For a few years, I’ve been engaging in the practice of choosing a word or phrase to live by in the coming year. I like this idea much more than I like the idea of making resolutions—probably because there’s more room for flexibility and less room for all-out failure with guiding words than with specific goals.
But last year, I didn’t choose a word—though I suppose you could say that a word chose me. At the turn of 2016, I was up all night with a nursing baby and up to my eyeballs all day with dirty diapers. I had my hands full with baby needs, physical needs, logistical needs. I returned to work in February after three months of maternity leave, and I spent the rest of the year just trying to find my footing and trying get the plates into the air, let alone keep them spinning.
My word for 2016, by default alone, was survive.
This year, I’m intentionally choosing a word. Actually, I’m choosing three words, because this is my year and my decision, and I think I should get at least two to make up for last year.
The three words I have in mind are thrive, notice, and creativity. I’m not fully committed to all these words—I do think one or two words per year is the sweet spot for me, but I’m not sure which ones will feel quite right. I’m going to roll them around in my head a bit longer, experiment and play with them in the coming months, and decide which ones fit like a great pair of jeans as I move ahead into 2017. Maybe I’ll decide to keep them all, or maybe I’ll chuck them all in favor of a word that’s a better fit. But this is my starting point.
As noted before, I spent so much of this past year just trying to survive, breathe, feel my way around in the dark, reach for the light. After Selah turned one, I could sense the fog lifting. I noticed that I had more choices in how I spent my time. I realized I had the energy to do things for myself—things I enjoy, not just things that keep me running at a basic level, like eating and sleeping and exercising. So this year, I want to make choices that will allow me to thrive in many areas: my own self, my faith, my marriage, my motherhood, my home, my writing, my career.
For very natural reasons, I was absorbed by motherhood last year, and it often felt as if Selah and I were the same person. She was fully dependent on me for food and survival, and my days—my mood, my schedule, my decisions—were determined by and dependent on her rhythms. As she has become more content and predictable, and as I have learned the art of letting go of mommy guilt little by little, I’m finding I can be separate from her.
I want to notice my daughter, yes, and remember all the wonderful things she does and the ways she grows and the milestones she hits. I want to notice her mannerisms changing and her personality emerging. But I also want to notice my needs and my desires, Dan’s needs and desires. I want to notice my friends and my community. I want to notice the details of my life and breathe them in and tuck them into my mind, rather than rushing past them on my way to the next task.
I’ve been blogging for nearly two years now, and I still love it, but I’ve been asking myself some very real questions about why I do this and what I’m after. I’ve gotten caught up in things I never meant to—chasing repins and social media numbers—while giving the scraps of my time to writing and building community. I’m going to be transitioning much of my writing in this space to essay-style and perhaps publishing a bit less. I feel most fulfilled in my writing when I take risks and experiment, when I challenge myself and when I don’t follow formulas. This year, I want to create more, develop my craft, and hone my skills. I hope to do this outside of my writing too, with taking photos and decorating my home and playing imaginary games with Selah.
One way I’ll be actively fueling my creativity is by engaging in a year-long course called The Year of Creativity, put on by the writers of Coffee + Crumbs. The whole point of the course is to tune in to motherhood and let ourselves be inspired rather than depleted by it, and in the process, to grow our creative muscles. If you’re interested in joining in, you can use this referral link to get 10% off.
Actually, as I write all this out and process what I want my 2017 to be about, I realize how deeply connected these words are. Maybe I’ll keep them all!
I thrive when I create, I create when I notice, I notice more when I’m in a season of personal thriving. I don’t think I can have any of these without the others, so I’m going to break the rules by not choosing a single word or a phrase, but a web of three concepts to guide me and serve as my lens for the year.
If you’re interested in choosing a word to be your guide for this year, check out Sarah R. Bagley’s mini-episode on this practice. You can also find inspiration on a podcast I talk about a lot in these parts, Sorta Awesome.