all the way down to a neurological, biological, cellular level.We desire connection to others by telling our stories, but we’re afraid, as well.
  • When you care about telling your true story, you leave yourself vulnerable. But the minute you stop caring about what other people think is the minute you lose your capacity for connection.
  • When Brene´ sits down to write or prepare for a talk, it is still hard for her. The anxiety and fear are still there, but she does it anyway. She says people think she has everything figured out, but she doesn’t.  She still struggles with being vulnerable. She still struggles with perfectionism.
  • She was given the message: don’t share too much about yourself; it’s not professional.
  • When she gives talks about her research, the thing people want to hear are the stories. They don’t care about the statistics or the graphs.
  • Her goal when writing is to tell the truth and walk away feeling proud of what she wrote. She cannot control the outcome. Whether it’s a blog post or a book, she can’t control the comments, the views, the sales, the reactions. You press publish, you put it out there, and you go from there.

Brene´ has a new book coming out, Daring Greatly, and you can preorder it from her website and get special “party favors” along with it. Who doesn’t love party favors?

Busy Be Gone

Brene´ Brown recently posted this on her Facebook page: “It’s so easy to buy into the idea that if we stay busy enough the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us. When they start having 12-step meetings for busy-aholics, they’ll need to rent out football stadiums.” This clearly resonated with people.  1,183 people liked it and 80 people commented. I replied, “Great idea, but I might be too busy to go.”

I love her writing, but sometimes Brene´ uses such big concepts, I’m not 100% sure what she means. I definitely relate to the part about busyness, but I’m not positive what it means about the truth of our lives catching up with us. Maybe I’ll figure it out as I’m writing. Maybe it will be a separate piece.

In my post, The Grass Always Grows Where You Water It, I wrote: “It’s May 1st, and I usually would have already had my monthly goals mapped out in my mind (and on paper). But not this month. I’ve been busy living, so that’s a good thing!” I also added that I wasn’t even worried about not having any formal goals. Well, I lied. I’ve been scared out of my mind. I’ve been doing a lot of not being busy, and I wonder if I’ll turn into some sort of sluggish sloth!  What if I never set another goal again?

Busy has always been a good thing in my family. It means you’re being productive. My family is of German descent, and I think it’s a cultural thing. During weekly Sunday phone calls, my mother cheerily told me to “Have a productive day.” In talking with another woman of German heritage, she said her mother said exactly the same thing! She also told me about a German word,  sitzfleish. It literally means the virtual flesh that exists between one’s behind and the chair. Figuratively, it refers to the ability to persist in one’s work, the patience that can endure anything, and the idea that work is more important than play.

I’ve certainly had a lot of sitzfleish in my life. I’ve prided myself on being able to plow through work and sit there until the job is done. And I’m not knocking the value of being able to keep your butt on the chair. It’s a skill that has served me well over the years, especially spending oodles of study time earning a doctorate and pounding out four books.

For me, busy has been fun. It has often meant being fully focused and engaged, in a state of creative flow.

My problem is that I take it too far. I don’t know when to stop, take a break, get up from the computer, walk around, stretch, move, breathe. Can you have too much creative flow? Sometimes I think so. I can get so immersed in what I’m doing that I forget to eat—and that’s saying something! (Maybe there’s a book in there…Write Yourself Thin.)

Ethan Nichtern, a popular Buddhist teacher, talks about the Tibetan concept of coemergence. He defines it as  “the ability of any particular phenomenon or experience to manifest as either wisdom or confusion, helpful or harmful, a weapon or a prison. So busy is not good or bad, it’s what we do with it.

I’ve never been good at finding balance in my life. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of girl. Greg teases me about it all the time. For example, when I want to change the thermostat in the house (and being a middle-aged woman that is about every five minutes), I ask him, “Are you hot or are you freezing?”

If there’s one good thing that has come from my chronic pain, it’s that it’s making me more mindful of my work habits. I simply can’t work for as long as I used to. But I’m still fighting that fact. I usually don’t notice I’ve worked too long until my body screams at me.

Hmmm, I’m sensing a new goal…start listening for the tiny whispers.

***

We have a great covered patio, and I think I’ve sat outside more this month than in all the months we’ve lived here combined (about 5 years). I’ve been watching birds build nests, listening to them sing, and feeling the breezes blow. I’ve enjoyed sharing this time with Greg, my college-age son who has been home more, and of course, Lily and Larry. As I’m sitting here finishing this, I see 7  Goldfinches, an Indigo Bunting, two Cardinals, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and two Wrens who live in the birdhouse you’ll see pictured below. I’ve named them Henry and Harriet. They seem like a great couple! I wonder if they’ve done much decorating in their house…

There’s no place like home.

Windy day!

Trying to get Lily and Larry to pose.

We’ve had enough of this!

Yo Soy (I Am)

Jody

How many of us have parts of ourselves that we don’t like? Maybe a part of our appearance (My thighs are too fat)? A part of our heritage (I hope I don’t turn out like crazy Aunt Jane)? Or a part of our personality (I’m too quiet)? Disowning any part of ourselves can be damaging. I think the subtitle of The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene´ Brown says it all: “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are.”

My niece, Jody, recently told me about an assignment she had for a class in college. They were instructed to write an “I Am” poem. Apparently, that was about the only guideline they were given. It was very unstructured and loose. She gave me permission to share her poem. I love it, not only because she’s my niece, but also because it’s such a great example of looking at all aspects of ourselves with a nonjudgmental, accepting eye. This is just how it is. This is who I am.

I’m planning on writing my own “I am” poem. If you write one, feel free to share it. Oh, and I’m sure my niece would appreciate any comments!

Yo Soy

I am curly hair that people use to categorize me.

I am the city girl stuck in a population of one-thousand.

I am the salsa heels that dance all night as if I’m still in Mexico.

I am the race with no ethnicity.

I am off-brand clothing among Sevens, Coach, and Marc Jacobs.

I am the only Jew in a rural town.

I am high-top sneakers from a resale shop.

I am the life-changing trip to Israel at age 16.

I am the passion to travel and master new languages.

I am the positive voice in a room full of negativity.

I am an ally for all people because I feel we are all connected.

I am the girl that values herself more than how boys see her.

I am the dreams that can and will be reached through hard work and dedication.

Self-Compassion Rock Stars

My son took this at a concert. I love how she looks so free.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on self-compassion the past few weeks, and I thought I’d share the major resources I’m using for my project. I already owned all of these books, but I have a habit of buying books with the hope they’ll somehow seep into my system without actually digging in and doing the exercises. So for the most part, these books have just looked pretty on a shelf until now. (And if you read my last post, you know how I like things to be pretty.)

This time around, I’ve got the books scattered on end tables by the couch and on the kitchen table, with paper and pen nearby to take notes and actually do the exercises. I’ve also got my iPod loaded with guided meditations, and have been listening to these. I hope to, in time, phase out the iPod and be able to do the meditations on my own. For now, though, I need the structure of someone’s voice leading me.

These are in no particular order. I hope you have a chance to check some of them out, and let me know what you think.

Christopher Germer, Ph.D., is a leader in the field of self-compassion. He’s a psychologist, writer, and researcher. His site is full of handouts, articles, and free meditation downloads. You can find his website here. I’m also reading and doing the exercises his book, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions. It’s very user friendly.

Kristin Neff, Ph.D. is another pioneer in the field. Her website is here and her book, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, is an excellent resource. She weaves her personal story throughout the book, which I really appreciate. She has a son with autism and credits her self-compassion skills with getting her through a lot of rough times.

Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W., author of The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, is quite simply, amazing! She talks about being vulnerable, and she walks the talk. You have to visit her website (which is about the prettiest website I’ve ever seen!) and watch her TED talk.

Sharon Salzberg, author of the classic Lovingkindness, is a true meditation guru and spiritual teacher.  Her newest book, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation offers a 28-day program and comes with a CD of guided meditations. Her site is here.

Tara Brach, Ph.D. is the author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha. I love this book, and I also have some of her guided meditations. Her voice is very soothing. Her site is also loaded with podcasts (called “Tara Talks”), meditation downloads, articles and many other resources. Her new book is True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart.

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