My word of the year in 2020 and 2021 was ‘start again’.
I recall, it was early January 2020 and I was about eight weeks preggers with our son Njeeh when I settled on this word – rather, phrase – as my guiding principle for the year. These words would be the lighthouse that would guide me back to solid ground when I was out at sea, bobbing about in my dingy, alone, uncertain of my bearings.
And in that moment, no one knew yet what a tumultuous year it would be – we would all need a lighthouse of some kind.
I also recall where I was. I was at Java Lenana Road and it was a Friday. Late morning. A hot urban day that smelled of yellow sunshine. I was having a rough end to a rough week because a few days before, the furniture in my professional life had been rearranged without warning.
In less romantic terms, I had lost my personal finance column in our beloved Saturday Nation Magazine. I had been writing it for a year and had settled into it, as you would a soul mate. I was just getting into truly saying what I needed to say.
I recall that I was disoriented and frightened, I really didn’t know what to do next.
I was also peeved about how the events had played out thus far. Being preggers with Njeeh had come unexpectedly that December, and after two miscarriages before him, I was cautious about getting my hopes up. I approached gingerly.
If there were ever a time when I employed the maxim of a day at a time, it was that first trimester with Njeeh.
The timing to have a second child was excellent but it also wasn’t. I know they say that babies come with their own sahanis (thanks Sauti Sol!) but my sahani – Njeeh’s sahani, whatever – had prematurely been taken away from me. So now what, what next?
I also wondered why I couldn’t have fantastic things happening in my personal and professional life at the same time: Couldn’t I be preggers while making from my writing as much money as I needed to? Why did it have to be one or the other? Why did a full circle of happiness seem to be so elusive to me? Why does a quartered slice always seem to be someplace else?
This must be why life is a mystery, because there will always be a missing piece.
I recall sitting in Java with my notebook open and I wrote down three questions to explore:
Q1: Who are you?
Q2: What is of most value to you?
Q3: What does the next step look like to you?
I was three pages into responding to these questions in excessive detail (typical of me), when the phrase ‘start again’ jumped at me. It had appeared at least four times already and when I wrote it the fifth time, I knew exactly what to ask of myself in 2020.
I have always had a word of the year but I never approached it as my ‘word of the year’. They were phrases I used as passwords, ordinary combinations that took on a euphoric cadence, the word-perfect response to the life question of ‘Why?’ and ‘What next?’
In 2012 to 2013, my word of the year was ‘make that change’. Action verbs. Outward-facing words that coaxed muscling motion in a certain direction. The direction at this time was to leave audit to find a less-demanding job in risk or finance. (Let me laugh at myself, ha-ha.)
Through 2014 to 2016, my word was ‘in change’, then ‘still in change’ for 2016 to 2018. Action verbs, again, but this time the more reflective kind. Inward-facing words that informed the lonesome thought work of drawing blueprints, blueprints which only seemed to build castles in the sky. I had become an architect of daydreams.
I am a Libra. I am drawn to balance and harmony, you will notice this from the trajectory: Years of flurried activity need to be complemented by years of hibernating reflection.
It is no surprise that 2022 already feels like the latter.
My word for this year is ‘wholesome’.
It found me in January. Again. While journaling. Again.
I had stopped journaling regularly in 2015, when I was carrying Muna and had moved into my new home with GB. Mrs Kinyatti. Ha-ha. I picked up the habit again in March 2021.
I journal in a simple Kartasi notebook that Baba GB, my father-in-law, gifted me. (If you caught my Instagram stories last week, you must have seen a screenshot of an email he sent me about my book ‘Should I?’ Eeh, that man. He bought the book himself, I autographed it and we delivered it the same day. He sent me an email later that week. You will read it from my Stories and you will not be surprised about him gifting me a notebook, ‘to write my things’ (his words, not mine). Check out the email here >> Dad’s beautiful email.)
I journal on most mornings, for about 20 minutes. I journal with a black biro pen (I am no longer precious about stationery). I journal at my desk, between settling down to work and firing up my laptop. I only journal for two pages, at most.
I even stole a whole sheet of some silly stickers from Muna that I stick at the end of a page.
I am not a prayerful person. There are many nights when I lay my head down before whispering my thank yous to God, many mornings when I have started my day with grabbing my towel and heading straight to the shower. I remember to call His name when I am up to my neck in the polars: either when I am bursting with joy I cannot comprehend or when I am tied to the railroad of an oncoming train.
I can tell you this: journaling is its own form of prayer. Because I tell God thank you for what I already have in my hands and I ask Him for what I want, what I think I need. I surrender and I open my heart and my mind. He knows my thoughts.
Journaling is as spiritual as any form of conventional prayer.
Then there is the science of the mind. (Remember, Libra; balance, harmony. For this to make complete sense to me, the creative and the scientific need to be in symmetry.)
Anyway, if you look at the science of the mind, journaling taps directly into the subconscious. Your subconscious mind is like a sea where all rivers of the conscious mind run to. Every experience you have had through your day – pleasant and unpleasant, as experienced through your five senses – find their way into your subconscious mind.
At night, while you are sleeping, your subconscious is awake and on full steam. It sifts through all your day’s experiences and decides what it will keep and what it will bin. Whatever is to be kept is sorted, filed and catalogued.
Your subconscious is not like a government office: you will never be told that a file is missing.
Journaling taps into the rawness of your subconscious and articulates what has been kept, a little bit of what has been binned.
Your subconscious has a direct line to your heart, it dials it and tells it what you want. Your heart articulates it in a language you understand. A one liner. We are always here writing sonnets for the heart when it is your subconscious that deserves all the credit.
This is also why they suggest you journal it first thing in the morning – when the engine of your subconscious is still warm from running all night. If it were a car, you would be placing your palms on its hood.
Let me show you what I mean.
On the last Saturday of January, I was invited to speak at an event for an all-women’s social club. The theme for that January event was setting goals and vision boarding. I was asked to facilitate the session on setting money goals, another speaker was invited to speak on setting fitness goals. (A poll had been conducted amongst the members, the numbers show that money and fitness goals are the most difficult to achieve.)
I spoke to about 20 women – I even went around later after assessing their goals, school teacher style. I had such a fantastic afternoon speaking at that event and later, when I was driving home, I told myself, Seek more of these public speaking engagements.
My subconscious mind took record of the day and underscored my desire for more of such engagements. It has dialled my heart. My radar is up.
I don’t have the word count to show you what would happen with an unpleasant experience. But you are smart, dear reader, you are very smart. Figure it out.
Gosh, where was I going with all this?
Give me a sec I read through what I have written to have gotten here.
[A few seconds later]
Right. Journaling and word of the year.
My word of the year was given to me because I desire a more wholesome experience this year.
I may not be connecting with it in the way I want but I can’t ditch it: after all, this is what I want for myself.
Arrgh, such a rounded word with endless possibilities.
Here are some of the ways I will pursue wholesomeness this year:
On Sundays, instead of doing a movie marathon with GB, we will get up early and dress in our Sunday best, and we will go to church, preferably the 10.30am service, though I am not sure they have one. Anyway, after church, we will go out to lunch, preferably to an establishment with a functioning playground and we will return home in the early evening, exhausted from a day of being a cliché Kenyan family on a Sunday out.
I will switch out our current happy–print bed sheets for the all-white ones in 100 per cent cotton. We have been using these for the past few weeks and our sleep has been richer.
I like bed sheets with happy prints. I had been buying them in the last two years from this Chinese store on Biashara Street where you select the fabric and the bed sheets are made to order. The prints were modern and fresh (reason why I ditched my previous plug), the sheets in an 80-20 cotton-polyester blend and the price was friendly, my sales attendant friendlier. They sheets, however, began to fade after months of use. I pointed this out to the sales attendant and he told me to have them hand washed with water and bar soap.
I didn’t know what to tell him: I am a working wife and urban mother with a household to run, two toddlers and one nanny – were we going to baby the beddings or baby the babies?
For our pre-Valentine’s Day lunch, GB and I went to this exclusive steakhouse off James Gichuru Road. I usually avoid steak when we eat out because it makes me bloated and upsets my tummy. I pity the strain it puts on my system to digest it. That day, we had some steak I have not tasted in a while. Mine was medium-well done, GB’s was medium. That steak was succulent, flavourful, outlandishly layered with opulence. If that steak is what a wholesome palate tastes like, then by all means, spread out the buffet.
And a host of other subtle but impactful pursuits: Listen to music on my audio-technica headphones. Spend less time watching TV and more time reading books with Muna and reading books to Njeeh. Take him swimming. Only wear clothes and styling accessories that make me feel good. And on that note, avoid caking my face with layers of makeup; layering my face with anything more than foundation is not beauty anymore, it’s a practical joke. Go on a no-buy for my wardrobe, for half a year. Moderate my time on the socials; for about four months in 2021 I was off the socials, had uninstalled them from my phone, didn’t log into the sites from my laptop – that time offline was unexpectedly wholesome.
I will also drink more premium whiskey, on the rocks. If I am getting a hangie let it be a wholesome one.
Rather, let it be from getting drunk off this wholesome life we have created for ourselves.14