In Three Words: 2011

My long term love affair with words shows no sign of abating. I am not alone. Readers and writers alike appreciate the transformative power of words, their etymology, and the satisfaction that arises out of using them as one would a lovingly-worn tool or artisan-wielded brush. Some think I take words too far, using many when a few would do, or making a choice for multiple syllables over simplicity. I remain blissfully guilty.

I felt validated when I encountered a recent review of Wieslaw Mysliwski’s newly-translated book, Stone Upon Stone, (affiliate link). We’re told the book is one big fixation on words, “a dizzying array of memories and stories that are meant to convey all the prisms of one life lived. . . This abundance of verbal explosion can get tiring at times, but can also be exhilarating.” Mysliwski’s work is significant because it weaves the importance of shaping one’s own life within universal experiences such as rebellion, nostalgia and inherited destiny. But what I love is what he tells us about words:

When it comes down to it, what are you given other than words?. . .And how many of those unsaid words stay in each person and die with him, and not with him, and they aren’t any use to him either in his suffering, or in his memory? So why do we make each other be silent, on top of everything else? – Wieslaw Mysliwski

Why indeed?

Last year’s post, in which I chose My Three Words for 2010, resonated with our readers throughout the year. My somewhat tongue-in-cheek selection, “Drink.More.Champagne.” riffed on an annual habit of Chris Brogan‘s, which has inspired many. Chris tends to select disparate words rather than phrases – see his selections for 2011 here. He also shares, via Google Reader and social media, other bloggers’ selections. Most are aspirational and inspirational, in keeping with the spirit of resolving to do better and be better so prevalent in a season of new beginnings.

“Drink.More.Champagne” was about celebrating more, honoring and elevating ordinary moments, and not waiting or deferring the opportunity to do so. This choice would prove portentious (now there’s a word!) as Pete and I traveled through 2010. A look back on the chances we had to celebrate and enjoy certain moments brings an entirely different lens on them.

Losing Pete’s mother made us realize how things can change seemingly in an instant, forever altered. A young acquaintance who suddenly went missing, after having shared our table earlier in the year, and who remains disappeared as of this writing, is another sobering reminder. Two in this photo from only months ago. Beginning another cancer-based journey with Pete’s dad in the fall (he has beat it!), yet another.

Happier memories of our year include deepening our online friendship with our friend Dot, of Deeper Issues, who consented on the spur of another moment to visit us in person over Thanksgiving. Regular get-togethers with beloved family and friends took on a richer, more vivid patina.  Through it all, I was able to Drink.More.Champagne. and induce others to do the same.

Our week in Florida over the Christmas holiday allowed me to finally download the story of the Widow Clicquot (affiliate link), whose 19th century champagne business empire partially inspired my choice a year ago. If you’ve not read this fascinating story, it’s a tale made most remarkable by sure-footed boldness and willingness to risk. Funding her business with a significant personal financial stake (the equivalent of several millions of current dollars throughout her lifetime), she went on to build an international thirst for her product and a sterling reputation for consistent quality.

What I learned from the widow’s story:

1.  Learn from, but don’t dwell on mistakes. When thousands of fragile bottles of champagne were blockaded by war from reaching their destination and began to spoil in the heat, she salvaged what she could and pressed on.

2.  Devise innovative work-arounds. When political machinations prevented her chartered ships from departing a Dutch port, she hired ground transport to get her product to other harbors, circumventing the issue ahead of her competition.

3.  Maintain awareness of changing circumstances. Knowing where you stand is imperative. Convolutions in 19th century French politics meant moving between aristocratic and proletarian worlds. The widow Clicquot and her partners understood the nuances and positioned themselves to advantage through strategic political alliances and declarations.

4.  Evaluate the implications. Meticulous account books in the widow’s own hand survive in the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin archives. Growing conditions and tastes in fashion affected her production capabilities; political shifts necessitated precautions to ensure long term storage in order to age her product; competitive advantage wrought the need for identification – first corks were branded, and then bottle labels were developed.

5.  Remain focused. Branching off into banking and construction, as well as foreign outsourcing, nearly ruined the House of Clicquot et Ponsardin. Letting go of these business diversions and returning to her core capabilities allowed the Widow Clicquot and her descendants to maintain their prominence with the Champagne region.

Learning about and appreciating a purposeful example is a great way to cap one year, and an inspiring springboard from which to begin another. The lessons derived from our collection of personal experiences and the widow’s story, are as clear and effervescent as the bubbles that travel to the surface in a glass of her sparkling wine:

  • celebrate the ordinary and present moments;
  • act with purpose;
  • seek out the company of those you love;
  • minimize the impact of persons and actions that don’t serve your best interests;
  • don’t defer an opportunity for enjoyment;
  • understand that a journey may be altered in an instant by circumstances outside your control;
  • be open to opportunities;
  • let go deliberately and gracefully.

  • How to distill these conclusions within three words that would serve as reminders of them all? Not without difficulty! Thinking, reviewing, and pondering, I kept hearing one phrase. Over and over again, it presented itself as the mantra that would accompany me in 2011:

    Only. What. Matters.

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    1. says

      Only. What. Matters. I LOVE it!!!!! It so resonates with my word which is passion. And by choosing passion, I am choosing to let go of the things and people that don’t bring passion into my life. The things that Don’t matter. My friend, we are truly in sync this year. I look forward to the journey and I bet we drink lots of champagne too!
      Wendi Kelly-Life’s Little Inspirations has an awesome blog post here: The Year of PassionMy Profile

      • Betsy Wuebker says

        Hi Wendi – I suspected that your choice would be bold, just as you have hit your stride with all the wonderful accomplishments of late and on the horizon. And, after you shared how you waged war against clutter last year, the concept has migrated metaphorically into letting go and continuing on your soar. Congrats! And yes, it’s so invigorating to consciously let go of things that impede, and ultimately don’t matter. Pop the corks!

    2. says

      Okay, I distinctly remember your announcement of your three words for 2010 because they made me chuckle. Holy smokes, where did a year go?

      I recently chose my one word for 2011. It is POWER. But you have inspired me to expand that to three words:


      Here’s to ONLY.WHAT.MATTERS for 2011!
      Eliza has an awesome blog post here: Diet- Detox and DoodieMy Profile

      • Betsy Wuebker says

        Hi Eliza – Time sure flies when we’re having fun! I love your choice, and I agree: phrasing expands and strengthens. How could I not. 😀 I love your choice and I know you are well along the path of empowering your future with your recent decisions and modifications. Congrats!

    3. says

      Hi Betsy,

      Happy New Year. I LOVE your three words for 2011. They say so much; kinda like “don’t sweat the small stuff”.

      I haven’t picked my word for the year yet, but am leaning toward “hope” or “hopeful” as I believe 2011 will be an awesome year for all of us.
      Barbara Swafford has an awesome blog post here: Trust Me – It Gets EasierMy Profile

      • Betsy Wuebker says

        Hi Barbara – Welcome back from your hiatus! You’re right, my words are about priorities and deliberately choosing what to do in their context. It’s a good extension of “mindful” in 2009, and all the champagne in 2010 for me. I, too, believe 2011 is going to bring great things. Let us know when you’ve made your choice of words. We’re ready! 🙂

      • Betsy Wuebker says

        Hello, dear Lori! Thank you for validating my choice. I love that your awareness, which I so admire, has led you to your choice. Deliberate and gracefully, as I learned above, just.let.go. Total freedom. Love it!

    4. says

      Hi Betsy .. I remember your champagne coloured words last year and commented thrillingly on the thought .. well I never much of an impact into your idea – sadly life had other paths for me to follow .. and this year continues on – but the words I’ve been using – because they seem to epitomise my life “So Be It” .. and I just bypass that hassle, extra load etc etc .. and let life take its course .. as has started this year off .. my mother’s flat has been sold, slightly under my nose – so one So Be It! – and now we’re clearing it this week .. one & a half days .. 300 miles away! Wonderful .. I have to go back this week … So Be It!

      Actually the chap who’s buying it is a real local Cornish man – family has a farm just out of the village, his brother has a garden nursery the other side of the village and his 96 year old mother still lives on her own in the village! Mum’s great friend will be happier with someone living next door – and he’s really enthusiastic to live there .. wonderful for us = going to a good home. So that is a good So Be It!

      The last two New Years I thought I’d get a break .. but I’m up and running already into more loads .. oh well somewhere along the line they’ll get lighter!!

      I’m pleased to hear Pete’s Dad has been cleared .. must be such a relief, especially after losing Pete’s mother earlier .. and now the young friend disappearing .. very challenging times for their family.

      I love your use of words and stories .. the Widow Clicquot champagne sounds a wonderful real life history .. really interesting ..

      Looking forward to more history tales, stories of Minnesota .. and all things interesting .. with love for the New Year to you both .. Hilary
      Hilary has an awesome blog post here: Confiscated Booze- Rock Dust and Turkeys what do they have in commonMy Profile

      • Betsy Wuebker says

        Hi Hilary – It sounds as though your New Year has started off at a trot. Your “So Be Its” will keep you on the path of acceptance and your energies will remain positive in the face of developments you can’t control. It’s an enormously freeing and satisfactory way to live, I think, and deals quite nicely with unexpected twists and turns. “Pressing on,” as they say. We all must! Thanks and looking forward to more adventures on your end, too! 🙂

    5. says

      Hey Betsy another wonderful post to read tonight – last before I turn in for the night.

      What a difference a year makes and I so love your new words for 2011.

      Only one word is popping into my head these days – FLOW – which I am thinking about in terms of stopping my river pushing behavior… which is very difficult indeed for me; kind of a moment by moment reminder.

      My neighbor had a heart attack yesterday morning, I am just here and available to help and that seems to be my best angle/nice to not be in charge but to just stand by. I feel very disappointed in myself for not healing more of my body and now have run out of funds again for any medical care, so I just keep running through the blessings like the ripples over the rocks in a stream. (It took me 2 years but now my movable ribs expand again with my diaphragm and no severe pain)

      I find I don’t love words so much right now; quiet yes.
      Nice to have the computer repaired, but know I need to get a back up handy as the laptop I have is not working for me – too old.

      Lovely post and lovely use of words….I’ll come back and read again. Thank you for sharing.

      • Betsy Wuebker says

        Hi Patricia – Another aspect of acceptance in your chosen word, as in going with the flow, yet also tapping into creative flow. Movement and harmony – really a very wonderful choice and reflective, as you say, of progress and where you are now. It’s illuminating how many of us are embracing the present in this fashion, and letting go of our need to be or do whatever. And you’re right, it does increase the appreciation factor as well. 🙂

    6. says

      Hi Betsy, lovely post. I too love words. So my three words: Happy New Year! 2010 was an odd year, I don’t seem to have many of those, thank goodnes, but 2011 feels different in some way. Happy New Year to you.

      Enjoy the journey.

      Mandy Allen has an awesome blog post here: A New Year BeginsMy Profile

      • Betsy Wuebker says

        Hi Mandy – I’m with you, 2011 feels different and filled with promise, even more so than one might assign just because the calendar has changed. Thank you for your comment. 🙂

    7. says

      Take. It. Happy.

      Was going to say easy. But I like happy better.

      I like this one, Betsy… “minimize the impact of persons and actions that don’t serve your best interests.” I like that a lot. And will keep it in mind on my journey.

      So sad about the missing young person. We just never know what’s ahead. We must love each moment.

      Jannie Funster has an awesome blog post here: Laguna Gloria- Austin TexasMy Profile


    1. […] Only.What.Matters (2011)  These words led to clarity and simplification, not only in what we did, but what we expected. I wanted to implement the principles of acting purposefully as well as choosing to minimize the impacts of persons and situations that didn’t serve us well. At the same time, I ceded a fair amount of control in exchange for trust in the Lord’s plan, which is revealed in accordance with His wishes, not mine. This focus was hewn from loss, but its gift had great reach. […]