My sister and I often choose a word for the year. My word for 2018 was renovate. Here's what I wrote in this blog post on Jan. 1: "Some years I try to choose a word that will be a motto or mantra for the coming year. This year's word is either "Remodel" or "Renovation." Readers may remember that finishing the house renovations was my goal for 2017--and it was, but then, life (a huge accreditation project at work primarily) and Hurricane Irma, intervened."
The past year has been one of renovating, not just a remodel. We've lived with a variety of inconveniences: floors ripped up and then put back into shining shape, a kitchen ripped out and still not back yet. Most of the furniture moved out of the main house and lots of thinking about what we want back in the house. We had the hurricane damaged fence and rolling gate removed and gotten a new fence. We've gotten a new HVAC system for the cottage. We've had damaged walls fixed.
It's no wonder I've been tired much of the year.
Sometimes it feels like we're not making any progress, since we're still making our morning coffee in the bathroom, with most of the books and CDs packed away in boxes, on and on this list can go. But we are making progress.
And it's been interesting to reflect on our possessions. If I can do without my books for half a year, do I really need them? If I haven't needed the variety of art supplies I've collected through the years, is it worth keeping them?
This process will be an ongoing one--indeed, in many ways, it's the life work that most of us do at some point. I would argue that those of us who are most self-aware are always doing a version of this: what is necessary? what can be cast away? what is impeding our progress?
Let me reflect on some other aspects of 2018.
It's the time of year when writers report how many submissions they made. I did keep submitting poems and short stories to journals, but I didn't do as much with my book length manuscripts.
I did keep writing. That feels significant. I also engaged with my creative self in other ways, most notably in the online journaling class that began on Nov. 4 and lasted 7 weeks.
I continued to try to create community at my school where I work. Some might question whether creating community is part of my job description, but it's the work that undergirds the other work, the keeping of records, the reporting of data, the strategizing about how to improve the chance of student success at all levels.
And I continued to stay engaged with my church, another site of community creating. I was most pleased with our Pentecost project, where we engaged with the idea of Pentecost through a variety of art projects (see this post, this post, and this post). I'm grateful to have a group of people willing to participate in these projects.
My sister and I have decided that our word for 2019 will be treasure. I found this quote that spoke to me in Anne Lamott's Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace: "Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure." I feel like so much of my life lately has been a rebuilding of life out of the ruins: hurricane ruins, the closing of a variety of schools including the one I where I used to work, which makes me feel uneasy, and the many ways that midlife reminds us that big changes are underway. I need this quote to remind me that it won't all result in mourning in the ruins. There may be treasure in the ruins too.