Of the six, every January I’ve slipped with relative ease into the word that would wrap itself around me for the next calendar year and, come 01/01, would appear before me as if conjured up by a Gregorian spell.

This year, I saw myself resisting. Initially, I attributed it to a brewing inner rebellion, not wanting to accept what is assigned to me. A contemplative hint whispering down back alleys in my mind, saying to hell with all this annual nonsense. It’s not like it’s anything more than just tapping the well of any one word, anyway.

Much of it was because of the process itself. Where every year so far my One Word has floated in like a wind-drawn cloud carriage, this year I had a list of candidates.

For much of 2021, I played with the idea of spaciousness and I was convinced that this would be what I’d carry with me into 2022. The margins around things. Myself, me-other. Opening up to opening in. Like a sensory memory, tasting the scent of a half-forgotten past where I was in the middle of a vastness, rather than my current life inhabitancy where cups runneth over and liquid spills into the streets. There was also Wu Wei, which seeped into the seams of the contained chaos that marched through my diary and occupied my days.

All this has been a long time coming. My sense-making – collected in scattered pieces of writing over the past years – has gently, ever so paradoxically, swirled the whirlpool into a rather placid pond.

Yet my next move – life post that of my current covid refugee status – long overdue, must’ve weighed heavily on the resource allocation in my head. For in the end, despite the journey thus far having happened just so, the word I opted for was a trekking suit, not pyjamas. I wrestled with it for days, yet it didn’t stay still long enough for me to capture its essence without having to shift gears and change lanes.

Which is what happens when your word is Wheel. As one does, I looked for the problem on the outside. The word’s all wrong. Too metaphorical. I want nice, simple, easy. I want my word to grow into me. I want to hold and be held by its comforting promises. Wheel doesn’t do that. Wheel doesn’t contain.

Once I’d moved (wheeled? :)) through the first few days of 2022 and no longer felt the frantic urge to have an answer, pronto! I was able to move on through.

Interstitial

Anouk Vogel, Paper Garden, Nagasaki, Japan, 2011

Interstitial means “Between spaces”, an in-betweenness that both encompasses and defies definition or comprehension. It’s at once a boundary and an expansion.

Etymologically, the prefix inter harkens back to the Latin between, among, betwixt. The mere contemplation of the word “prefix” itself serves to broaden thinking around interstitiality. As a society, we’re obsessed with fixing. Humans are progressive creatures and we fix what’s broken in our strive to ever be disrupting what is and advance what isn’t. Placing emphasis on the pre– in prefix, it speaks to our urge to pre-deterministically control outcomes.

So it’s in this betweenness, between knowing and not, seeing and waiting, filler and space, that we’re able to simply be with what is. Grow into what could be. It’s an antithesis to the forced push-pull we’re used to. The so-called good advice shoved down our throats by Suburban Self-Help has an easy answer (or at least a 10-step plan) for everything. Pop culture cuts complexities and paradoxes into digestible cutlets, freeze-dried and microwave-heated to instantly satisfy whatever hunger pans arise because of a brush with existential dread or life’s wicked problems.

In interstitiality, there’s a fluidity of both identity and response. An embodiment of the visage of the journey as destination. There’s a call not to action, but to being: That of being first comfortable, then thriving, with being in between, with not knowing, with not being fully formed, just yet or even ever. A rose that grows through concrete is a promise that life will move towards itself not because the conditions are perfect but because life is what life foes: It lives.

Choosing Interstitial as my Word of the Year leads me to make a crooked path through the woods. Not fully comprehending just yet what exactly this word means to me is part of the nature of the word. It’s a whisper calling to be followed through a grove of ancient uprights. There are branches to this thicket that towers out of view, but in the primaeval Proto-Indo-European root sta, which forms the foundation of “-stitial“, lies the promise: To stand, to make, to be firm.

2022 foretells of a year, an identity, and a lifetime, of finding generative spaciousness in the space between spaces.

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