Friday 31 December 2021

2022 Word of the Year - Accordance

My word for 2021 has been 'presence'. This word, and my reflections upon it, have served me well throughout the year. I have tried to be more present in different aspects of life which, in turn, have enabled me to be more available. I have also reflected on my own gift of presence which I still struggle to fully comprehend, but I end the year more aware and able to celebrate it.

Those of you who have read previous years' word of the year posts know the word is not always easily  forthcoming. This year is different. This word came to me over a week ago and has not left me alone. It is also a word I would have never have imagined myself choosing. The word 'accordance' seems quite legalistic and judgmental to me. I imagine a judge declaring that someone has not lived in accordance with the law, or some pious person informing me I haven't quite lived up to the expected standard. Although I am not a particularly rebellious person, I have spent the last few years attempting to fight the perceived need to conform and keep the peace. So, this word has come as a surprise.

Looking into the etymology of the word 'accord' has helped me understand its importance in my life at this point. The Old French origins, dating back to the twelfth century, are about agreement and harmony. It is however, the Vulgar Latin origins that ring true: to be of one heart or to bring heart to heart. For me, this is about integrity. Over the last decade I have spent a lot of time discovering my true self - the me I was before I was. While living life in accordance with your true self should be the most natural thing in the world, I find that the expectations of our society convince us to be something else. The lure of success, wealth, admiration and a myriad of other things constantly divert me away from my centre and stability. 

So, in 2022, I want to live in accordance to the heart of my life that I know to be real. I want to bring the heart of my living in line with the heart of my life more and more. But to be clear - I am not going to do this in a legalistic manner. I know I will stuff up. I know there will be times when I get caught up in what the world expects of me. But, in all my imperfection, if I can come to the end of 2022 and say I gave it a good shot I will be content. To live in accordance with my true self, who I was created to be, takes a lifetime of humility and unlearning. 2022 will be just a small step along the way.

Friday 1 January 2021

Presence - My 2021 Word of the Year

 Happy New Year to you all!! As is my tradition over the last ten years or so now, January 1st is the day to name and explore my word for the year ahead. My word for 2020 was "horizon". Despite my own personal reasons for choosing this word, it seemed particularly relevant with the uncertainties we all faced throughout the year. It is a word that could have quite happily continued journeying ahead into 2021, but this new year calls for a new focus. Over the last week I have been searching for a word that will ground me in my last year of my PhD, that will bring me back to the core of who I am and will provide a positive focus forward to the unknowns of 2022. The word itself had remained elusive until last night.

One of the benefits of living in Western Australia is the free television reviews available on my Facebook feed from friends in the Eastern states who are three hours ahead. At around 7pm, my Facebook feed was aflood with praise for Paul Kelly's performance on the New Year's Eve concert broadcast on the ABC. I trusted these people's judgment and tuned in. I was not disappointed. As I listened to familiar tunes and watched the tweets roll along the bottom of the screen, I pondered this man's presence. There were no big flashy lights. No specky visuals. No dancers. No fancy costumes. Just him, his band and the camera operators capturing the moment for all of us. Due to COVID restrictions there was no crowd hyping up the atmosphere. Just Paul Kelly being Paul Kelly. This man has presence.

Presence is a word I use often. In the practice of spiritual direction we constantly talk about the importance of presence with the person who sits before us. In the mystical tradition, the presence of the Divine is an enduring theme. While talking about the contemplative way of life, presence is a vital part of the conversation. This "talk" has become second nature to me. But what about the practice? I recognise that it is easy for me to get caught up in the "What next?" of life. I am constantly searching for the next challenge, the next adventure, the next horizon (hmm). Perhaps a year of holding presence at the forefront might be very timely.

Another aspect of this word that I find more difficult to reflect upon is the gift of presence. I recall being in an interview situation some ten years ago now. Someone in the meeting asked me what gifts I felt I would bring to the role. I floundered a little, speaking of some practical skills I felt I could offer this community. After my attempt to answer the question, a member of the group who had known me for some time spoke up. "Presence" she said. "She has a presence that will be a gift to you". I have pondered on this comment for many years wondering what it means and how this "gift" is useful. Others have said the same thing in different ways. Is it something impossible for me to see and know? Isn't presence just being yourself? Isn't it something everyone has? How do you nurture and use such a gift?

And so, as I venture into a year where I will need to have confidence in myself and what I have to say, a year when I will explore the giftedness I take into the next chapter of my life and a year when my youngest will begin to spread her wings changing my role in her life - presence seems an appropriate word to hold close. As I journey with this word into 2021, I will endeavour to find time to practice presence more intentionally and to explore the gift of my own presence and what on earth that means.