So, the word of the year thing . . . I’ve meant to. Really. And what, it’s only January 17th as I write this. Maybe I’ll go with this popular sentiment I’ve seen floating around.
Except February is just around the river bend.
I Do Love Words
I never picked a word last year because, well, one never picked me. I find it disingenuous to force the issue if no one word is calling to me. Or maybe I’m just too lazy to search. But this year, I know I want one. I just can’t quite decide which one. And one has not decided on me.
What I’m searching for is more a feeling than a word—and I can’t find the exact word for the feeling. This coming from someone who makes her living finding the right words.
Last year was hard. Exhausting. (Maybe if I had picked a word it would have made it better?)
It was also valuable and beautiful, but these things commingle often, don’t they? We’re already facing some potential significant loss in 2019, so I’m not certain the new year promises better things. I am certain they will also be valuable and beautiful, and I will find that the anchor of Jesus holds still, giving meaning and hope to both joy and loss.
Yet I am at a loss for the word that encompasses it all.
We’re All Just Tired. And Toxic.
Last year was emotionally exhausting, too. When the Oxford English Dictionary chose “toxic” as their word of 2018, they baptized an entire year with an overlay of anger. They’re not wrong.
There are so many parts of 2018 I am angry about. So many things I simply cannot. I cannot with jailing children, erecting walls, shooting children, fine Nazis, drowning children . . . I cannot. I cannot with the defense of any of these things by people with whom I share a faith.
And yet . . . I also cannot let the toxins invade and make a captive of me. To quote, well, myself when I gave two talks on this topic last year,
“When we begin to attack other humans we are engaging in the tactics of the enemy, and he is not our friend. He will use us. We will end up being what we fight against.”
We will end up being what we fight against.
I say “no” to that toxin in 2019.
So what words have I considered top define this longing?
Candidates have included:
(Yes, I’ve considered “me.” I have. I find no shame in that, even while I’ve looked for it, assuming that choosing “me” as a focus word for an entire year must contain more than a drop of self-absorption. It doesn’t. It’s time to be good to me for a bit.)
More Than a Feeling
What am I longing for this year?
- A pulling back, a recalibrating of what I really need and what rabbit trails I don’t need to follow.
- A reminder of what battles I don’t need to fight and which ones I really, truly do.
- A restoration of some things that have fallen away.
- A return to some of the joy-sparking things that I’ve let go. (Let’s channel Marie Kondo here, because why not?)
- A peace in the midst of evil that isn’t going away but must not wash me out in its tide.
- A solution to this perennial puzzle of what matters versus what demands my limited bandwidth.
A way to do this unhurried, unscheduled, restful thing perfectly so that I get it exactly right and accomplish all my other goals as well.
. . . . . .
I’m longing for wonder this year. The kind that gobsmacks you full in the face and and leaves you wide-eyed, smiling with dumb amazement that you never saw it before.
Because the thing about wonder is that, almost all the time, it’s always been there.
(Also, I wouldn’t mind bringing back the word “gobsmacked.” Because how perfectly descriptive of its own action is that word?)
Most years, I find a song as well as a word that I believe will, or has, defined my year. Like the words, they find me. This year, I think the song that has found me is Sarah Groves’ Expedition. She sings about going toward that next river bend—but unhurried, refusing to rush there just to say you’ve been. Not going down the river because you have to get to the next port or cross off the next point of interest on the to-do or to-see list.
Going because the bends are the exciting parts, and taking the trip slow allows us to savor those parts with wonder, not anticipate and strategize them until there’s nothing left but the same water you’ve traversed, thousands of times.
In defiance of her words (you really should listen):
- I rarely approve of extravagant, and never wasteful.
- Striving is sometimes my middle name.
- I don’t have time for deliberate and slow.
- I always feel I have something to prove.
This simply floating stuff does not come naturally. At all.
Yet for this year, I want to venture downriver and see what God has for me there, and I want to embrace it without reservation of whether or not I have the time or the capability. (Enneagram 5’s don’t do anything unless they feel they will be undeniably capable. That’s also exhausting.) I want to go around the turns and marvel at the glory and wonder of it rather than have it already planned out and categorized.
I want to be gobsmacked.
(No, that is not going to be my word. Even though it would look great in calligraphy hanging on the wall. A conversation starter, to be sure.)
What’s your vote? What’s your feeling or longing for this year? Do you have a word? What should mine be? I’d love to talk with you about it. After all, if I want to focus on what matters, one of those things would be you.