Here/Hear, with Grace
Four, well, five words and almost four years behind me, and a new word already picked to welcome in the fifth. Four years of following along with Ali's One Little Word project, of choosing (and re-choosing all year long) to see life through an intentional lens, and to be willing to accept what it offers, when it's glorious and even when it isn't. In July I wrote about how uncomfortable my word(s) for the year were making me, more so than any of the years and words before them, and I'd honestly hoped that by the time January came, I'd be returning to this space to share something different. The truth, which I know you already know, is that I was challenged all year long, and as we knock at the new year's door, I think it's safe to say that I will continue to be pushed by them all the way to the end. I chose Here/Hear in an effort to be more present, to stop looking so far ahead and behind that I miss what's happening right now, miss meeting who's standing next to me on the street, miss hearing their stories, miss being in my own. It sounds so, so lovely, and it was, but there is no way I know of yet to be present and not also be humbled and maybe a little dismayed about what's happening that you're not so content with as much as to be joyful and grateful for what's working like a charm. Sitting with myself this year, I saw a lot I didn't really love, and I wrote a lot about my mid year practice of deciding to sit with those undesirable realities in this post, so I won't rehash them in this space, but still they were there and just plain hard to have to see and feel some days.
What I will say is that though it didn't all magically go away and get better, I got better. I got better at pausing and being in it, about remembering I can be uncomfortable and keep going, that I can be flawed and frustrating, and yet there will still be room for be to grow, to apologize, to take the next step. I got better at giving myself the space to be a little crummy sometimes and not immediately try to give myself a quick fix. I mean, we've all read the poems and seen the posters, and given the greeting cards that remind people we're better at the broken places, but that doesn't mean we aren't still pumping super glue in the cracks. This year I put down all the fastest ways of making things feel better, and I just let them be; I let life bumble its way toward better simply by being in it, really in it, and here's the thing - it did.
By the time November snuck around (how does is always seem to rush up so fast?), I'd already felt the tug of my 2018 year, and to be fair, I'd already had some hopes that it might be easier that what I'd been living with so far. I'd considered HOPE, so many lines that I've shared throughout this year tip their hat at how generous, and hard hope can be, but it didn't feel right on its own, as if it would be there, but it wasn't the one. I thought about TRY, which is a word I keep close already, but wouldn't mind stretching a bit, or FORMIDABLE, a push to be stronger, to have a voice to be reckoned with (if mostly only against the ones also in my head and heart which call me too often toward doubt, guilt, and being overly apologetic). I thought about a lot of words that weren't the right word, and then the word GRACE showed up, again, and again, and again. For days straight it felt like grace was everywhere I went, and the more I pushed it away, thinking it was too soft and too easy, too tangled up in others' very definitive definitions of what it means or who it belongs to, the more it came back to me, the more I remembered that I get to decide what the word will mean to me this year, what it will offer up and take away, what it will teach me, and what I will get to redefine as the time passes and life is lived through its lens. The very best part of choosing a word for the year is that it never quite looks the same on day one as it does on day three hundred and sixty five. I have no idea where this word will take me, but I know I won't be where I've been, and that's worth the trip.
I read an article recently that quoted a Hindu proverb about how grace is falling around us all the time, and though I'd have to look again to quote the whole line, I haven't been able to get this last part out of my head - "we forget to cup our hands". I have a feeling that grace won't actually be what I'd worried - won't be too soft or too easy, that I will have to wrestle it out of the darkness at times, just as I do joy, and because it's important, I will do that, but I also want to make sure that I am, every day, cupping my hands and taking in what's there; there's always so much that's already there.
In 2018, I'd like to give more grace - to others, to myself, and I'd like to be more graceful in the way I make my way through the day - where, and to who, and how my attention is given. How will I do this? I'll work through the prompts in Ali's class, which hold me accountable, but still give me room to make the process my own, I'm reworking my daily schedule, adding in new practices and time for walks, I'm starting new projects for my business, and nurturing my relationships with others. Really, I'm giving myself the grace to rethink my terms, to redefine what I'd like life to look like, and giving myself a bit more room to grow. Mary Oliver opened one of her collections of poetry and prose with these lines I've shared before, but can't seem to shake:
I know it may seem a bit silly, but I've been wondering if I might see my life this next year this way, as the poems, the little alleluias, not trying to explain anything, just sitting and breathing by way of creating - being in the world, and offering praise to it's absolutely stunning, broken, raw, beautiful, complicated self. I think there'd be a lot of grace in that.
I'm starting the practice each morning of meditation and a kind of prayer, a half hour carved out for quiet, in a way that feels most honest to me, which is to say while what I do and do not believe is not neatly, and hopefully never will be, summed up in a way that I can offer up in a simple sentence, I know Mother Teresa was right, we belong to each other, and I am, without doubt, grateful for what binds us, for the work of caring for each other, and all the glorious questions that keeping bringing me back to that truth. And for as fast as my mind races most days, I'm looking forward to spending more time slowing down and saying thank you for the questions as much as the answers. I'm looking forward to finding grace in a kind of gratitude that shows up amongst the grit and the grim as much as the glittery and golden.
As I wrap up these words, and debate hitting "post", I've just knocked my entire cup of tea all over my lap, and while going to clean it up knocked my head on the edge of my big yellow table. I just sat for a minute staring at the screen, the giant word GRACE staring back at me, a little mockingly if we're being honest, and I had to laugh. Sometimes our words find us, and sometimes we find our words - I think this next year's word for me came by way of both.
Here's to what's ahead, may it always be enough.