One word for 2014: Retreat

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:

  1. 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.


  3. 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:




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24 Responses to One word for 2014: Retreat

  1. Rebecka 8th March, 2014 at 8:46 am #

    My word for 2014 is rest. I am hoping that this year I will get better at it! To stop before I crash and to stop pushing my body too far. But also rest in God, to let go and to trust Him. As another friend with M.E. put it: “to find the chosen rest in the middle of the enforced rest”.
    I really loved the word retreat though, so I might steal it for next year… 😉

    • Tanya 20th March, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

      My word of the year was so nearly ‘rest’! Great minds think alike… I like how your friend expressed it – I have been thinking something similar. It’s bizarre how hard it is to rest, considering we spend so much of the day in bed, isn’t it?? Thinking of you,

  2. Mark Allman 4th March, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

    I was glad I was able to follow your blog all of 2013! It was great. I think you accomplished a lot. One stone on top of another Tanya. You will do great. Sometimes you retreat so you can make your attack from a different avenue or different method. It can be advantages to retreat for the enemy thinks they have the upper hand until you come at them from where they do not expect.
    I do think you need to use your resources wisely and your strength and health being some of those resources. I do believe you do so wisely. I continue to ask for healing for you too. May God bless this year for you greatly.
    Where are those travels going to take you Tanya??

    • Tanya 20th March, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

      I am very glad to have had you as a companion along this last year’s journey! (Btw – I had a couple of emails from you recently, and I reply but get a ‘mail undeliverable’ thing – don’t know why!)

      Thanks for your encouragement to just keep going. One stone at a time is a much easier way of thinking about life in general…

      • Mark Allman 20th March, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

        I just got one from you today in response to my Happy Birthday!

        • Tanya 26th March, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

          Oh good! Glad it’s getting through!

  3. Liz Eph 4th March, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    lol – not sure i can summarise this year in one word – maybe a phrase. all or nothing. it was going to be nothing and now it’s turned into all, all in one month – the council have given us a ground floor flat, my daughter is going to get her gall bladder operated and i’m fighting to get our helper funding renewed which runs out at the end of the month. i want to wake up on my daughter’s birthday, the 1st april with all of us ok, back together, in our new flat, with full help set up for the following 5 years. so far, amazingly the dates are working out ! now for the details …

    • Tanya 20th March, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

      Oh gosh! Rollercoaster, perhaps?? I’m really hoping and praying it all workers out for you!

  4. Heather 4th March, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    I love the reflection on your past year. That’s quite a lot you accomplished and yes, retreat is so important too. I didn’t choose a word this year but balance always resonates with me for all of these reasons you mentioned.

    • Tanya 20th March, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

      Thank you! And I like the word balance – it’s important in so many areas of life.

  5. Cathy Fischer 4th March, 2014 at 12:11 am #

    My “one word” in response to your post is “Wow”!

    • Tanya 20th March, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

      Thank you!!

  6. Alia Joy 3rd March, 2014 at 8:05 pm #

    Yes, retreat does not mean defeat. You are rallying your strength and that’s found in time with God, quieting the noise and letting yourself come out refreshed again. SO hard when you’re struggling with chronic illness but I do believe, and know for myself during those long stretches of weakness, that it’s in those times we are lifted up. God fights for the underdog. We need only be still. Sending love your way, friend. So good to hear from you in this blog and check in.

    • Tanya 20th March, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

      Thank you so much for this precious encouragement, lovely Alia. Thank you for checking in and for these lovely words.

  7. Jamie Wright Bagley 3rd March, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    I like your third aspect of the word: re-treat. Sounds good to me! May you be given strength to stay at rest and find the restoration you need. Blessings to you!

    • Tanya 20th March, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

      Thank you! (*and makes mental note to remember that third aspect of retreat – I’m bound to forget it!*)

  8. Janice 3rd March, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    “I want to do these things, but only if I can do them gently, without violence to my health or soul.” That is a good goal. I feel like there should be more said, but it’s still early here in the States and the coffee hasn’t kicked in, so I’ll just repeat, THAT is a good goal.

    And I haven’t come up with a word for 2014. Of course I pondered all the way through 2013 if I should have a word and what on earth it would be if I did, so I don’t have much hope for coming up with one for 2014. I do wish I was the sort of person who could come up with one. Some sort of beautiful word that would sear itself onto my soul and transform me. I love reading about others but I seem to be missing the One Word gene. When I try to think of one I just see vast blankness. Then I start to sweat a little. 🙂

    I know I say it often, but it’s just so lovely to be reading some posts from you lately!

    • Cathy Fischer 4th March, 2014 at 12:10 am #

      I think I’m missing the One Word gene, too! Who can use just one word when so many suffice??

      • Janice 11th March, 2014 at 2:30 am #

        Cathy, that made me laugh, because I ALWAYS write many words where one would do! Glad I’m not the only one!

        • Mark Allman 11th March, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

          Janice, Cathy,
          I enjoyed you guys interaction!! I laughed at you both. You probably have the one word gene it just gets suppressed by the many word gene.

          • Tanya 20th March, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

            Cathy and Janice – like mark, I also laughed! There are some writers who are all Hemingway-ish and lean and clean in their prose – I’m much more of the school of thought that says ‘why use one word, when 20 would do??’ Hurrah for verbosity!

    • Tanya 20th March, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

      Thanks, Janice! Hmmm… Maybe there is a one word gene? I definitely don’t want you to have to perspire your way through the year, just because you don’t have a word – that would be most unfortunate! Maybe you can string some together instead, like beads on a necklace. Sending you much love! X

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