Thursday, February 2, 2012

in clover: Word

Have you chosen your word for the year?  

It’s all the buzz on the blogosphere.  New Year’s resolutions are old news.  They have been replaced with New Year’s words... one word to contemplate, to meditate on, for the entire year.  Last year, I had “a word.”  I didn’t choose it though.  It chose me.  That word was with me for most of 2011 and it led to numerous personal insights. It was a good word but it was last year’s word. 
I tried my best to choose a word for 2012.  I reflected.  I journaled.  I paid attention to words that had “energy.”  I even did a meditation designed to reveal my word.  For a few days I thought my word might be HOSPITALITY.  But I really, really wanted the word to choose ME and while the word HOSPITALITY did resonate for me, it seemed a bit forced.  Meanwhile, I began to get antsy because the newness of the new year was wearing off and I had no word. 

Now January has come and gone and I am fairly certain the word that has chosen me for 2012 is CREATIVITY.  

It’s odd that CREATIVITY would emerge as my word because right now, 

I am in a funk. 

At first I thought I was experiencing post-holiday fatigue but I’m ready to throw in the towel and officially call this a funk. This has happened before….very often in the gray days of January and February….but still, I am disappointed that it has happened to me, again.   I had envisioned a cozy winter spent enjoying hearth and home… snow days, reading (lots of!) books, watching movies by the fire, eating yummy wintery food, playing board games and working on needlework.   Maybe ultra-organizing my closet.  Or trying my hand at painting. Something. 

Until a few days ago, I wouldn’t admit to the funk.  I said to myself (and to Michael), “I’m just tired from the holidays.  I need to rest.”  So I rested.  Then I said, “I am an introvert.  I need to stay home.”  So I stayed home. 

But my fatigue has not yet lifted. 

Winter blues….winter blahs….seasonal affect disorder….I don’t know…

I’m just not “myself.” 

These days I most often pull a black sweater and jeans from the closet because it’s easy and I wear the same pair of earrings every day.  I have to make myself cook.   And clean.  And read.   And write.   I have a stack of  creative projects I have looked forward to working on but I just don’t have the energy.  
This is not a black cloud…more like a light gray one.  I don’t think my family is exactly suffering.  I get up, I get dressed, I leave my house every day.  I have lunch with friends.  I welcome my work, as a spiritual director intern.  I do my homework and I help my kids with theirs.   Everyone has food to eat and clean clothes to wear and rides to their various practices. 

I just feel…..blah. 

I would like to leave this feeling of heaviness behind.  Right this minute.   But I know that is not how this works.   

Yesterday I read an interesting article by Martha Beck on the topic of lasting happiness.  In it, she proposes that many of us think we are seeking happiness…..but what we really are seeking is excitement.  She believes that culturally we are addicted to excitement and the adrenaline rush it brings.  She thinks we confuse a manic feeling with a happiness feeling.   She likens it to using the drug ecstasy. 

Then she writes about joy.  She says, True joy lacks the wild ups and downs of an excitement-based life. It's a peaceful landscape…. Indeed, it's so peaceful that, to our adrenaline-soaked culture, it looks rather plain. In fact, I like to think of it as the plains of peace.”


But it was the next part of the article that I found most interesting.  Beck explains, “…one day, while reading up on the latest research in positive psychology, I discovered a two-word instruction that reliably ushered me onto the plains of peace….Here it is: Make something."


She continues, "You see, creative work causes us to secrete dopamine, a hormone that can make us feel absorbed and fulfilled without feeling manic. This is in sharp contrast to the fight-or-flight mechanism, which is associated with hysteria hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Research indicates that we're most creative when we're happy and relaxed, and conversely, that we can steer our brains into this state by undertaking a creative task.

Huh?  I did not expect the main topic of an article written about happiness and joy to be CREATIVITY. Gratitude, sure.  Meditation and contemplation, absolutely.  But not CREATIVITY
I certainly was surprised to read about creativity and happiness together, in a “chicken or egg first” sort of way.  So interesting! And clearly, more proof that the word CREATIVITY has chosen me for 2012. 

“To get a dopamine "hit," make something that pushes you to the furthest edge of your ability, where you're not only focused but learning and perfecting skills. Cooking an unfamiliar dish will do the trick, as will perfecting a new clogging routine.”

So let me get this engaging in a creative pursuit, even though I might not "feel like it" right now, I can literally affect a what happens in my brain?  And I can feel happier and more relaxed which in turn leads to even more creativity?  That is amazing!  

I find that so empowering. 
“The aftermath of a creative surge, especially one that involves a new skill, is a sense of accomplishment and increased self-efficacy—which psychologists recognize as an important counter to depression…. you're left with the happy fatigue of someone who is building strength."

I'd really like to feel some of that "happy fatigue."    

And...get lasts....

"Pay attention to this process, and you'll...find yourself increasingly able to tune in to the delights of the present even when you're not actively creating. When this happens, you'll be on your way to genuine happiness: abundant, sustainable delight in the beautiful moments of ordinary life.”

I feel better already. 


It’s what’s for 2012. 




  1. So, will you clog for us Friday evening? My sister used to clog some so she can do it with you. :) I think you should make mayo! Seriously, it is so easy and so difficult. You must take your time or it will mess up. You have to pay attention and go slowly. It is more chemistry than cooking (but I guess most cooking is chemistry). I get such satisfaction from making a good batch. I once was so determined to get a good batch, I did it 3 times one day and all were failures. So the next day - I tried again and it was perfect. I think I was not going slow enough the first day.
    This was very nice!

  2. I knew someone would say something about the clogging! :)

    I will try the mayonnaise for sure. We are getting 5 or so eggs again now.

    The sun is shining at this moment so maybe I will go outside and soak up some vitamin d.

  3. Love your willingness to share your whole self via your blog. So few bloggers do. In my eyes, this makes you an artist, a writer, a creator already. Need to think about what my word might be...

    Wearing the same sweater, jeans, and earrings everyday and making yourself clean and cook. This "cloud" has happened to me twice. The first time it was diagnosed as low thyroid disease and the miracle of modern medicine dispersed the cloud in about a month. The second time, though, I self diagnosed. I realized that I had become an artist, a writer, a creator. Have you noticed how many really good painters, photographers, writers, and top-of-their-game people decide to wear the exact same thing everyday? Get help with the things that drain their energy? Decide to prioritize their creative gift above some of the things they used to prioritize and cut out distractions?

    I'm learning that it's not a selfish act to recognize yourself and move in the world as a creator. Because becoming more you frees those you touch to become more themselves too. I see it every day now. As we create and shed our fear about who we really are, we become living, breathing examples of joy, peace, and what is possible. It's contagious.

    Even from a distance it's clear that you have always been these things for your family. It's also clear that you always will be, even as you change. So my questions are: what if the desire to wear the same thing every day is actually a good thing? A shedding of something you no longer need? A loving and proper mourning period for a self that you're letting go of? Also, wouldn't it do Mike some good to do more cooking and cleaning for a while? ;-)

    I say this because I wear almost the same thing every day, I gave up earrings entirely, a friend helps clean our house, and cooking has become a community effort, so the direction you're moving, though not always easy, still sounds really good to me.

  4. Lori, I so appreciate your taking the time to comment. You have given me many things to consider...I think perhaps your comment might invite another blog post. I'm going to reflect on it. Lisa

  5. So beautiful Lisa :) Thank you for sharing with us. I always glean something wonderful from your blog.

    I stepped back into my 'creative world' this past year and it has brought tremendous, peaceful joy. Making something, whether it be a card, a felt flower, a clay rose, something, anything, always brightens my day. So... may I share your word for 2012?


  6. Today I have a free day from teaching here in Sri Lanka which is a both a curse and a blessing. I am excited to tidy my room, write a few letters, and get further in a few of my books, but as busy as I can attempt to be, there are always those in between moments where thoughts of home seep in. As of late, I've been struggling with culture shock, and some times the challenges of the every day seem insurmountable.

    With my extra time today however, I found your blog and hadn't read this last entry on creativity and spiritual fulfillment. I think it very serendipitous that I should read such encouraging words today. Also, I should mention that the word serendipity has its roots in the history of Sri Lanka (or at one time, the land of Seredib).

    To shake me from my own unique funk, I have scheduled language lessons and I have acquired a bike that I may explore my surroundings. One thing I hadn't considered though, was creativity. In fact, if I were asked to list my priorities, I would most likely place creativity at the last.

    But with my past American lifestyle so enriched with musical as well as artistic and culinary creativity, what a better way for me to regain some sense of self?

    I thank you infinitely for this post, and for helping me attempt to stand up on both feet on the other side of the globe.

    Many Blessings and Happy Lent!


  7. Juliana, Thank you for this lovely reflection. I'm so glad the post spoke to you, on the other side of the globe. Just before I received notification of your comment, I had been feeling sorry for myself and actually quite useless, thinking no one was listening so why bother. So, I thank you INFINITELY for your comment and for helping me attempt to stand up on both feet on this side of the globe. We love and miss you. Please share your creativity practice with us...would love to hear how that is for you. Peace and blessings to you, Juliana! Love, Lisa


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