Three Words 2018: Less, Dwell, Write

In the last few years I have been choosing some focus words for each year, rather than a New Year’s Resolution. In 2018, after reflecting on the words and things I learned in 2017, I decided on the word ‘less’, ‘dwell’ and ‘write’. Of all the years I’ve been doing this, it feels like this year was the biggest fail — it seemed like I managed to do the opposite of each these!

Firstly, ‘less’. The idea here was to think carefully about my committments for work and home and life and to do less, better. Instead, I somehow managed to visit and make films in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Australia, Italy, Ireland and China, read and edit some 60 odd chapters for the Handbook of Diverse Economies, resubmit my book manuscript after editor’s comments, continue to actively supervise 8 PhD students while on the panels for another 2, attend 3 conferences while organising and chairing an upcoming one in Christchurch, begin major renovations on our home (still underway), assist two PhD students to submit, take the family to Australia for an entire school term (and budget for that from my travel allowances), run and do fieldwork for my first funded research project as Principal Investigator, settle my son into his first year at school, oh, and yes, get pregnant with my fourth (!) child — born mid December after a month of false starts or practice labour. I also added in doing some personal training, seeing a counsellor, participating in a trial on maternal mental health and nutrition, and a more regular meditation or centreing prayer practice — you know, just to cope. Add to that the usual things of committees, teaching loads, board memberships, article writing and reviewing (more about that later), co-ordinating and pastoral care for postgraduate students in my department, attending school events for my older two children, singing in a church band, a large garden, writing off our car, a few trips to the North Island to see family members, some sick.

I don’t think this qualifies as doing less. Or perhaps, the only thing I was doing less of was meeting friends and meeting deadlines.

Secondly, ‘dwell’. The idea behind this was to really live in the moment and appreciate what was going on around me, to focus and dwell in the thing I was doing rather than getting worried about the future or ruminating over past mistakes or hurts. Instead, particularly after I found I was pregnant (while travelling in Bhutan!), and subsequently the inadequate maternity leave at my institution, I have been worrying and scheming about the future. As well as analysing and ruminating on how I got myself into this sort of situation. I haven’t been home enough with my kids to dwell easily with them or just sit and appreciate their presence, and while I have been practicing meditation and centreing prayer (a kind of dwelling in silence), it is of course only for some 20 minutes a day. Eventually, I managed to organise finances for the next year that gives me some 9 weeks of paid maternity leave plus being able to work from home on sabbatical for the first semester of the year (phew). Although I’m still worried about coping with a new baby, at least we won’t get our house repossessed by the bank, and my husband can take care of the other children and the baby as much as possible while I continue editing the handbook. On the plus side, once baby Casimir arrived I was able to sit and dwell on newborn cuddles for the last few weeks of the year while everyone looked after us.

Thirdly, ‘write’. To be fair, there is some writing going on, but most of my time this year has been based on reading other people’s writing and giving feedback. This includes editing duties and supervisory duties as well as marking. On the plus side, I somehow managed to get my book back in to the editor (a few mini 2-day writing retreats in Kaikoura helped there, as well as half my time in Italy was focused on this in the wonderful monastery at Bolsena), and to co-author a few pieces with wonderful people. One of these pieces I managed to rewrite from scratch (some 4000 words) in a single day! Yet, in the end, a sense of failure here too because this was really supposed to be my main focus this year, in particular writing for the forthcoming Handbook of Diverse Economies.

Ironically, one of the things I did near the end of the year was to run a workshop at my daughter’s alternative school on time management and bullet journalling. I don’t know how I would have got through the year without bullet journalling, but still, it is very ironic that my own goals for doing less, dwelling in the moment, and writing more have not really been achieved this year! A lot of other stuff has, however. The question now is, if you fail your three words, do you repeat them next year? Or does it indicate a misfit with the realities of life?

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