Tag Archives: Word of the Year

Resolutions, and Goals, and Objectives . . . . Oh, My!


We seem to be careening towards Samhain at an incredible pace; there are fewer than two weeks left to this liturgical year. The veils are already tissue thin. Family members (living and dead) populated my dreams last night and my brother (who was about as unreligious as you can get) told me, “I was always better at theology than you.” I woke up thinking, “But I am better at praxis.”

For many Pagans, Samhain is a time to make plans for the coming year, to set new goals and objectives, to organize new ways of working in the world. Maybe it’s a way of casting an anchor forwards to a time when the veils won’t be so thin, of helping to assure ourselves that we won’t wander too far in the Autumn mists. And maybe it’s a way of working really deep magic — the kind that changes your life and the world — at a time when our landbase itself is magically transformed by green leaves turning crimson and fluttering to the ground.

I’ve posted before about my practice of selecting a Word of the Year, a technique that I learned about from Christine Kane. You can find her worksheet (which I fill out every year) here. There’s certainly nothing wrong with simply writing a basic list of goals and objectives and there’s plenty of information about how to do that. What I like about the Word of the Year practice is that it provides an organizing principle. I develop my list of goals and objectives around my word and find that I’m able to achieve more when everything is related. I’m still thinking and meditating about my word for the coming year.

Poet and novelist Theodora Goss recently posted a helpful technique that she uses to accomplish her objectives.

I’m the sort of person who wants to do everything: Teach. Write novels and stories and essays and poems. Spend time with my daughter, of course. But also learn Hungarian, and go to the ballet, and read books. Travel when I can. Decorate my apartment. There’s time for all of that, but I have to figure out when and how to do each thing so I’m doing it well, and not exhausting myself. That takes pacing.

So for example, I’m decorating my apartment. My impulse is to do everything at once: to buy the bookshelves, put them together, stain and finish them. Buy the pillows, the fabric to cover the pillows. Sew the pillow covers. But I don’t have time to do everything at once, because I’m also teaching and writing. So instead I do a little each day, and I find that as long as I’m doing something each day, eventually it gets done. The shelves go up, the pillows are covered and put on the daybed.

It takes having patience, and being able to divide work into discreet tasks so you can do it a bit at a time. So for example, today I’m going to stain the shelves, then let them dry overnight, turn them over, and stain the other sides tomorrow. They should be completely stained by this weekend, when I can put the whole bookshelf together and finish it with oil. Soon, and by soon I mean at the end of the week, I’ll have a bookshelf, and the books that have been sitting on the floor will have a home. I do hate books sitting on the floor, so not having a place to put them has been an exercise in patience. But I know that as long as I work on the shelves every day, a little at a time, I will eventually have a floor without books on it.

As I get older, I find that, more and more, I have to approach chores this way. My energy may not hold out to let me finish an entire project in one day, but, with a bit of planning, I can make a schedule and accomplish what I want over a few days. (Have I mentioned recently that calendars are every bit as much magical tool as athames, wands, goblets, and candles? They are.) And, like Ms. Goss, I can feel that I’m making steady progress. Pacing, Ms. Goss writes, requires three things:

1. Prioritizing. Know what you actually want to do, and get rid of the things you don’t want to, to the extent you can.

2. Dividing tasks over time. Figure out how to divide what you need or want to do, and do part of it each day until it’s done. But almost anything you do, even the things you love to do, you will tire of, if you keep doing them long enough.

3. Dividing your time into tasks. What do you want to do when? What are the things you most need or want to get done today, and how are you going to arrange them? Can you fit in the things you need to do, the things you want to do, and the things that will give you a break from everything else? Remember to take a walk, read a book . . .

What word might organize your goals for the coming year? What techniques do you use to keep moving forward?

I leave you with some further good advice on making resolutions from my brilliant friend Elizabeth Engel:

Picture found here.

Last Thursday of the Year PotPourri


* Am I the only one who woke up this morning and said, “Oh, thank the Goddess it’s over!”???

From a bit before Samhein until, well, today, the overculture shoves Xmas down our throats faster, faster, faster, more, more, more! As I’ve noted before, I’m happy to celebrate, alongside my religious holiday of Yule, the secular Winter Holiday that occurs in America at this time of year and that involves giving gifts, seeing family and friends, sending and reading cards from far-flung acquaintances, enjoying Winter, lighting the darkness, and, hopefully, sharing our bounty with those who could use some help. (“My” homeless vet got socks, a knitted hat, aspirin, vitamins, some gift certificates to McDonalds (which is what he wants), and a box of apples, tangerines, and homemade cookies.) I like the Messiah, my brightly decorated neighborhood, and seeing G/Son open the presents that I got for him.

But by December 26th, I’m completely ready to be done with the whole hot mess.

How about you?

* Michael Twitty, the culinary historian who has been doing so much amazing work documenting the contributions of African slaves to America’s cuisine, wrote THE definitive letter from an African American cook to Paula Deen. He’s now done the same as a gay man, writing about the whole Duck Dynasty mess. This year, one of my most prized Yule gifts was a Mr. Pearl calendar — autographed! If I can’t buy the GreenMan an autographed Michael Twitty calendar next year, I’m going to know the reason why. And a cookbook, the year after that. Michael, I am looking at you.

And, SOMEONE, for the love of the Goddess, get Mr. Pearl and Mr. Twitty together over a meal and film it. I will buy the DVD. Both of these artists celebrate a sense of place that makes them really important to today’s South.

* Twitty’s posts on Kwanza will make you want to celebrate it, too, or you should head to the hospital and ask them to check if you have a pulse;

Nia means we think with the end in mind and plant, sow, tend, and reap knowing to what ends our purposes serve.  It means planning, having a vision, building up our selves, our homes, our communities and our nation within a nation one plan, one decision and one thought at a time.

* You should read Echidne. Every day.

* Like clockwork, on the day after Xmas, the seed catalogs begin to show up. Today, at the office, I got two of my favorites. Burpee’s was the only seed company I knew when I first came to this Bit of Earth and began, tentatively and falteringly, to garden. And I still go there every year for black petunias, marigolds that will grow all year long, and one or two “new” things to try. (This year, Mrs. Mars sunflowers are a likely buy.) And, Baker Creek is, IMHO, the most wonderful seed catalog in the world. I could (and, between now and Beltane, will) read it every day.

* Medus Coils has ALL THE GOOD LINKS.

* My Circle was discussing this over the weekend. If you’ve gotten into the practice of choosing a Word of the Year, or if you’d like to give this practice a try, Christine Kane has a great worksheet for you to use. I do this every year; and I create pictures to go along with the questions in the worksheet. That product goes into my journal for an at-least-weekly check. I also make a screensaver, that I create as a magical practice, to help me to get a clear picture of what my Word of the Year will look like.

You can just select a Word of the Year, or you can select a Word of the Year and then set goals and objectives that go with that Word. Or you can set goals and objectives and then select a Word of the Year to go with them. Or, you can just go free-form, like my brilliant friend, E.

It’s all, as Ms. Kane says, about Intention, Awareness, and Clarity. What could be more magical than that?

This year, my word is “self-possessed.” What’s yours?

* And, here’s this, for Seamus Heaney, because that which is remembered, lives. I love “He used English, from the North.”

Picture found here.

Tuesday Evening PotPourri

Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Vegetables

* I am a big fan of “nature cam” sites that bring a close look at nature into our homes. No, it’s not the same experience as being outside, in nature, but it does help us to remember how connected we all are to the All. And these sites do let us see things that we’d never be allowed to see, even if we sat quietly outside for hours, such as eaglets eating, hawks bringing meat to their babies, foxes giving birth to kits. Last Autumn, I was crazy about a site that showed bears in Alaska at a fishing spot, catching salmon. Before that, I was a regular at a site that showed some eaglets hatching outside of Richmond, Virginia, esp. since I saw their parents, from a train window, building their nest before the cam came on. Right now, I keep checking in with this site where a hummingbird is laying eggs. Last Summer, G/Son spotted the first hummingbird I’ve ever seen here, hovering over the white flowers on my Aphrodite hosta. But Landscape Guy gets regular visits from a hummingbird who is, if I do say so, a terrible flirt. What cams do you watch? How do you bring nature into your life? One thing that I really love to notice is the background noises. The eagle cam let you hear the train going by, which is one way that I knew that these parents were the ones I’d seen from my train window. The hummingbird cam is obviously quite close to “civilization.” What background sounds do you hear?

*We’re now almost six weeks into 2013. How are you doing on your Word of the Year, on your goals?

My brilliant friend is well on her way to learning to play poker, using social networking to find others who’ll play with her. Her new year’s goals are always of the “have fun!” variety.

I’m doing surprisingly well at getting lots more greens into my diet. Here’s Margaret Roach, who mostly writes about gardening, but also writes, sometimes, about how to use the food that we grow, suggesting an easy way to up the vegetables in our diet:

I’m making roasted vegetables this weekend, as I do most every week in giant batches. But I suppose there are always questions, such as: peel first, or not, or how hot should the oven be, and what do I dress the vegetables with first?

My favorite vegetable candidates in the cold weather months include parsnips, carrots, turnips, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, winter squash, onions, heads of garlic, beets (segregate if red-colored to prevent staining of neighbors), Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, broccoli raab. I hate fennel, but it roasts well. So do leeks. (In summer, when I have them, I do peppers, eggplant and summer squash.)

I tried Margaret’s approach this weekend, with fennel, celery, bok choy, garlic, beets, carrots, and baby potatoes. Having them on hand has definitely improved my daily take-to-work salads.

*Another way that I’m working on one of my goals is Fitbit. I’ve named mine Hygeia. I’ve resisted wearing a pedometer for years because they were big, bulky, guaranteed to attract attention. At the same time, I’ve been promising myself for years to get more active on a daily basis and, then, not doing very well. I don’t believe that everything worthwhile can be measured but, turns out, how many steps you take a day can be measured. And Fitbit is tiny, can be worn invisibly (the only time that I’ve worn mine visibly was this weekend with my Circle of Amazing Women), and downloads enough information to make the overachiever in me quite happy.

I find that I’m doing a lot of pacing when waiting for elevators, standing in line at the drugstore, talking on conference calls. I’m also being more serious about my plans to get up four or five times a day and take a 15 minute walk. I can see the results every week.

What one or two things are helping you to meet your goals? How can you recommit here, just five weeks out from Eostara?

* Speaking of overachieving, Thorn Coyle tweeted a link to this post today.

It just worked my last nerve. Here’s a sample:

[The woman being shred apart on the internet has a need to always] be better. To be stronger at what she does. She values what others think of her but what she really cares about is what she thinks of herself. What she thinks is that she needs to be better. To achieve aggressive goals and then to push them further. Usually to push them on before she even arrives; forcing herself to fail inevitably and improve relentlessly.

She must never feel comfortable, she must never sit down. She forms a belief set that ingrains a sense of inadequacy. With that in hand, she has no option but to march forward, to make herself better and stronger. She cannot exist in a world where excellence is a prerequisite and where she is awful and so by grading herself down she drives herself ever forward, becoming ever better.

No, you don’t get to decide what’s “living” for me. Your assumptions about when I feel comfortable are irrelevant and presumptious. Maybe I am most alive when I am pushing myself and working to be even better than I was yesterday. Maybe that’s when I’m in flow, when I’m most comfortable.

I’m not saying that you have to get off on that, but I really am tired of the modern practice of showing up on the internet to insist that someone else is “doing it wrong.” You don’t want to push yourself all the time? Mozel tov. More power to you. I support your right to live the way that you want to live. Good for you if you go home 15 minutes early with just one marshmallow and enjoy the Hel out of that. But the need to shame those of us who find our flow in a different way says more about you than it does about us. /Rant off.

* Margaret Roach roasts parsnips, and I hope to roast some next week when the ones at the Falls Church Farmers’ market look a bit better. Here’s a poem about that prosaic bit of sustenance that lifted many, many, many of our ancestors between Imbolc and Beltane: the parsnip:

Come, Aristotle

~ Maxine Kumin

On April 4, moving
the pea fence to
another row
we unearth forty
perfect parsnips
that had spent
the coldest winter since
the seventies
condemned like leeches,
Aristotle says,
to suck up whatever
sustenance may flow
to them wherever
they are stuck.
Abandoned, overlooked.
Our good luck.

We ate them
in groups of fours
braised with a little brown sugar
(though they were sweet
enough without)
paler than cauliflower
or pearls, inverted fleshy angels
pried from the black gold
of ancient horse manure.
Pure, Aristotle.
Come, philosopher.
Come to the table.

What tides you over between now and Beltane, when pea shoots and asparagus grace our plates?

* If anyone at Pantheacon goes to the session on Columbia, I’d be v grateful for a summary, contact info for the presenters, impressions from the talk!

Picture found here.

Imbolc: When the Changes Are Still Mostly Invisible

Lots Going on Underground

Lots Going on Underground

Here in the magical MidAtlantic, the period just around Imbolc is when Nature is very busy, but almost all of the work is done out of sight. A quick scan of the horizon shows trees that still look dead, ice on the Potomac, and leaden skies. Yet, in the mountains, mother bears have given birth to their cubs and are no longer hibernating. They’re staying in their caves, but there’s activity there. Foxes are building dens for the kits that will be born in a few weeks. Bulbs underground are growing green shoots that will soon pop out of the Earth and then begin to make buds. Trees and shrubs are covered in tight little buds. You can see them, if you look carefully, but it’s difficult to imagine that, come September, that hard bit of stuff will be, for example, an apple or a fig, much less that it will be a blossom in May.

And it is often the same way with our own growth process. We may have been working with our Word of the Year or List of Goals for a month now, but it can be difficult to see much progress. And that’s when it starts to seem as if it might just be easier to forget the whole thing.

Here’s a good post (hat tip to: @druidjournal) that provides some outstanding advice for exactly this time of year. For example:

Of all the skills I’ve learned in the past 7 years of changing my life, one skill stands out:

Learning to be comfortable with discomfort.

If you learn this skill, you can master pretty much anything. You can beat procrastination, start exercising, make your diet healthier, learn a new language, make it through challenges and physically grueling events, explore new things, speak on a stage, let go of all that you know, and become a minimalist. And that’s just the start.

Unfortunately, most people avoid discomfort. I mean, they really avoid it — at the first sign of discomfort, they’ll run as fast as possible in the other direction. This is perhaps the biggest limiting factor for most people, and it’s why you can’t change your habits.

Think about this: many people don’t eat vegetables because they don’t like the taste. We’re not talking about soul-wrenching pain here, not Guantanamo torture, but a taste that’s just not something you’re used to. And so they eat what they already like, which is sweets and fried stuff and meats and cheeses and salty things and lots of processed flour.

The simple act of learning to get used to something that tastes different — not really that hard in the grand scheme of life — makes people unhealthy, often overweight.

I know, because this was me for so many years. I became fat and sedentary and a smoker and deeply in debt with lots of clutter and procrastination, because I didn’t like things that were uncomfortable. And so I created a life that was deeply uncomfortable as a result.

The beautiful thing is: I learned that a little discomfort isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can be something you enjoy, with a little training. When I learned this, I was able to change everything, and am still pretty good at changing because of this one skill.

Master your fear of discomfort, and you can master the universe.

The entire post is well worth a read.

And it’s true, isn’t it? Lots of growth does feel a bit uncomfortable, especially at first. Change isn’t always easy. And when the change is still happening underground and outside our field of vision, the discomfort can seem to be a lot greater than the reward.

One of my tried-and-true tactics for dealing with the kind of discomfort discussed in the post is (no surprise here) breathing, grounding, centering, coming back to my true self. When I do that, it’s much easier for me to remember why I’m putting myself in an uncomfortable situation in the first place. A second strategy is to personalize the discomfort. Give it a name, an appearance, a personality. And then talk to it. Invite it in. Acknowledge it. Ask for its help on your journey (you did read fairy tales, right?)

For one of my goals this year, my discomfort is the Woodwose from the Wildwood Tarot. We’re developing quite a relationship. I wouldn’t call us friends, exactly, but I do think we have a healthy respect for each other. I’m learning to recognize him even when he hides as my tiredness, busyness, appetites.

What does your discomfort look like? What does s/he say when you invite hir to come in and sit down? Is it easier when s/he doesn’t always have to hide?

Picture found here.