This is a decidedly late entry for the ‘one word 2014’ post, but I’m doing it even though it’s late, because of last year’s ‘one word’: Anyway.
2013 was my year of resisting the paralysis of perfectionism, and this word served me well. When I wrote my scary-brave list of dreams for the year, I didn’t really believe that I would do so many of them.
These were my resolutions of 2013:
- Do an online creative writing course. Signing up to Story 101 was probably the smartest thing I did last year. As well as helping me think through my writing, I connected with a community of amazing women, all sharing their writing journey together. By the end of the year, some of my best friends were women on that course, whom I have only met via Skype/Fuze.
- Start to write the longer projects. I actually started to write The Book. I didn’t really know it was The Book at that point, but I signed up to Story 201 anyway, and this memoir of how it feels to have M.E. started emerging from me, and I realised it was bigger than I had thought. The aim of Story 201 is to have a completed manuscript by the end of it. I didn’t, but I celebrated anyway, because it was a privilege to be a midwife to others’ manuscripts, and 2013 taught me to be better at celebrating the triumphs and achievements, even when they are partial.
- Wrestle with the word, fall in love with the word. I loved getting under the skin of the books of Ruth and 1 Peter, and telling the truth sideways.
- Write to my MP. I wrote letters. I blogged about disability cuts and the lack of ME treatment, and was overwhelmed by the response. My MP came to my house!! He really did. It still doesn’t feel enough is being done, but I am thankful I was given a chance to be heard.
- Keep a thankfulness journal. I tweeted and Facebooked my #3goodthings, and it does, it does make a difference finding those treasures in each day.
- Ask for healing anyway. I asked. I didn’t get better, but I did ask.
And I did more: I sat at the feet of the beautiful writer Amber Haines and found some concrete words, I had a whole raft of excellent writers join me for my God and Suffering series, I ‘came out’ as a feminist, I explored creativity.
And there is more even than this: writing articles for RELEVANT and Prodigal magazines, Threads and Bible Reflections, being a Finalist for Best Blogger in the UK’s Christian New Media Awards, writing an article published by Scripture Union. In 2013 I was well enough enjoy 2 weeks abroad in the summer; we had a brilliant nanny who has been with us all year; thanks to Skype, I got to see my godson being dedicated; I was a Sunday Superlative, I watched my boy make sandcastles on a Devon beach, I received a bunch of flowers from a lovely reader, I found dear friends through Story Sessions, I uncovered my inner artist and my (very tiny) inner monk through Story 201, and I watched my boy as a king in his preschool nativity.
When I look back on 2013, it feels surprisingly full, and I am so thankful for that. But I am also feeling the need to rest. I see the ‘one word’ exercise as a conversation between this year and the last, which is why this year’s word is ‘retreat’.
There are two aspects of this word that I want to reflect on this year:
- retreat (military: to tactically withdraw when you realise the enemy force is superior).
When I looked back on 2013, I realised that so much of it felt like a fight. It was a fight to get healthcare, a fight to stop the government from unfairly penalising disabled people, a fight to keep from relapses, a fight to try to squeeze words out for my ME memoir.A wise friend said to me, “you need to rest, withdraw for a bit. That’s not because your battle isn’t important – it’s the opposite. The battle is important, and we need you in it, at your best. Sometimes it’s strategic to take time out so that you’ll be stronger when the fighting comes again.” I found that really helpful.
It’s hard – physically and emotionally – to be fighting as the underdog, when there are so few breakthroughs and victories. I have a lot of sympathy for Sue Marsh, an amazing disability campaigner in the UK who has been writing and speaking steadily for 4 years, despite being very ill, and who decided to take a break because she is exhausted from it. In the past three months my (probably relieved) MP has had no letters from me – I’ve just been too tired from the fight to face it. I imagine I shall be repeating to myself throughout the year, ‘retreat does not mean defeat’. Sometimes you have to withdraw to rally the troops before going out to battle again. Retreat does not mean defeat.
- retreat (spiritual: to withdraw as Jesus did to a quiet place in order to get closer to God).
I find it fascinating to note how often in the gospels Jesus withdrew to a quiet place in order to pray. It is something I naturally shy away from (by personality I prefer people and conversation to quiet and isolation), and I want to challenge myself to find life and vitality in the quiet places. By the end of Story 201, I discovered I did indeed have an ‘inner monk’, albeit a tiny one, and this year I want to see if I can get to know my inner monk a little better.
(And, if I’m permitted a punning third aspect of the word – it would be nice to treat myself from time to time and have fun again: re-treat 🙂 ).
So that’s my one word for 2014 – retreat. It doesn’t sound as comforting or exciting as some of the other words my friends have chosen: ‘awake’ or ‘ambition’ or (intriguingly) ‘naked’ – but it has been settling in my soul over the last two months and I know it is right for this year.
This year I hope to finish The Book, (and maybe even find a publisher for it?), finish the 1 Peter series and turn it into a self-published book, enjoy a holiday abroad with my family (without having a relapse?), keep in touch with local and international friends, be well enough to enjoy my boy’s birthday and Christmas celebrations. I also have a germ of an idea for an ME website, and I want ultimately to change the world / law in the UK about ME treatment… but I’m putting that on hold for now. I want to do these things, but only if I can do them gently, without violence to my health or soul. I want intimacy with God to be the rudder in this journey.
Over to you:
- What’s your ‘one word’ for 2014? (‘one word’ is an alternative to New Year’s resolutions – instead of a list of tasks, there is one word to be a guiding principle in the things you hope for).