Last March, I discovered a phenomenon called the Six-Word Memoir Project, an endeavor of Larry Smith, creator of Smith Magazine, in which readers submit six-word entries on a variety of topics. (You can read my two earlier posts about the project here and here.)
Distilling one's life experience, relationship history or career path into only six words is somewhat akin to one of my favorite cooking shows, "Chopped," in which contestants are given a basket of three to five ingredients and must create an entire meal -- appetizer, entree and dessert -- using every ingredient in each dish.
In this case, as a reader, you have six words, of your choosing, to use in crafting a statement that best captures the essence of whatever topic is the subject of the memoir. Since we're only three days away from the end of the year, our memoir project this time is Your Year in Review. Looking back over 2010, how would you best convey your experience of the past year using only six words?
Think of it this way: imagine that you're a chef concocting a dish that only you can create. This dish is your unique take on the past year. You can make it about your personal life, choose to make a statement about the world in general and your observation of it, comment on politics, the economy, the elections, etc. What aspects of this past year stand out for you?
Consider that each word is an ingredient in your dish. You might want a little sweet, a little sour, a touch of humor, a touch of irony. If your personality tends towards cynicism (calling all curmudgeons) or you're extremely optimistic (Pollyanna, that means you), let your six-word year-in-review memoir reflect the "flavor" and the "spice" you bring to your outlook on life.
Let's face it; on the national scene alone, this year has given us plenty of fodder for reflection and commentary. With unemployment numbers continuing to hover around 9.6 percent and the economic recovery stalled out at speeds reminiscent of the old Internet dial-up service, the economic crisis and its impact have dominated many people's lives.
Another topic/figure that dominated the news this year was Sarah Palin. Hardly a day went by without endless coverage of her latest Tweets and Facebook updates, or Bristol's performances on "Dancing with the Stars." Her book "Going Rogue" became an instant bestseller, and she launched a TV reality series, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," that topped the ratings record on the TLC channel. Together with her hefty fees for speaking at various right-wing gatherings, Ms. Palin became a very wealthy woman in 2010.
However, for all her news coverage, Palin's ratings continue to drop. According to an article in Salon.com, mainstream Republican leaders are beginning to say in public what many have been saying in private, and it appears that the public thinks this Mamma Grizzly-in-Chief is not yet ready for prime time. Or as Barbara Bush weighed in with her own six-word memoir recently on "Larry King Live," "I hope she stays in Alaska."
If you think enough words were devoted to Ms. Palin already, there were many other compelling national stories on which to spend your six words. Healthcare reform was passed, Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed, the Bush tax cuts were extended. Billions of dollars continued to be spent every month on the war in Afghanistan, the Tea Party broke down the doors of Congress and Christine O'Donnell assured us that she is not a witch. Thirty-three Chilean miners were rescued, and BP caused the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Who wouldn't want to devote at least one six-word memoir to one of these subjects?
To help you get in the mood, here are some examples of six-word-memoir year-in-review comments posted at Smith Magazine:
- Disasters galore, but it gets better.
- Lost Job. Started Volunteering. Gained Life.
- Well, at least it's not 2012.
- Life, liberty, and pursuit of scandal.
- Married. Had twins. Will not repeat.
- Purchased the best. New version available.
- Couldn't have made up this stuff.
- And we're still asking, "Where now?"
Here's my own six-word memoir, based on what I've learned yet again on another turn of the wheel:
It always comes down to Love.
When I reflect on my own life this past year, in many ways it's far better than I imagined it would be, even though it looks little like I imagined it would look. The older I become, the more I appreciate, and am truly grateful for, the simple things in life. For me, it really does come down to the love of family and friends.
Simple? Yes. But behind even the most distorted human behavior (of which we've witnessed plenty), there is a search for, and a need to give and receive, the one thing money cannot buy: Love -- not as in "romance" or fantasies portrayed in the movies or on TV, but capital "L" Love, as in the most essential, basic expression of all living things.
Whoever coined the term "the best things in life are free" knew something. If you go beyond the cliché of it, there is truth. (For a list of some really wonderful things in life that only require a willingness to be present and receive, check out Jennifer Jones' "Goodness Graciousness" blog.)
How about you? What did this past year boil down to for you? Take out your sharpest knives and whittle it down to the six most essential ingredients in your dish of life in 2010, and share it below in the comment section. And why not post this to your Facebook page and invite your friends to get in the game?
Here's wishing you a very joyous and peaceful New Year. I look forward to meeting you here in 2011.
Blessings on the path.
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