Word Of The Year 2015

This year was a slog! I must have changed my word, I don’t know, 10 times? Researched each new word, found quotes and images that pleased me, only to realize that the WORD did not please me!

It was incredibly frustrating. I couldn’t figure it out, I questioned every word I thought of. There were a myriad of reasons I would discard a word; too big, too trite, that one’s ridiculous!, how can I do THAT?, but really? None resonated with me.

It was particularly frustrating because, as I have said, I think that the word chooses you in a way, just as it works you. But I wasn’t having it, I was trying to push and prod a word into submission; you shall be  MY word, or die (cue evil laughter)! This process was, for me, beginning to be the antithesis of what it was meant to be, and it was pissing me off.

Then, today, BAM! I was reading some poetry and found:
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Wendell Berry


And this poem woke something in me, particularly the word “baffled”. Because I am.

I am baffled by a lot of things, but particularly by my own self. Why do I behave the way I do? Why do I hold so tight to the stories I have told myself all these years? Why do I have the particular “character defects” that I have, and the assets; where do they come from? Have I come to that point of no longer knowing what to do or which way to go, as Berry says? In many ways I think I have, and so this poem resonated, loudly.

And then  there was another….

We look with uncertainty
beyond the old choices for
clear-cut answers
to a softer, more permeable aliveness
which is every moment
at the brink of death;
for something new is being born in us
if we but let it.
We stand at a new doorway,
awaiting that which comes…
daring to be human creatures,
vulnerable to the beauty of existence.
Learning to love.

Anne Hillman

A “softer, more permeable aliveness”….lovely, I want that. What are the questions that will get me there? How can I be vulnerable enough to “the beauty of existence. Learning to love”? What is holding me back from these leaps, because god knows they are leaps and huge ones.

And one more (poetry heavy post here):

if you move carefully
through the forest,
like the ones
in the old stories,
who could cross
a shimmering bed of leaves
without a sound,
you come
to a place
whose only task
is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests,
conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.
Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,
that can make
or unmake
a life,
that have patiently
waited for you,
that have no right
to go away.

David Whyte

“Questions that can make or unmake a life”? Powerful. And “the old stories”, which I co-opted to remind me of my own old stories.

You know, in my grief work we are taught to ask the right questions, a little along the idea of “do the next right thing”, we are trained to ask the next right question that will bring the person deeper and deeper into their grief and understanding of it. I have always just accepted that as a call to be curious, to simply ask what I am curious about. If I keep that focus the work is successful.

I need to aim that curiosity squarely at my own self and start asking myself the right questions.

There is a sanskrit word, Prajna (or transcendent wisdom). It means  cultivating an open, inquiring mind. I think I have a pretty open mind, but inquiring? not so much. Too often I just accept ideas, or things out of laziness, or feeling helpless in the face of them. My own things in particular, those stories. I am old. I am not tech savvy. I can never really teach yoga. I procrastinate. I don’t understand budgets and finances. I have to move someplace other than here to live. I am incapable of having a relationship and don’t want one anyway. I can’t change.

I know the last one isn’t true,I am constantly changing. So why hold on to that, what does it get me? I am curious, what’s the payoff here with my death grip on all of these ideas?

I think curiosity asks us to be a mixture of vulnerable and brave; brave enough to begin asking the questions, and vulnerable enough to take them deeper, get to the core beliefs that rule our (MY) life and make some changes.

Here’s another poem (I can’t resist Mary Oliver, you know that!)

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

~ Mary Oliver ~

It’s almost 2am and I was hoping to leave this post with something fabulous or meaningful to anyone but myself. But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about my word for the YEAR; there is a full year to explore it further, right?

And so I say goodnight, and welcome to my CURIOUS year!



Add yours →

  1. A lovely post. I shall think of you as Mish in Wonderland: curiouser and curiouser. Happy new curious year to you.

  2. I have enjoyed all the poetry this morning! What an excellent word, too. There is a lot of scope there 🙂 The wonderful thing about growth and change is that the more we find out about ourselves and life and the world, the more we understand, the more we can see there is to find out about, like peeking at the first few pages of a fascinating book. There is just so much to be curious about. I think you will have an interesting year 🙂 xx

    • Exactly…you start with one question and another follows and then…who knows what one will uncover?
      It will be an interesting year, I’m sure.
      Happy new Year to you too

  3. I love it! I like ‘baffled’ too but curious and baffled are usually joined at the hip aren’t they? When I think of curiosity I think of not taking things at face value, which is both terrifying and freeing. Happy New Year!

    • Hah! Yes, joined at the hip. I loved baffled but I wanted to find a word that was more action oriented, and curious worked for me.
      terrifying and freeing also go hand in hand, right?
      I’ve already started on a project, which i will write about soon, that fits in nicely with my word, even though I hadn’t picked my word when I started, which points out the idea of the word choosing me too.

      Happy new Year Karen…..so glad to be friends!

  4. Oh Michele!
    To steal your word from last year…YES!!!…what a perfectly wonderful word and mindset for you to explore in 2015. The poetry you chose was beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed watching you work this out right in front of our eyes.
    It has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it and I’m a huge Alice fan (did a whole photography series on her last year).
    So here’s to Michele’s Curious Year…may it be filled with handsome Mad Hatters (if you want ’em), overflowing tea cups and muchness. xoxoxo

    • Thank you!
      and where can I see this photo series, seriously?
      Alice is now on my FB page…”curiouser and curiouser”…definitely an inspiration to me, as the counterpoint to “baffled”.

      That poetry chose me, and so has my first “curious” project for the year…which I will write about soon, very soon.

      happy new Year Michelle…..
      Monday for your word?
      arrghhh! can’t wait!

      • I did the photo series on my photography site last year. The first in the series of 5 is here: http://wp.me/p3X3xy-3r
        It was a quick attempt to try to match some amateur photography with words from Alice in Wonderland. Nothing super special, but lots of fun!
        And, as for my word, yikes! I hope it’s not anti climatic. I probably need to write that post at some point!!
        Love that the poetry chose you. I rely on Christy quite a bit to provide my poetry, so I’m glad to have yet another source in you!

      • WELL!
        that was an awesome grew minutes spent, and i can see quiet a few other fe minutes being spent at that site!!
        i didn’t know, but should have…what gorgeous work
        (clapping hands enthusiastically)…I just subscribed!

        and don’t we ALL rely on Christy for poetry 😉

  5. A couple of thoughts:
    1) I love that you shared the whole process of finding ‘the word’, because I think that movement we have in our head is, ultimately, helping us heal. Like you I have finally settled on ‘the word’.
    2) BTW: Thanks for keeping this at the forefront of my thoughts this NYE. My word this year is ‘flexible’. I decided I want this both physically and perceptively. And you did leave the post with something fabulous for me.
    Happy New Year, with love, lisa

    • I love “flexible”….
      god that opens so many paths, yes?

      I like to share the process because i so heartily believe in the idea, it made such a difference to me, that i figure as much info as i can give will maybe help someone else to go for it. 12 stepping my word choosing process!

      thanks for all you do Lisa…
      Happy new year!

  6. I am in awe of your process. My words have not had this much thought.
    I have chosen what comes to mind when my yoga teacher asks us to set an intention.
    For some reason love started coming up. So love it is.

    Curious is a besutiful choice. Open, willing and brave!

    Woo hoo!


    • Anne!
      that was my first word, and my whole process of NOT choosing that makes sense probably only to me (but I will say there was some fear in there)
      Metta meditation, love, all of that is a standard I have set for my life, and is often my intentional word for yoga.

      I LOVE your word….I cannot wait to see how it works you!

      happy new Year!

  7. Boy you kept us going right to the end, eh? I couldn’t wait to hear what it would be – talk about suspensful! And like Lisa, I loved the process and how you shared it here. I had some back and forth on my word last year (“Patience”) but it was
    through meditation and some other voodoo that the word was stamped on my soul. And that happened again this year with my word.

    I am soooo excited that you are going to share your curious world with us. Curious can convey so many things – not just the frivilous. Curiosity has unearthed great things in humankind, externally and more often, internally.

    Blessings to you and yay to the new frontier you will plunge into!


    • Thanks Paul…

      but what is your word????? LOL….
      keeping us all waiting, or keeping it private? (you can tell me…i won’t spill the beans!)
      and oh yeah..serious voodoo/woo woo/meditation and pleading prayers (where is my word?) all come into play, every year.

      happy new year!

  8. that was a wonderful post crammed filled with good things like a Christmas pudding – but far healthier 😉 thank you for those poems which lifted my heart.

    curious is a beautiful word. it takes me back to childhood and that sense of wondering at the world which we should cherish and protect. wishing you a curious 2015! xxx


    It’s like going to a friend’s house, and realizing you have a gazillion friends in common!

    What a fabulous post, what an amazing trend you’ve started, I am so hoping I am not too late to this party, I want to pick a word too! I will start pondering as soon as I’ve caught up with all of our common friends 🙂

    Thanks so much for this inspired idea, and I am really looking forward to reading more!

    • Hah!
      i don’t believe I follow you either, so there’s that!

      I’m gonna check you out…
      any friend of all those friends of mine is a friend of mine!
      or whatever I just said!

  10. What a great idea, word of the year! And I think curious is a remarkable word.

    Thank you for that inspiration and also the poetry.

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