I haven’t always thought of keywords as powerful, but they now play a key role in making my life less stressful and more infused with meaning. I have dabbled with keywords over the years, as my friend, Joycelyn, has developed and used keyword lists in countless ways. As she points out, single words can “evoke a concept or a mood or an attitude or a way of being , . . [that] can send you off on a journey . . .” As someone who knows how the written word can inspire, motivate, heal, and challenge, I had failed to recognize how much power can reside in a single word. But there was no denying the power it held for for Joycelyn, or the impact it was having on her life.
A few months ago, she challenged me to select a seasonal keyword for fall. She had chosen one, as well as a song to go with it. I had to admit, the idea came at a perfect moment. A thematic focus was something I certainly needed. I was feeling really scattered and overwhelmed. And her explanation of using the keyword for a season at a time made sense to me. Choosing a focus for a year was a little too long, but changing every month might be too often, but a season seemed just right. I felt like Goldilocks and that I had just found the perfect bowl of porridge.
My Fall Keyword
I hemmed and hawed over my selection, looking for the right keyword. One that captured my motivation, my inspiration for the season. I was already well aware of the consequences of my over-commitment, and I needed something to help me focus; something to help ground me when I started to feel overwhelmed by the seeming impossibility of ever catching up. I eventually settled on clamoring. For me, it evoked an image of lots of things all vying for my attention. For one reason or another, one (or several) would emerge as the top contenders at any given time, until something else was pushed into consciousness, sometimes by internal urgency, but more often something clamoring from outside. The point is that even the things from outside could be traced back to my unbridled assumption of tasks, ideas, and projects.
Interestingly, I had a really hard time coming up with a song, whose lyrics fit my theme. Realistically, I had to acknowledge, looking for the “perfect” song for my theme of clamoring seemed to be pointless considering all the things on my already overly-full to-do list. I moved to classical music and settled relatively quickly on Ravel’s Bolero. The dissonance throughout the relentless rhythm that builds and builds throughout the piece seemed to fit the way I felt about all the clamoring. But I also thought that maybe having a visual focal point was as helpful to me as the aural one. After looking around, I found this painting, Clamor, by Gustave Miller (see website). I love how it all the parts of it try to demand equal attention. I was ready.
The power contained in that keyword changed my life throughout the fall. I became more and more conscious of how my life was slipping away because of all the things clamoring for my attention. I hardly had a moment to think. The power of that word led me to my conscious decision to have a moratorium on new responsibilities and to focus on making space in my life for what was really important. In fact, I needed space to discover what I actually think is important. My schedule has dictated what I do, and I need to find time to listen to my heart instead of my calendar. My calendar needs to serve me, not the other way around.
My Winter Keyword
As fall leads to winter, my keyword clamor led me to a new keyword for winter. Clearing. I’m a little late in choosing this one, but it’s perfect in terms of the school calendar. We just finished our 18 week semester. I have four weeks before classes start again. I need to see how much of these excess responsibilities I can move through before classes begin. I will also build in restorative breaks, reflection time, and other gifts of time to help bring a sense of space and well-being to my hectic life. I will make friends with the calendar and with myself.
The picture on the left will become my visual cue for this season. I especially like its title, A Clear Path. As I explore the keyword clearing over the next several weeks, I like the image of creating a path to the new life that I will envision during this time. For music, I’m going to use Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I will primarily use Winter, but since I want to reconnect with my sense of the seasons, the entire album will be a good way to reconnect with the seasons, as I use my semester break for clearing.