This morning as I opened my journal to write down a few thoughts to start my day, a folded piece of paper slipped out from between the pages and fell to the floor. I leaned over to pick it up and smiled as I unfolded the sheet of paper to see my handwriting scrawled across the page in all the available free space front and back. I’m constantly writing notes on scraps of paper, and they’re tucked in strange places in my books, day planner and are scattered across my desk. I love those moments when you happen across a note that can transport you back to emotions and thoughts from the past.
I had written all over this piece of paper last February or March while I was in America. I had been quite moved when I read Michelle Fabio’s post My One-Word Theme for 2011: Now, and I was writing down the thoughts that her post had challenged me to think about. What was important for me to work on this year? After falling to my feet this morning by chance, now seems to be the perfect time to share what I had written earlier this year.
I’ve been searching for my word for this year, sometimes actively thinking about it and mulling over different words – sitting with a certain word for a few days to see how it fits or being completely at a loss to find a word other days. But, as so often happens with me, it’s in the moments when my mind is occupied fully elsewhere that some of the most significant thoughts come to me. That’s when I heard a whispering as the word “reflect” settled into my mind and sat there quietly. The feeling was so calm and natural, and that’s when I realized I had found what I was looking for in my life. There was no more thinking, no more doubting or wondering if I had found my one-word theme for the year. It had arrived.
I could feel immediately that this was what I was missing. I’m really good at being busy. In fact, I don’t think I’m particularly good at not being busy. My idea of relaxing is cooking, sewing, knitting, or doing something creative with my hands. I relax through motion and activities that keep me present. That’s who I am, and I’ve come to accept that I’ll likely never be the sort of person to lay in the sun on the beach or do whatever it is that other people do when they relax. I love that about myself actually.
But I do know the danger is that it’s all too easy to get caught up in the busyness of life. There are always too many things to do and too many distractions that pull me away from the beauty of every day life. I love my daily life so much, and I don’t like the feeling of falling asleep thinking that it is all going by too quickly sometimes. I’m afraid of missing what I love because I’m not paying close enough attention.
The longer I’ve been in Italy, the more I’ve been able to understand that reflection is not simply about slowing down. Yes, I must practice good habits of making time to take leisurely walks and disconnect from work. But what I’ve been searching for this year is something more than just a change in my physical habits. It’s the mental act of being in the now, of being mindful of the present moment. N0t just making dinner, but being fully aware of the sound of the sauce bubbling on the stove, the scents that waft out when I lift the lid to give it a stir, the feel of the lettuce as the cool water runs over it in the sink and the pleasure that comes from creating a meal to enjoy with your loved ones.
I’ve realized that in many ways these thoughts are moving in the same direction as Michelle’s “now,” which is why her words struck such a deep chord when I read them in January. It’s making the choice to become mentally and physically present, and to reflect on how those moments fill our life. Every one of those present moments create our life and who we are.
While it may be August, I am happy to be able to finally answer the question Michelle posed to her readers back in January. “Reflect” is the word that has stuck with me throughout this year and served as a nearly constant reminder to come back to the present moment. And that is preciscely where I want to be!
Is there word or theme that has changed your way of thinking in 2011?