Savour – Yearly Theme 2023
Life keeps giving me good experiences. But, in 2022 I wasn’t always able to enjoy them. My yearly theme, savour, should change the way I approach the joyful and inspiring moments in 2023.
This New Year finds me back in the Japanese Alps after a pandemic-enforced absence. I’m sitting at my desk by the window, looking out as the wind blows last night’s dusting of snow off the pine trees behind my home.
I arrived having already chosen my annual theme for 2023. I’d even written a (rather long) essay explaining my chosen word. (And if you’re curious to know what these themes are about, you can read an explanation here.)
But as I settled into the snow, found solitude on the mountain, carving turns in the mist, and joy in shared meals with the family in a warm cabin, I wondered if my chosen word, Harmony, was too obvious. Was it too close to previous choices, and too simple in what it asked of the coming year?
I needed something less comforting and more challenging.
What Was Missing In 2022
As 2022 drew to a close I kept thinking about what a sad, exhausting year it had been. That was true. But in going through my diary entries, journals, and notes, I was reminded that there were also a lot of good experiences.
I was travelling again. Spending time with friends, after so long. Cooking and enjoying some great meals. Staying healthy. And generally experiencing a comfortable and somewhat luxurious life.
Yet somehow it had all felt a bit joyless. So often I felt rushed, stressed, focused on what could go wrong. Of course, many things did go wrong. There was sickness and sadness. There were cancelled flights. The relentless chain of chores wore on.
Even when everything went well I wasn’t enjoying it. There were beautiful days on either side of grief’s darkest moments. There were trips that went smoothly and with all the luxury of past travel. And there were glorious meals (and delightful music and films, and books, and TV shows).
Life was still throwing good things in my direction. I just wasn’t stopping to savour them.
Savour – the Yearly Theme For 2023
The problem has been obvious for a while. Spending too much time looking at screens, and in my own head, and comparing the present reality with what could’ve been. Living the slices of life that were left over after the pandemic shredded my dreams.
It’s a tired story.
I was worried about skiing again, after a long break. But back on the mountain, things went surprisingly well. I’d been so concerned about my fitness, being older, forgetting the technique. But out on the slope there was just the sound of the wind, my skis slicing through the snow, occasionally my breath on the longer runs.
Mostly there was nothing. Just me, in my body, enjoying the activity.
I was savouring the moment. But I was also empty enough to permit savouring to happen. There was mental freedom and physical embodiment. It was disarming, deeply emotional, and ever so relaxing.
Savouring Can’t Be Instagrammed
We most closely associate the idea of savouring with food. “Savour” comes from the Latin word for “taste”. But oddly, when we think about sharing food experiences now we revert to photos and images. We don’t describe the taste of food; we share photos of it.
But taste is an inherently sensual experience. Whenever we think of something we want to savour – the feeling of sinking into a hot bath, sand beneath our toes on a summer’s day, a loved one’s hand in ours – these are all bodily experiences.
To savour something is to be interested in it and to make room to enjoy it. We choose to savour, to linger over a flavour, to identify a smell, to appreciate a moment of sensual delight.
Restaurants are designed to make savouring possible. Same for cinemas. These spaces give you permission to enjoy the experience you’re about to have.
Having A Savoury Reputation
There’s also an older, much less used meaning of the word “savour”, which is connected to the idea of reputation. We might describe a neighbourhood or perhaps a company as having an “unsavoury reputation”, meaning they are known for distasteful or immoral behaviour; literally, acting in bad taste.
Taste is an unpopular idea now. We like to think we’re all equals. That one person’s tastes aren’t better than another’s. And we’re aware how, historically, taste has been used as a way to impose class structures and racial divides and to entrench existing privileges.
And yet we still have the problem of how to behave in the world. How to choose what we value. Which experiences to seek out. Which products to buy. Which services to support.
Even our most aesthetic choices are not neutral. Our taste, our preferences, our choices, matter.
All this reminds me of the Japanese habit of saying “Itadakimasu” before every meal. It’s not just giving thanks for the food, but for the whole supply chain and for every effort (and sacrifice) that made the meal possible.
Savouring can pull us into a much deeper experience of the things we consume and, more importantly, the life we choose to live.
I’m not confident 2023 will be an easier year than its predecessor. Life still feels so unsettled. But it could be a better and more satisfying year. I feel that by choosing to slow down and savour the good moments, I can find more joy and delight in each passing day. That alone would be enough to make 2023 an improvement on 2022.
Looking Back On Previous Themes
The theme for 2022 was Tensegrity. I was expecting a challenging year and 2022 threw everything at me. This theme helped me navigate all those challenges and course correct as the year’s surprises were revealed. It showed why a theme, which is adaptable to life’s uncertainties is so much more powerful and useful than a set of goals which you might be forced to drop once circumstances change.
If you want to look at previous themes, you can read about them here,