One Word (Reverb 10, Day 1)

I signed up for Reverb 10 today. The idea is to write a daily reflection through the month of December. It’s sort of a written conclusion to the year, wrapping up the old, looking ahead to the new. Quite possibly I should have finished my grading before I signed up for this, but the challenge starts on December 1, and that’s just the way it is. The grading will work out. According to my neighbor Patricia, it will all work out.

Today’s Reverb 10 prompt is “One Word.” I’m supposed to pick one word that sums up what this year has been for me and one word that sums up what I hope next year will be.

My 2010 word is “Question.”

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This year has been one long series of questions for me. I have questioned myself. I have questioned others. I have questioned ideas and assumptions and choices. I have questioned authority and tradition and habits. I am still in this process of daily self-critiques. Maybe I am doing this because I am blogging daily. Maybe I am blogging daily because I am questioning everything. Who knows?

This is mostly good, I think, but it does bring its own set of anxieties. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself. Sometimes I’ve increased the pressure on myself by putting pressure on others through questioning blog posts (or questionable if you prefer).

At the same time I feel I am growing as a person. I know more than I did a year ago. In part, I know more because I’ve read more, but in larger part, I know more because I’ve written more. Posting to my blog every day has forced me to articulate in more depth ideas and opinions I may have only given surface attention to otherwise. I’m sure there are people who wish I had left it at surface attention, but I’m glad I didn’t. I have exercised my thinking processes in ways that can only make them stronger.

I’ve also exercised my body. Writing daily has kept me on task with goals for improved health. Sure, I’ve strayed and I’ve struggled, but the questioning and the writing out of the questioning have made me keep trying. And continued effort is 9/10s of the battle, it seems.

Some days I feel like the 3-year-old who says “why” a thousand times a day. That gets old for the people trying to answer, but we would worry if the kid never asked. That’s how preschoolers learn. It’s probably how the rest of us are supposed to learn too. We just forget how to be inquisitive once we develop some awareness of how annoying it is to others.

Question: That’s my word of the year for 2010. It’s had a good run, I guess, and just possibly it isn’t done yet.

My 2011 word is “Balance.”

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If there’s anything I need more of in my life, it is balance. Mind/body/spirit balance. Work/life balance. Nutritional balance. Financial balance. Emotional balance. Creative balance. You name it, and I could use a little help with it.

This past year, I’ve done all sorts of things in attempts to find that balance. I’ve tried to cut back on commitments to professional organizations. I’ve tried to devote time each day to my own creative pursuits through writing or photography or whatever. I’ve worked on my health by dieting. I’ve tried to reconnect with nature by gardening.

All of that has been helpful and necessary, but I still don’t have feelings of well-being and/or any kind of balanced order in my life. Simply put, I’m overworked. I’ve been overworked for a very long time, and I have the burnout to show for it.

I need to cut back on work. I probably can’t find the physical and emotional balance I’m looking for until I do. Still, I’ve come to understand that I’m only happy when I’m excited about something I’m working on. I can’t cut out too much work, or I’ll be feeling out of balance because I don’t have enough to think about. (And then there’s the whole financial balance issue to consider…)

Whatever it means, balance is my most hoped for word of 2011. I’m going to try to find it with more camera, less worry, more baby rocking, less stress, more walking, less brooding.

Balance is the kind of goal people always talk about but never actually accomplish. It’s an elusive ideal. I’m well aware of that even as I say I’m going for it. None of us can control what life throws at us, and life throws something unbalancing at everyone every day.

If I understood the documentary I watched a few days ago, the Zen teaching on this would be that it isn’t our problems that are the problem. It’s our reactions to our problems. It isn’t the lack of control we have over our lives that is the problem. It’s our determination to control things that can’t be controlled.

I know I need more control in some areas. I only have to look around my house to see that a little order is definitely in order. There is a point at which worry about what we haven’t taken care of helps us to remember to do better the next day. But then there is the point at which worry doesn’t do anything but give us digestive disorders and muscle cramps and concentration issues. I think I’ve been living in that second camp too long. It isn’t a very nice place.

It’s also counterproductive. Trying too hard means feeling bad about yourself when something less than perfection is achieved. It means giving up on areas that aren’t strengths (like housekeeping for me).

Probably there is a long explanation in here somewhere for why you shouldn’t try so hard if you want to get more done. If I hadn’t suddenly remembered I have a big stack of work waiting for my attention, I would attempt to wander through that idea. Instead, I’ll leave you to ponder it on your own for now.

Balance: That’s my word for 2011. I’m even hoping the Wii finally tells me I have balanced posture. It could be that the whole reason I chose this word in the first place is because I’ve been listening to a computer tell me I’m out of balance a little too often lately. That in itself is unbalancing. At least it could be if I let it.

Here’s to more balance for one and all.