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.