Word of the Year: Tone, Or, On the Ease of Moving Between States

tone noun \ˈtōn\
9 a : the state of a living body or of any of its organs or parts in which the functions are healthy and performed with due vigor

b : normal tension or responsiveness to stimuli; specifically : muscular tonus
10 a : healthy elasticity : resiliency
b : general character, quality, or trend
c : frame of mind : mood

- Miriam Webster Dictionary

Around this time in the Gregorian calendar, many people pick a word — a single word — they wish to invoke, experience, or focus on for the coming year. I’m normally not a meme sort of person, but today, for this year, a word came to me. It’s a word that came up for me again and again in 2011.

I have a strong body, capable of birthing 8 and 10lb babies, of carrying my children in my arms and on my back, of giving massage as deep or as light as needed, of lifting and bending and dancing and loving. And I have a strong mind, capable of surviving infancy and toddlerhood and (as my friends call it) The Fucking Fours, of crafting words into shapes beautiful, touching, and persuasive in turn, of thinking deeply and broadly, of feeling deeper and acutely, of dreaming and laughing and dancing and loving.

But what I lack — no, what I have capacity and the desire to develop further — is the ability to move between these states. My mind is capable of so much focus, on a single feeling or an idea, and of so much breadth, so many feelings and ideas, but is not yet skilled at taking each in turn in a way that leaves me with tangible accomplishments (posts, submissions, lists, emails and obligations responded to promptly). My body is capable of so much strength, in a single feat and a long day’s endurance, and of so much relaxing, the deep, heavy stillness of sleep and meditation and doneness, but is not yet skilled at living in the vibrant space of readiness for each moment’s task, at organized and sensible transitions from relaxation to effort and back again.

Tone is the middle path, the ability to dance from one path to another as called for, the function of all muscles (in body and mind) working in harmony so no one bears excessive strain, the state of neither clinging too tightly nor allowing unbalancing slack. Tone is the goal and the way one gets there. Tone is harmonious, joyful, pleasant to experience — and with its efficiency can move mountains, change minds, and fix so many ills.

I long for so many things — excellence in parenting, in writing, in activism and intellect and academics, in body and music and my many professions, in housekeeping and homesteading, community and family — and I want them all right now, no waiting or work required. 2012 will not be the year all my dreams become real, not with an infant and a (soon to be) five year old, for this is the year of surviving, of thriving in small ways, of gummy grins and growing teeth and scooting-crawling-walking, of milk and foods and beginning of sibling boundaries, of fully living in each moment and then letting it go to allow for living in and loving the next. 2012 will not bring me “balance”, that elusive perfect mix (as if life were a recipe: 1/3 work and 1/3 family and 1/3 fun, stir and bake and eat a slice a day); but, I hope, I will dance and rest and live this year in vibrancy, moving ever more easily between this moment, and this, and this.

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10 Responses to Word of the Year: Tone, Or, On the Ease of Moving Between States

  1. I am a big believer that if you are meant to have a word of the year, one will come to you. I think yours is wonderful and hope it serves you well in 2012.

  2. Beautiful Arwyn. You have achieved excellence in writing on this piece alone. May 2012 bring you tone.

  3. I love it!! And the musical part of me thought immediately of ‘tone’ as in sound. This is an awesome,
    Diverse word and I hope it find it’s way into your life much this year.

  4. I love this. I know you will be successful with this word, Arwyn. Love to you. <3

  5. Perfect in every way.

  6. Love! Love! Love!
    I too want to be able to flow through the ups and downs of daily living… except for me this year will be about doing things differently ;)

  7. Lovely! Best wishes to you in 2012!

  8. May you be in tone.

    I like the metaphor of walking (or running if you prefer, but I’m a walker myself); to move forward, we lean slightly off balance, then catch ourselves, successively. The imbalance is part of the process, the larger, more dynamic balance, if you will. So may you weave a productive imbalance into an overall dynamic balance in your life.

  9. What you are describing here sounds very much like one of the types of therapies used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder. The technique, called “open focus”, is designed to help ease and enable the transition between focused attention and open readiness. It was developed by a clinical psychologist and biofeedback researcher named Les Fehmi. He wrote a book on it, and you can probably find some examples of the exercises on YouTube. You may find it useful to look into.

  10. Great site. Great writing. Wish I could find your e-mail ;)

    I’ll be back. You got promoted from “never heard of it” to “on my main loop” in one post. But it is evident there’s lots of good stuff here. One can see the love you put into what you do.

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