What’s In A Word

I have never been much of a participant in the making of resolutions for a new year. December 31st has often carried the sense of an ending for me rather than a new beginning. This year the chatter has been of not bothering to make a list of goals but instead choosing a word that will be the ringmaster for the year, bring the word to life for the next twelve months and how we might incorporate its meaning into our daily activities. I’m not sure whom to credit with this idea but I believe it is an old idea coming to life again, as so many things do.

I’ve heard and read many word suggestions from those around me. Courage – crediting Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice to “do one thing every day that scares you”. Using the telephone would fit the bill for that word for me, though I have sixty plus years behind me of striving to do just that, without success. Discomfort – moving away from excuses, getting off the sofa, getting up earlier, lacing up our walking shoes, pushing away from old habits. Patience – in the car, in a line-up, walking behind someone moving more slowly than we’d like. I have no doubt that most of us have our patience tested every day and what better reaction is there than a positive one that has been regularly flexed, so much so that it becomes automatic. Meditation – is not easy for many of us but finding ways to mimic meditation such as walking and letting our minds clear of worry and stress, with each step focussing on a positive thought or sensation or idea, like the feeling of my grandson’s arms slipping around me in bed on Christmas morning as he whispered – “Grandma, it’s Christmas”.

There is no end of words I can choose for this year’s mantra. My girls chose open, completion, simplicity, and thrive; each word speaking to some personal goal for each of them. Many words have an opposite yet equal importance. Those who are shy might reach for bold. Those who are passionate might choose tranquil. Teach vs learn, sparkle vs calm, relationship vs solitude, listen vs speak, open vs boundaries, balance vs spontaneity, become vs are, release vs embrace, yes vs no. We are all in different places yet that makes us more similar than not.

I wrote down words without thought, those that immediately came to the surface – nourishment, gratitude, truth, authentic, celebrate, kindness, smile. It isn’t easy to narrow down the list to one word. The word breathe keeps coming to me, the pause in the storm, the quiet in the chaos. My Apple Watch continuously tells me to breathe and sometimes it angers me because surely, I am breathing, but … maybe not, not in the real sense of it.

My brother went skating before Christmas, something he has wanted to do for some time. He had a bad fall and bruised his pelvis quite severely and is moving slow while he heals. Some were quick to chastise him for his carelessness, but I applauded him while I was reminded of Mary Oliver’s wise words – “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.” Hunter S. Thompson said, though not a person of the ilk of Mary Oliver but wise words just the same, – “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “Wow what a ride!”

I fell on the ice hurrying across a busy street the other day, in the deep pre-Christmas Vancouver slush. I fell hard and cars were zooming toward me because everyone is in a hurry it seems. I scrambled to my feet and got to the sidewalk, my knees bruised, my pants and mittens sullied with dirty salty slush. My first thought was laughter at myself for being in such a hurry rather than being cautious. I don’t really want to embrace caution despite the advice of others, reminding me of being at an age when my longevity might be better served by caution. Maybe, like my brother, I can find a word that fits in the middle.

What would your word be?

wendistewart@live.ca