22 January | Travel
All my life I wasn't honest enough and I thought I would never get over you
Sahara Pt. II, Bear's Den
Is there anything left to say about 2016? Libraries’ worth of articles, tweets and ‘what the fuck’ conversations are trying to understand the year that was. So instead I am going to share how I start and spend each new year with a new word, because your life is not going to magically change at 12:01am (and if it did, please do share).
It all started back in 2015 when I was travelling and couchsurfing across North America. The word ‘grace’ kept showing up everywhere – on street signs, in song lyrics, and in things I was reading. Grace, hey? It was not a new word to me and it initially sounded kind of meek and meh. Certainly not very exciting or adventurous. Until I really thought about the state of grace.
Grace is soft, reflective and yet cutting edge self-awareness. Grace is throwing all your patience at your anxiety, knowing it will pass. Grace is knowing you will live through this dark night of the soul, like you have the others, even though it god damn hurts so bad. Grace is, as poet Rupi Kaur puts it, ‘to remain kind in cruel situations’.
I once met a woman who was grace personified in a yoga course when I lived in New York City. I was in awe of her presence and I couldn’t figure out why. She was magnetising, present and humble. My friend and I were discussing her as we walked home and she said: “She has a big Self. It’s so nice just to be in the same room with her”. That’s grace, self with a capital S.
It’s easy to live through a word when the going is good. But you really get to know grace when you get completely blindsided. If you think a one-word resolution is going to stop heartbreak and bewilderment, it won’t. But one word can save you. When a full blown Before Sunrise scenario turns sour. When you cancel your ticket to Florence. When you text your words carefully with grace, and you’re glad you did because the reply is: ‘My dad died yesterday’.
“Grace is earned… we don’t come to grace; grace comes to us.”
On to 2016 and my word for the year – flow. Sounds like the sound of a gentle river running. I’m calm already.
Flow is something you truly have to embrace from the get-go or it will engulf you, and you may metaphorically drown. The key to flow is not forcing life. Accepting what is meant for you and letting go of what isn’t. The latter is truly difficult for me WHEN YOU WANT SOMETHING SO BAD IT HURTS. This is the love of my life! Hello dream job with travel perks! The opportunity of a lifetime – I’ll take it!
When you try to trick flow by forcing things, you think up every reason and angle why the Universe is wrong on this particular occasion and why you are right. But truly living in flow means your life is bigger than any one experience (thanks Oprah) and things take the time they take (thanks Mary Oliver) which means you will get what you want – just not in the way you had imagined.
The gifts of flow are synchronistic events and serendipitous moments finding us. You soon realise that all your plans have other plans for you. Sometimes I thought I could outsmart flow. I would override my gut instincts to gently manipulate (read: force) situations into spontaneous manifestation. Even though the heart wants what it wants (DAMMIT), flow don’t give a shit.
A year of living the word ‘flow’ taught me that presence is pure gold. I learnt Vedic meditation after an unexpected wayoutofleftfield redundancy, and spent a week without digital dopamine to find my centre again. I know people say ‘the present moment is exactly where you need to be’ but in reality, it takes a lot of inner power to live that. I found flow in likely and unlikely places, and once you live a word: you carry it with you for life.
“And the answer comes: Already am, already was, and I still have time to be.” – Anis Mojgani
My word for 2017 surprised me. It’s a quiet word. I’ve never used it before. It sounds quasi-religious and old school. And I don’t actually know what it means.
But yet I am inextricably drawn to the idea of this word: doing things with intention, deep respect and trusting timing. One friend described how in Japan, the most ordinary of actions like constructing a bento box in a busy lunch shop are done with care and beauty, without rush. I am going to spend 2017 in pursuit of profound awe (noun: a feeling of reverential respect mixed with wonder) and reverence – which means very little to me right now but I know it will.
Pick a word that resonates.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand it.
Spend the year living it.