One word. I’ve spent the Christmas break (in between barrages of exhaustive coughing) pondering on what my word is for the coming year. Why? Well, because apparently if one wants to change one’s life (presumably for the better) one should not focus on the externals (the new job, the new house, the new relationship, the new body, the new whatever) but on the feeling one wants. It’s all to do with intrinsic, as opposed to external, motivation (or so the lovely Danielle Marchant says).
Anyhow, it got me pondering. What is my word? What is it? When in doubt, deflect the question (that old journalistic trick). So I asked Kate and she planted her hands on her hips and said, firmly, ‘Strong. I want to feel strong.’
And I asked Sherry and she narrowed her eyes, pursed her lips and then said, slowly, sensually, ‘Passionate. That’s how I want to feel. Passionate. About everything.’
And it was tempting to nick both those as it would be very nice to feel both passionate and strong, but they weren’t right. Not quite yet anyhow. So I asked Jane, who had appeared on New Year’s Eve bearing champagne, tulips and seven loaves of bread (yup, seven. I’d asked if she could detour via Blackstock Road and pick up a couple of flatbreads but she had gone to Waitrose instead and basically bought up the bread counter). ‘What is your word?’ I said, as we sat by the fire (she glugging red wine and nibbling nuts; me mainlining lemon and honey and chewing garlic). ‘Hmm,’ she said. ‘Happiness.’
‘Nooo,’ I spluttered. ‘That’s too vague. What does happiness mean?’
‘Contentment?’ she suggested, tentatively. I shook my head, firm in my conviction that there had to be more. One shouldn’t settle for ‘contented.’ It’s just too…much like giving up somehow. Isn’t it? Maybe not.
‘Nope, sorry,’ she said, opening another bottle. ‘I just want life to be easy for once.’ And I get that, I really do. But it still wasn’t right. Not for me.
And so I turned to images, as I often do when words defeat me. And I found that there was a theme; that they spoke a different language – one, not of my usual earth and my beloved fire and water, but of air. And I don’t usually *do* air – it’s not my element at all. Yet there it was…
And I coughed again and had to stop myself laughing because, of course, what is a chest infection but a problem of air, or lack thereof? I even wrote about it in The Natural Year, my book on seasonal living. About how coughing is, symbolically, the body trying to expel anything it doesn’t want – not just mucus and phlegm, but old emotions – ‘of taking in new energy and breathing out the spent; of taking in hope and expansive spirit and breathing out everything that is stagnant and repugnant for the soul.’
And it came to me that my word, for now, might be Lightness. I need to feel light again. I've had enough of feeling heavy, and claggy, and generally golem-esque, a creature of clay, bound by earth. I want to fly, to lift up, to feel free and joyous and light and bright.
So. Light. That’ll do nicely. For now.
How about you?