Explorations great and small

The whole idea of the “one word” for the year as your overarching New Year’s resolution has intrigued me.  Not because I intentionally eschew resolutions, but because it does seem a simple way of creating a theme, or focus, maybe even a “mission statement” for the year ahead.

This year, my word is EXPLORE.

The most obvious incarnation of this word in my year ahead will be to travel parts of the world I have never explored before.  But the word also means “explore” in a more general sense: to see the familiar with new eyes.  To make a more thorough examination of my surroundings; to recreate the experience of being a tourist in my own town and region.

It struck me, one time when I was traveling to a distant area of our own country, that the people in this quaint, fascinating, and beautiful place actually got to live here all the time.  How cool, and how lucky for them!  I doubted they ever got sick of their adorable town, never took for granted the history that made up their communal understanding of who they were, never felt bored whenever they drove across town to Walmart, or longed to visit anywhere else.

But the truth is, familiarity gets the better of all of us.  No matter what fabulous location you may inhabit, or what lovely views you have out of your window every day, the vast majority of us eventually take it for granted.  It is human nature.  It’s easy to look past the sights you see each day amidst the routine of daily life.

Travel can help.  Every time I return from a trip, I am struck anew with how much I love where I live.  After having been a tourist for a few days or a week, I am still stuck in “tourist mode” and it seems that mentality transfers over for the next few days.  I think, “What do visitors find interesting about my town?”  and, “What would I write about in a guidebook to this place?”.  It helps me to refocus on the wonder and pleasure of my own “place I call home”.

Those of us who lack the means or time to travel can still experience this.  It takes a little more imagination, but trying to see things differently is the name of the game.  Is there some restaurant you’ve been dying to try?  A museum exhibit that you haven’t seen yet?  Maybe visit a new park and try to write a review in your mind of its best features and how you might recommend it to a friend?  Any places outside the city limits but within a short drive that might offer a great picnic spot or opportunity for a vigorous easy hike (hey, I’ve got energetic, yet easily tired – go figure – youngsters!)  What sites might you encourage out-of-town friends or relatives to visit?  Which places in town would rank as your “Must See” sights?  Blogger Shauna Fontaine at Days to Come has this great post that also has some great tips to get you thinking about that!

Another aspect of “explore” for me is also to spend a little more quality time with myself this year.  Through prayer/meditation I really would like to become a little more centered, a little more OK with myself, get a little better understanding of who it is God wants me to be.  Getting time to explore one’s own psyche is pretty difficult when chasing one’s kiddos around all day long, but I want to try to make it a priority this year.