Traveling by car for more than ten hours gives you plenty of time to think, even when the weather is dicey. When Pete and I set out to visit family in Michigan for the holidays, I welcomed the drive time.
It seemed as though the entire blogging world was filled with end of the year content: enumerating best posts, reviewing quantifiable results, looking forward to the New Year, wondering if it would be “okay” to unplug for a week or so without conceivable harm, and so on. Except here. “Oh well,” I thought to myself. “You’ll write something for PassingThru when you’re moved to write it.”
And the truth is, I wasn’t moved to write something until now. A post Chris Brogan wrote on January 1 resonated with me and I thought about it on our way back, all the way through Wisconsin. (And our friend Lance at The Jungle of Life knows just how long that is!) Chris selects three words each year to guide his goal-setting and keep him mindful of his objectives. It’s an admirable practice.
Last year, Lance asked what our word might be for 2009, quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes: “A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought, and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used.”
Lance chose as his 2009 word, “Courage.” Mine was “Mindful.” I commented, “My word is mindful. I think I’m fairly aware and observant, but, like Vered, I want to live more in the present. What’s done is done, and what comes will come. Right now needs to be vivid and abundantly enough.”
I mentally reviewed the events of 2009 as we hurtled westward on I-90 chasing a darkening sky. I had definitely been more mindful. Circumstances had aligned to cause Pete and me to abandon the past, and appreciate the things in our midst.
Our best outcomes were unveiled easily, logically, sequentially, and contained an element of joy. Worst outcomes have always been the ones where we struggled against the current, forcing a deal or reluctant result. We had finally said goodbye to activities that needed to go, and had opened our minds and hearts to new opportunities. We had celebrated and renewed relationships in the family. We had mourned, and we had rejoiced. It was all good.
Still, I wondered. What might the word be for 2010? Better yet, could I possibly come up with three words, as Chris did? Chris’s discussion centered on how his three words “sit above the actual goals, and set [his] guiding principles in place.” His post advised to “come up with something that would take more than a sentence to describe, but that when you think about it, the ideas explode out to fill your head with thoughts of how you might want to conduct yourself.” Words with life in them. Words made of bedrock, not clay. Words that would spark.
The blue moon’s remnant rose to our north and illuminated the frozen midwest landscape in the late afternoon of the first day of the year. As we stopped west of Black River Falls at the Club 95 for dinner, I set my thoughts aside and people-watched. The rural revelers were capping off the holidays. A waitress’s parents came in and she greeted them with unbridled delight and an “I love you.” New babies were content to be passed along to willing surrogates among several generations. At the bar where we sat, folks were greeted by name, and we felt comfortable joining in the good-natured banter.
Earlier, around Madison, we had tuned into Wisconsin Public Radio. The subject was champagne. Tilar Mazzeo, who had written The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It, mentioned this seminal quote from her book: Toward the end of her life, in the 1860s, she wrote to a great-grandchild: “The world is in perpetual motion, and we must invent the things of tomorrow. One must go before others, be determined and exacting, and let your intelligence direct your life. . .” Mindful, the Widow Clicquot was. Her words might have been “invent,” “go,” and “determination.”
On the show, Mazzeo also debunked the oft-quoted fable of Dom Perignon, who was said to have cried out after his first sip of his creation, “Come quickly! I am drinking the stars!” No matter, I thought. Champagne is by far one of the happiest accidents. The Widow Clicquot married her considerable entrepreneurial skills with her passion for creating a flawless, sparkling product for new markets in St. Petersburg and London. Mazzeo attributes the work of Madame Clicquot as paving the way toward “mass-culture celebration.”
As we completed the final 50 miles to the Twin Cities, I thought again of our own celebrations. Before we left for Michigan, we enjoyed the company of family and friends on a lovely winter Sunday afternoon. The champagne flowed freely, and we honored each other with gifts chosen or handmade from the heart.
When we arrived in Michigan, we celebrated with members of my family. My brother and sister and I had not been all together at Christmas in over thirty years. The following days we spent with cousins, for whom it had been more than forty. We toasted many times during the week, culminating with a midnight glass on New Year’s Eve. We honored those who had left us, and anticipated one new baby and two upcoming weddings.
As Pete and I rolled across the St. Croix River bridge, I had my three words. Not as business-focused, perhaps, as those Chris Brogan chose. Not as reverential as a more enlightened thinker might select. But definitely filling my head with ideas about how I might want to conduct myself, and easily taking more than a sentence to explain – even for someone not as wordy as me!
My three words remind me to not let the day-to-day distract me from celebrating what matters. I will appreciate and support. I will continue to let go of negative influences. I will seek out positive people and opportunities that constantly flow. I will enjoy life unfettered by needless worry of my own making. I enter the new decade filled with promise and good will.
My three words: Drink. More. Champagne.