This is probably going to be a mistake.
I’ve just read that my friends Viv and Patti have signed up for Reverb10. It’s a challenge to express online a response to a daily prompt for each day of December. Inspired by them I’m going to give it a shot, pencilling in my mind the option for some of my responses to be mere tweets.
I’m already a day late, but here’s my effort for December 1st. This is the prompt:
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
Great, I am not a big one for anniversaries and looking back over years, so I appreciate the challenge. Lots of things happened in 2010, and many of them were surprises – shared in fact with Viv.
The new year found me in New Zealand, where I’d more or less fled, so stressful had the last few months of 2009 been. I can’t quite recall, but I probably spent January 1st on a beach somewhere, thoroughly appreciating not being in a) winter or b) enmeshed in a series of jousting matches with a variety of unhelpful legal and property professionals. Then I was off to Australia where I hung out with Viv and decompressed some more. Fish and chips by the Ocean Road being among the pleasures.
Things got better from there really, and this year has seen some very exotic-sounding travels, to Sri Lanka, Singapore, Bangkok, and a return trip to Sydney and Melbourne, and finally Helsinki and Vienna. To be honest, some of this was more road-from-airport-then-meetings than anything, but it was fun nonetheless. As I often point out, this might create the illusion of a jet-set lifestyle, but these trips were intersperesed with a great deal of not moving much at all. And actually, some of the UK trips, especially one to Falmouth, were rather pleasing with much less of the jetlag to cope with.
Those airmiles contributed to it being a great year for the deepening of friendships. I’ve seen way more of Viv this year than all the others put together. Plus I got to work for the first time with some other folks I’d long wanted to – such as Chris Corrigan and Geoff Brown. Plus Anne Pattillo, who I’d not met before but hope to again. I suspect we’ll all fondly remember the after-gig entertainment in Melbourne where we improvised a self-mocking song to mark our first shared collaboration, and I mischievously smuggled its chorus into an apparently serious radio interview the same evening.
I’ve made a lot of excursions to Cambridge, where I’m thinking of moving, the property stresses mentioned earlier having been (fingers crossed) resolved.
A theme that has reverberated with me this year has been the difference it makes for people to gather around a purpose other than just making money. I’ve met some remarkable professionals in the humanitarian aid world which brought this home to me, as have some of my meetings with social entrepreneurs here in London.
I think for a few months I noticed I was feeling a bit bored hosting open space, even though I thought it was working well for people. I settled for “living in the question” of why that was, stuck with it, and have found I’ve re-engaged with it at a new level of interest. I’m increasingly preoccupied with the challenge it poses to people in general, and me especially, to name what it is we want and give clear expression to it, rather than merely dropping hints and hoping for the best.
I’ve also been learning more acutely how much I come alive in good conversation, and how easy it is for me to withdraw when I don’t get it… a circle that can be virtuous or vicious depending which way I play it. I’ve become more conscious of holding the space to just be in conversation, letting go of the temptation to make things happen and in so doing turn the other person into an instrument.
I’ll tempt fate by summarising the arc of the year as one from anxiety to calm, though that is a transition I make multiples times each day, and in the other direction too.
So having rambled, I now get to pick my word for year and – notwithstanding the jetting about – I’m going to go with slowing. I’d like to think I’m slowing down, and in a good way.
As for 2011, I’m going to hope for… connectedness. But we’ll see….
Thanks for indulging me… and I hope you’ll be tempted to join in.