Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"One Little Word" challenge: Year 3

I first learned about the "one little word" challenge in 2010. The idea, as explained here, is to find one word on which to hitch your star for the upcoming year. Or, as project founder Ali Edwards explains it, “Essentially the idea is to choose a word (or let it choose you) that has the potential to make an impact on your life…a single word to focus on over the course of the year.”

That first year, I chose the adjective “possible.” Much in my life was uncertain at that point, and there were many aspects of it that had the potential to go in either more positive or more negative directions. “Possible” seemed to be an accurate assessment while also striking an optimistic note: much is possible. Anything is possible. What you hope is possible.

In 2011, I chose the verb “succeed,” which to me was significantly different from its noun form, success. I hoped to succeed in many ways in the upcoming year. I didn’t necessarily have specific end goals that would determine whether or not my efforts had earned the title of success. I wanted to hitch my star to the concept of succeeding more than to any particular end product.

This year, I chose a very different word. It came so easily to me that I’m not sure I can explain its presence. It seemed to just organically be the word I wanted for 2012. This time, the word is a gerund: “walking.”

A somewhat odd choice, I realize. Most words people choose for the one-word challenge are more inspirational in nature: joy, serenity, gratitude, strength, balance, power, hope, fortitude. “Walking” is so quotidian by contrast, and yet in the past year I’ve come to realize how important walking is to me as a way to spend my time: I walk in the woods, I walk in my neighborhood, I walk on bike paths and city streets. I walk as a means of silent reflection; I walk while listening to podcasts or music , I walk with friends as a way of socializing. I walk the dog. I walk with the kids. On holidays at my in-laws’, I walk with my sisters-in-law. I walk fast, for exercise; or I walk slowly, to relax.

So many of my best memories from 2011 involve walking. Walking with friends on the trails in the state park behind our house. Walking on a sage-lined riverside trail in Colorado. Walking to the public beach in Portland with Tim and his friends during Tim’s birthday weekend. Walking with my college roommate on Moody Beach on a magnificent sunny September afternoon.

Beyond the literal meaning, walking seems like an appropriate guidepost word for 2012 in that it’s not a year I’m starting off with a significant number of goals or plans. A lot of things in my life are going well right now; if I could have one wish, it might be for nothing to change. Walking is a good image for how I’d like the year to progress: a calm, unhurried, mindful saunter.

Walking. It’s not an ambitious word, but it’s a fundamental and maybe even primal one. It is how most of us get through our lives, literally and symbolically. At times we run, at times we crawl, at times we stumble, at times we nearly fly; but when life is most in balance, we walk. I hope to walk a lot in the upcoming year: in the woods, on beaches, in the neighborhood, with friends. I’m starting the year with a calm, measured mindset, and this is the word that I find myself reaching for. Walking: a word that matches my current state of mind and, at the same time, reflects what I hope the upcoming year embodies.

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