Posted by: mew | January 1, 2010

word of the year

2010 is here!  Amazing, isn’t it?

I’d intended to say a new decade was here, but F., resident man of science, spent the better part of 20 minutes last night trying to explain to me why 2011 will be the beginning of a new decade, since the numbering began at zero and not minus one.  (If that doesn’t make sense to you, or if it leaves you feeling a bit confused or let down, as it did me, I wish you a joyful new decade, which sounds far more exciting anyway.)

You’ll remember from a couple of posts back that I’d decided to choose a word of the year, as sort of a gentler, deeper version of the New Year’s resolutions I typically scorn.  Well, I’ve chosen it.

Actually, I felt as if it had chosen me, rather like when you visit the animal shelter to pick out a new member of the family and find it is you who have been selected by a particular someone.  That is how I knew it was the right one.

The only problem is, it looked all wrong.  I felt nervous and uncomfortable about it.  It was as if a huge, cross-eyed Newfoundland puppy had selected me.  Big, energetic dogs and I don’t mix in real life, no matter how much I admire them from afar.  Or rather, I feel terribly anxious around them and pull back, and they just view me as a challenge and seem determined to love on me all the more.

That’s exactly how this word was.  I knew the moment I wrote it down that it was perfect.  Yet I pulled back instinctively.

It kept pursuing me, however, for two long weeks.  It showed up on billboards and in conversations.  It popped out at me from the brochure about the town where we honeymooned.  It haunted my thoughts and swirled into my dreams.  And a curious thing happened.  It didn’t seem so scary.  It even took on a friendly cast as I turned it over in my mind, looked at its different facets and meanings.

I began to see why it was just perfect for me, at this time and at this point of my journey.

So the word of the year for 2010 is… drum roll, please…

Focus.

I have a terrible habit of dissipating my own considerable energies, frittering them away on a million projects, letting good ideas languish in the rooms of my mind while I get a half-assed start on 10 different mediocre ones, and then wondering all over again, at the end of every year, why I haven’t made significant forward progress on my big dreams.

And yet, I know myself.  I know how easily I get bored, how I need a variety of stimuli to keep my mind challenged and lively and not sink into a torpor.  I’m not talking about that kind of driven focus where I’m eating and sleeping only one facet of my life, leaving no room for spontaneity and the endless newness of life.  I’ve experienced that kind of hyper-focus, sometimes even forgetting to eat and sleep, and not only is it unpleasant, it’s a sign that I’ve gotten out of whack psychologically and am experiencing a true mania, part of bipolar disorder that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

My initial hope for myself is to narrow my focus a little, to choose 3 main areas of my life to place my attention on for each 12-week period of the year, with a fourth more lightly held, over in the wings, ready perhaps to take center stage during the next 12-week rotation.  If one area seems to merit my attention for 24 or 48 weeks, it’s not a problem.  I’ll keep it in focus as long as seems right.

I’ll share more of that later, once I’ve had some experience of it.

A picture comes into focus…

But this is not the only way I feel focus will shape my understanding of this new year.  For one, I realize that I’m falling in love with photography.  It was a pure accident, a passion discovered in the course of pursuing two others:  gardening and writing.  Because I’d committed to blogging about my garden every single day, in order to get into the habit of daily writing and publishing, I ended up taking a lot of photographs of my kitchen garden.  I got to look at my photos every single day, see what I liked, where I’d like to improve, even get to know my nascent style, if you can say that a beginner in any art form has a style.  (It’s probably more like the seed of a style.)

I loved seeing what came into focus via my lens, discovering bits of the garden and details of my life that I hadn’t paid much attention to.  Finding and noticing the beauty of the underlying support structures of my garden was one of my happy-accident discoveries.

What’s in a dream?

Another way I envision Focus assisting me in 2010 is in finding those underlying and mostly unconscious, conditioned patterns of reaction which prevent me from moving forward on certain lingering dreams which are very dear to me.  I’ve been asking myself these last few months, after finishing up The Artist’s Way, if I really want those dreams anymore.  If I don’t, it’s time to move on, I know.  There is no point focusing on dreams that no longer fit me.  But if those dreams are still real for me, still my personal North Star, it’s time to get past my fears and dissolve my blocks, overcome my inertia and begin to manifest in these areas as I have in so many other areas of my life.

I want to have the courage to turn the lens on those childhood dreams and see what appears when I really look.  I don’t want to be afraid to face either reality.

For each moment, a single focus:

Speaking of reality, yet another way Focus spoke to me was in the area of meditation and awareness.  I really do want to make this the year where I focus on that aspect of my spiritual practice which is so challenging to me, and yet pays off in such rich rewards when I manage it:  single-tasking.  When I am consciously where I am, doing whatever I’m doing with full attention, joy so often meets me.  The task becomes fresh, and the result of such action has power and life in it, consistently.

Yes, I want to focus on this moment in 2010.

Following my cat’s example:

Besides, I could do worse than to take a lesson from my cat.  Bootemius, a.k.a. Booty, a.k.a. Grassu (“fatty” in Romanian), came to us a couple of years ago because of a severe injury to his foot.  He’d been just a skittish urban stray that I regularly fed because he’d fallen in love with our housebound cat, Leo.  Booty would piteously pine for Leo’s attention at the back screen door, rubbing his posterior all over the door, making us imagine he was a female in heat.

Hence the nickname “Booty.”  I would never have named a kitty Booty if I thought he’d become a member of the household.  It’s embarassing, really.  My sister did try to make the name less offensive with the formal version, Bootemius, which was then shortened again, with the result that several people imagine Booty’s name to be ‘Temius.  I do call him Flip-flip sometimes, for the bizarre doglike-tail-wagging action of his slender tail.  (Come to think of it, my kitty attracts nicknames as much as I do.)

But for the most part, “Booty” just stuck.  It’s been a rather unfortunate name choice all around — with its hilarious moments.

(I’m thinking here of the time Booty escaped and went on a wild-kitty bender for 12 days in the middle of the harshest January we’d had in some years.  I was terrified he wouldn’t survive it, especially after getting all soft and coddled living inside the house, and my father came gallantly to my aid in searching the neighborhood for him.  Dad, who is rather formal because of his upbringing, even went so far as the nearby apartment complex’s dumpsters and the wooded strip beside the grocery store parking lot across the way, calling “Booty!  Here, Booty!” and garnering some extremely suspicious looks from the people come to do their grocery shopping.)

But I digress.  Focus, Meredith.

So Bootemius had this major foot injury, and the vet was only able to do so much, which means this formerly wild kitty can no longer jump very well.  It’s made it easier for him to gain weight over time, and it means he’s much less adventurous than his brother Leo.  But he still adores Leo just as much as on those first nights when he met him through the screen door panel, and if he could, he would follow him absolutely everywhere.

Leo, being a much more independent cat, would rather he didn’t, on the whole.  It really is like an older brother/younger brother relationship.  Leo is forever going places he knows Booty cannot follow, and on a walk together through the woods one afternoon, Leo jumped nimbly to the top of this pile of downed trees.  It’s a huge pile, taller than me, and Leo looked over the landscape and posed majestically while his plump little brother walked from one end to the other of the mountain of logs, looking for a way up.

At one point, as I was photographing away, Booty disappeared into the thick undergrowth.  I got a final shot of his departing, flip-flipping tail, and then I didn’t see him for long enough that I became a little concerned.  Leo hopped down from the pile and headed further along the path, and just on the point of following him, I heard some little scratching noises from the woodpile and turned to look back at it.

Booty had made it to the top, despite the damaged foot.

Of course, unbeknownst to him, the object of his adoration was now on the forest floor.  However, Leo seemed to sense how arduous his brother’s determined climb had been, and he went back up top to meet him and give him some head-rubbing love and encouragement for the long trek back down to the ground.

I still have no idea quite how he made it up there.  Watching him come down, it seemed impossible given his limitations.  But Booty’s arrival at the peak is certainly a testimony to the power of focus.

Here’s to 2010, my year of focus.

Have you chosen a word, a phrase, an intention, or a resolution for the New Year?  I always like to hear what my friends are doing.

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Responses

  1. focus sounds like an excellent word. i’ve been seeing this on lots of blogs (not focus, but the idea of a word)…but i’ll admit i can’t really settle on just one. i like your notion of working on several areas on a quarterly basis.

    it will be very interesting to see it unfold!

    happy new year!
    xox,
    /j

    • I hope it will work, the several areas quarterly basis idea 😉 Already I’m wondering, hehehe.

      Happy New Year to you, too, Julochka!

  2. Wow. Focus is such a powerful word. I think, especially in this age of overstimulation, that we glorify multi-tasking. Why do only one thing in 20 minutes when you can do 4 in 19? But like you said, you end up with 4 mediocre results instead of 1 truly great result.

    I can’t wait to read your progress over the next year–your dreams have me intrigued…After doing TAW I also realized that some of my dreams no longer fit me, even though I thought they did.

    Your photograpy really is beautiful! It’s something I’ve always been interested in, but itimidated by.

    • Thanks so much for all the compliments and food for thought, Alisha. I sometimes wonder, does the culture just not encourage reflection and stillness because that’s the way it is, or is it because if we slowed down for a few minutes — or hours, or days — we’d wake up from our trance and wonder what the heck we’re so busy multi-tasking for?

      I think that might be a sign of the authenticity you seek, that you’ve discovered some dreams no longer fit. It’s so hard to let go, though; isn’t it?

      Photography used to intimidate me, too. When I worked on a newspaper staff, I had to supervise the photo girls (our photographers were all female that year), and I often ended up hanging out with them in the dark room at 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning, and all those noxious chemicals, so much work for a print that might not even come out properly… no, thanks. This is one area of life where I’m happy to drop my habitual Luddite ways and embrace technology. I bet you’d be much less intimidated than you think 😉

  3. Happy New Year of FOCUS and Photography!

  4. I’m just fascinated by the photo of your garden, of the way the roots/shoots wound together to support the harvest-to-be. And Booty is quite the exceptional kitty, since he’s able to amuse me and inspire me in the space of a few paragraphs. (Well, maybe his owner the writer did the amusing and inspiring, but now I’m digressing, something I do a lot.)

    I’ll be cheering for you as you tackle focus in 2010. Blessings to you!

    • I’m fascinated by roots, shoots and vines, too. Have you ever watched time-lapse photography of vines? It’s amazing to realize how active these seemingly inert beings are … they’re just living on a different time scale than we are 🙂

      Booty is exceptional. But then, being his “mama,” I suppose it’s expected I would think as much.

      Thank you so much for the encouragement!

  5. […] you following along, or attempting to, at both blogs, I did indeed choose my word of the year and wrote about it here.  That word is Focus, which seemed just right for me on so many levels, once I got over my initial […]

  6. […] pondering what focus might look like in my life this year, one of the first things I realized was that I would need to […]

  7. […] I haven’t spoken much about my word for 2010 on this blog, but it’s Focus. […]

  8. […] about it, as well as an inspiring tale of how he overcame his limitations when motivated by love, here.  Scan down for the subheading “Following my cat’s […]

  9. […] on my other blog.)  My word for 2010 is, appropriately enough, focus, a word that seemed determined to choose me, rather than the other way […]


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