Reverb 10: Le mot juste.

On the last day of November, I signed up to participate in #reverb10, a month-long challenge to blog every day of December based on prompts provided here. Here’s hoping it keeps me honest.

The first prompt:
December 1 One Word.
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
(Author: Gwen Bell)


One word.
One word to sum up an entire year?

There are hundreds of words that describe the past 334 days of 2010 for me. I feel as if I’ve lived a couple of lives in these 11 months.
So why not just randomly assign one and talk about it?
Because I’m making this harder than it needs to be. Because the only word sticking in my head is “balloon.” For no good reason.
I considered “torrid,” a word with a certain special meaning to me. But it has this sexual undercurrent — this sense of twisted satisfaction — to it that doesn’t quite suit this year.

But that chaos. The heat. That’s what I’m looking for.
Stormy, maybe.

Only it’s not quite that.
It’s close: Changes came without warning. Blue skies went a sickly green then an electric purple-black. Unpredictable winds, violently shifting red and yellow radar flares, blotted out breaks in the clouds as quickly as they appeared.
A big part of the year was a blizzard of other shoes, dropping just as I was learning to do with just one.
In my mind, a flurry of confusion and indecision: Family, romance, friendships, work, finances. Euphoria and dejection, paralyzing terror and near-foolish bravery were fronts colliding to create the perfect storm.

But the word “stormy,” it lacks elegance.
It lacks grace.
It lacks je ne sais quoi.
And there’s a place for elegance and grace, for je ne sais quoi, here. Because storms can be breathtaking and beautiful if you stop worrying for a few seconds about hail damage on your car, about those plans you had to go to the park, about how much more awful your already-unbearable commute is going to be with all this snow.
We hear on the news about only the worst storms. The ones that level trailer parks or leave entire cities under water, still recovering after five years. The ones that kill thousands of Asians on some faraway island most Americans couldn’t even pick out on a map. (The ratings wouldn’t exactly roll in if newscasters went on location to a family drinking soda and watching movies in their basement as they rode out a tornado watch.)

But most storms aren’t like that.
For the most part, we’re safe inside our homes watching the rain come down and the lightning illuminate the backyard in the night with startling clarity and the occasional boom. Or tucked into a plush purple velvet armchair in the corner of a bustling Starbucks while the first big flakes of snow herald the start of yet another winter that’s sure to be just as tumultuous and messy as the last.

Breathtaking and beautiful. And a reminder to enjoy the sunny, perfect days when they come. To play hooky once in a while.

English can be ugly. Brash. Halting.
Overly simple.
But in my second language, the word I’m looking for is appropriately beautiful: “orage,” the French word for storm.

And I wouldn’t mind if it were the same for 2011. In another life, I’d be praying for next year’s word to be “peace” or “stability” or even “boredom,” but this tempest suits me pretty well. As long as I can maintain my barometer of perspective.
Because really? In most situations, as a sweet little orphan once sang, the sun’ll come out tomorrow.
Bet your bottom dollar.

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19 Responses to “Reverb 10: Le mot juste.”

  1. LeslieK Says:

    “Because storms can be breathtaking and beautiful if you stop worrying for a few seconds about hail damage on your car, about those plans you had to go to the park, about how much more awful your already-unbearable commute is going to be with all this snow.”

    Sigh, this just hit me so perfectly. Yesterday it was pouring and I had such an awful day already, that all I could do was dread the horrible commute home, how cold the freezing rain would be, and how I didn’t particularly want to go home anyway. Yet, at some point during my drive , I just decided to pull over into some parking lot, took off my rain jacket, got out of the car, and just stood in the rain for 10 minutes with music coming from my car. I probably gave myself pneumonia, but I haven’t felt that good in weeks.

    Lovely post, and wow am I sure we’re all excited by the prospect of a whole month of these!

  2. Tweets that mention Le mot juste. -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Paige Worthy, Paige Worthy. Paige Worthy said: BLOGGED: Day one of #reverb10, "One Word." http://bit.ly/hyrVoR […]

  3. Laura Scholz Says:

    This is gorgeously written. Your word suits you well.

    And calm is boring.

  4. Gabriel Says:

    If December brings on an orage of this sort of blogdom, I’m content. It “suits me pretty well.”

  5. Dave Says:

    For a minute there I thought you might use the word “dreary.” I’m glad you did not, because I remember using that word one time (instead of the better suited, “melancholy”) and a friend of mine pointed out that I am the definition of “dumb.” But, I digress, this is not about me, it is about you, Paige. Your “orage” is my “muse.” Thanks for writing, and keep them coming!

  6. Sarah Nicolas Says:

    Oh, this is perfect. I ❤ storms and I love it when life keeps you on your toes.

    I'm so glad Matt "introduced" us and I'm looking forward to reading your blogs this month!

  7. Reverb 10: Waking Up | The Adventures of Elginista Says:

    […] This morning, I saw a new hashtag in my Twitter feed: #reverb10. I clicked through and read PaigeWorthy’s fantastically eloquent post, and knew I wanted […]

  8. Reverb 10: Awake | The Adventures of Elginista Says:

    […] This morning, I saw a new hashtag in my Twitter feed: #reverb10. I clicked through and read PaigeWorthy’s fantastically eloquent post, and knew I wanted […]

  9. MaryBeth Smith Says:

    beautiful writing — thanks for sharing your process. “Orage” has a poetry and purpose, an implied future — whereas “Storm” just sounds like complaining and making excuses. Thanks for breaking the language barrier!

  10. Reverb 10: Awake | The Adventures of Elginista Says:

    […] This morning, I saw a new hashtag in my Twitter feed: #reverb10. I clicked through and read PaigeWorthy’s fantastically eloquent post, and knew I wanted […]

  11. Crysta Says:

    This is gorgeous and fits today so well – the first day of the last month of the year, the first snow, the first day entirely below freezing.

    And yet it ends on the same note that we Chicagoans use to get us through the winter: there’s a spring.

    I think this #reverb10 challenge was especially tough because as writers, we know too many damn words so we spend a lot of time trying to find the perfect one. As English has (significantly) more words than any other language, it’s particularly tough. Maybe in a second language, which isn’t as intuitive, you don’t have the negative connotations of other word choices. In a second language, words don’t carry the same baggage as they do in your first so you can use them as they’re intended.

    Looking forward to tomorrow!

  12. Brian Says:

    I have to say, for me, picking one word to encapsulate the whole of 2010 is something I would struggle with. Heck, I dont know if I could do one word for one day. Maybe I have ADHD or something. My perspective, it seems, at times can change from minute to minute. I could never do the things you do…(I’m not brave enough)…
    I’m looking forward to the next 31 days and your blog, it will give me something to do as I hide from work in the bathroom…. 😉

  13. Teresa Basich Says:

    And here I am, searching for serenity. Whatever. Maybe boring suits me. It definitely doesn’t suit you, though. Lovely post, Miss Worthy. Great start to #reverb10.

  14. Brian D. Says:

    @Paige

    classy, i know….

  15. Reverb 10: Gift. Says:

    […] I remember being happy that day. And hopeful. And calm. Those actually are feelings I know well, though I experienced them less and less as time passed, as winter turned to spring. Storms wash these feelings away. […]

  16. traceyclark Says:

    amazingly poetic and wise. love love love this post and your perspective.

  17. Alana Says:

    Orage. Parfait.

    I feel a connection to your words – to the way you write. Beautiful.

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