Christine at Abbey of the Arts always lays down the challenge—or rather issues the invitation—each year to find, select, choose (but really be chosen by) a word for the new year. I have taken this challenge for a couple of years…and been wrong about my word virtually every year. LOL. Sigh. The first year, I got ambitious and tried to hold three words. I learned fresh lessons about biting off more than I can chew, holding things with a tight fist, and small assignments. Last year I chose word I wanted it to be, like an attempt at a New Year’s resolution. It was a good word…and like most well-intentioned resolutions, it fell by the wayside almost immediately.
Each year I followed Christine’s sage advice about how to select or be selected by my word, to investigate and walk around the word and write about the word and pray about the word—but I didn’t follow all of her advice. I had never asked someone else for guidance or suggestions. I never really had someone in my life I felt I could ask, no one I wanted to be that honest with.
This year I elected to exercise a little meekness (for once) and ask my friend/writing buddy/sometime- (ok, frequent-) spiritual advisor for her thoughts. Not only did she successfully frame the outgoing year for me, but she also gave me the word I needed for the year incoming.
I journaled and semi-poeticized it this way:
Year 2012 was not about move, but rather about shut-up-and-listen. For 2013, I’ve been given a word: Forward. A threshold presents; I am stepping over and stepping through. Some things go with me, and some things start brand new. What will I pack? And what will I leave behind? I will leave behind behind. I will pack my open ears, which really means my open heart, my learner’s permit. Forward means: no regrets, no self-inflicted lash, no punishment for patterns past of fail-to and didn’t-try and can’t-say-why, no second-guessing. Just forward. Forward means: not stasis, no standing here, no inertia, not settling in. I am stepping over and stepping through. Forward means: focusing ahead of me, not behind; unstuck and faithful: paradox, for they feed one another. Forward, too, means: saucy and brave, confident, brazen, and brash. Some say I’m too much that already, but I know my heart’s own fear, my passing paralysis. Forward means: write it, babe; engage and write; correspond and see correspondences; serve a short story; be faithful to a poem or three, stroll the iamb, walk a meter, take the pen for a turn and see if a sonnet calls; pick up fallen twigs of prose, and weave a basket of words.
I also attempted the ever-useful acrostic exercise, which was a little more challenging than I initially (snobbily) thought it would be:
FORWARD Face the front, not the rear. Observe the road ahead; the rearview mirror won’t help. Read the signposts in your heart; you already know where they point. Waste not (time), want not (focus)—write now, write now, no fear, dear. Ask for help; no shame in need. Refuse to be hijacked, by forces external or within Damn the doubts! Full speed ahead!
And then the connections. Oh, the connections.
“So you forgot some notes! Fear and old habits and people pressure and your own interior playlist can do that — to all of us. But! When the piece started to fall apart? You fell forward, Hope. You didn’t fret about the music behind you — you focused on the next bar. …We are all going to botch it somedays. We all sometimes get the notes wrong. But the song only goes wrong when we keep thinking back to the wrong notes. …When a piece starts to fall apart — fall forward. Fall forward into the next bar. Moving forward is what makes music.”
And then today, another correspondence: I had my first singing lesson—the details of which are a matter for another post, but the fact of which is a definite move forward. During the lesson, my teacher talked several times about “forward focus,” which is a concept, having to do with tone, that I probably don’t fully grasp yet, but I about died.
And then there’s always St. Benedict’s perpetual forward-looking “Always we begin again.” That may just have to be my next tattoo.