word for the year

Hi everyone! It feels so good to be back in this space, getting back into my normal routine. The past month and a half have been a roller coaster and have brought the most important things in my life front-and-center: family, friends, love, health. After the devastating Thomas Fire, my grandfather being hospitalized with pneumonia {he is, blessedly, recovering well!} and a health scare of my own that I might write about sometime, December rocked my world like no other month has besides January 2015. {I can’t believe it has been three whole years since my beautiful friend died. Love you forever, C.}

It could be tempting to enter 2018 clutching a shawl around my shoulders sewn of fear, despair, scarcity and anger. Instead, I am embracing 2018 with wide-open eyes that are seeing love, gratitude, and healing all around. I am working each day to keep my heart wide open and to witness the small moments of compassion, grace and magic that comprise our daily lives and bind us closer to one another. I am reminding myself of phoenixes rising from the ashes. I am reminding myself of all the people and love in my life who give me strength. I am reminding myself of this quote I have always loved from Ernest Hemingway:

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

We are all broken at times by senseless pain and sadness. But I believe that we are stronger for these broken places. And our compassion for others is strengthened, too.

Last year, Allyn and I had a weekly ritual of writing down something we were grateful for on a slip of paper and putting it into a jar. On New Year’s Eve, we emptied out the jar and read through all of our slips of paper. I was overwhelmed by the abundance of our blessings. It is my new favorite tradition, one we are continuing this year — and I hope all the years to come.

Another new tradition I believe in is setting an intention for the year. This could be one word or a short phrase. I think of it as a mantra, a touchstone, something to come back to again and again throughout the year. Something to inspire you on the slogging days and remind you of what’s important on the hectic days. Something to center you and focus the energy you put out into the world.

Last year, my word was FOUNDATION. I wrote, “I want to work on getting the foundation of my life in order. For me, that is broken down into four main areas: my health; my relationships; my writing; my home environment.”

Looking back now, I think that setting this intention really helped focus and motivate me throughout 2017. I do feel like I have a much stronger foundation now than I did at this point last year. I established more solid workout and writing routines; I now go to the gym twice a week, go for walks on many other days, and do at least 15 minutes of yoga most every morning. And I have settled into enjoying the process of writing more than being focused on the end result that I do not control. In 2017, I finished one novel manuscript and started a new one; wrote many blog posts and short stories; and overall feel much more at peace with the actual daily process of putting words down on paper. I feel more confident in my abilities to finish what I start rather than procrastinating on my most heart-vital projects. That is a huge gift that 2017 gave me!

Motivated by foundation, I invested time and money into my health this past year, and I think that is a big reason why I was able to recover from my recent surgery so quickly. I discovered some new plant-based recipes that I adore — lookin’ at you, roasted brussel sprouts & sweet potatoes & cabbage! — and now have a regular meal-planning routine. I also read books and learned a lot about my body, my cycle, nutrition, and intuitive eating. Health can be one of the slowest areas of change; with incremental change, it can be difficult to notice improvement. But looking back, it is strikingly clear that I feel much more empowered and energized now than I did at this time last year. Health is something that it is easy to take for granted, and I am also more grateful than ever for my body and mind.

In 2017, I took more trips than ever to visit family and friends: heading to NYC multiple times, hosting Greg and Holly in our little apartment for visits, having a girls weekend with Mom, going to the James Taylor concert in SF with Dad, celebrating my dear friends Mikey & Luana’s wedding, traveling to Nashville with the fam for Thanksgiving, celebrating my 30th birthday with so many people I love, visiting my grandparents every Friday, and making more of an effort to call and email far-flung friends to stay in touch. We also made friends with our neighbors and have so enjoyed hosting each other for dinner. I hope to continue this trend in 2018 — and it is looking like my travels will certainly continue, with many trips and weddings on the horizon! During April alone I have three trips on the agenda, plus a dear friend visiting who I haven’t seen in five years! In 2018 we’ll hopefully host even more get-togethers and game nights when Allyn and I move into a bigger home. 🙂 Right now our max capacity for dinner is 4 or 5 people, including us. It will be so exciting to be able to host larger gatherings and parties.

The word “foundation” also manifested itself in unexpectedly wonderful ways. I received new teaching opportunities and my business has grown and flourished. Allyn and I have been able to pay off almost all of our student loan debt, strengthening our financial foundation. After six years of rejections, I received a phone call from Yellow Flag Press informing me that my short-story collection Woman, Running Late, in a Dress won their Cypress & Pine Short Fiction Award — it will be published in March! I can’t wait to share it with all of you. Perhaps most importantly, my relationship with Allyn has grown even more solid and nurturing. He is my rock. This past year we have taken trips together to Boulder and Santa Cruz and Monterrey, plus a staycation weekend in San Jose, and started a new tradition of monthly surprise dates. The trials of the past couple months have brought us even closer together, and I am so beyond grateful for him.

Moving into 2018, I kept thinking about how I wanted to build upon this beautiful foundation of 2017. When December hit, and it felt like a lot of what I knew and loved had been razed to the ground, I thought more about what it means to build back up again. It means being resilient and compassionate; it means grieving and remembering; it means crying and smiling, too. I kept coming back to the image of tiny seeds. They may seem unimportant, but they are vital. Seeds possess a powerful life-force. Inside them is the possibility of springing forth out of the dark soil, bursting into the sunlight, growing into something new.

My intention for 2018 is PLANTING SEEDS. In other words, I want to be a SOWER. I want to plant seeds in my writing, in my teaching, in my relationships, in my health and in my home. I want to plant seeds of optimism, joy and hope. I want to keep planting seeds even when I feel discouraged, even when it feels like I am staring at a blank canvas of dark soil without any sprouts, or when some sprouts I had hoped for die out. I want to begin again, and to keep sowing. To focus on the process of sowing and find comfort in that process. None of us can know which seeds we plant will blossom. Some seeds we plant might not even grow during our lifetime. But that doesn’t mean they never grow at all. We might plant a seed today that burrows within our souls and brings something else to light months or years from now — in ourselves, or in someone else. I have always loved this quote:

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” — Nelson Henderson

I want to plant seeds that grow into solid, shade-giving trees one day. Yet I don’t want to focus on the trees themselves. I want to focus on the joy of planting.

One of my favorite artists is Vincent Van Gogh, and my brother shared this painting of his with me. I have made a print of it, which is taped above my writing desk, reminding me of my intention for the year.

I want to leave you with these photographs of an art exhibit at the Met Bruer in NYC. I did not see this exhibit in person, but that my dad saw it with Greg in 2017 and shared it with me. This piece takes up an ENTIRE huge wall and consists of 365 small individual square paintings that are combined to make a larger piece.

My dad wrote, “When I looked at it, I thought about how overwhelming it would be to imagine creating the whole thing at once. It would be a loooong few weeks or months of work! However… if the artist decided to paint just one per day, what an easy and not overwhelming — in fact, what an enjoyable — undertaking it would become!”

I think this is a great metaphor not just for art and creative endeavors, but for life as a whole. What are your big goals for 2018? What are some amazing projects, adventures, trips, and undertakings you dream about that perhaps seem overwhelming? How can you break them down, step by step and day by day, into smaller “paintings”?

Here’s to a year of planting seeds that sprout up from the soil into beautiful new life!

 

Your turn {if you want}:

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer and “free write” about these questions:

  • If you could sum up your 2017 in one word or phrase, what would it be? Why?
  • Reflect on your highs & lows of 2017. What did you love? What do you want to do differently the next time around?
  • What word or phrase will you choose for your intention in 2018? What does this mean to you?
  • What are you grateful for, right here and now?

10 thoughts on “word for the year

  1. Pingback: be like the ducks | Day-By-Day Masterpiece

  2. I believe you already are a sower! You have been planting seeds for a long time. 🙂 You do it every day through your kindness, friendship, writing, teaching, mentoring, writing an encouraging note…. Thank you for plating seeds of inspiration in so many of us!

  3. I believe you already are a sower! You have been planting seeds for a long time. 🙂 You do it every day through your kindness, friendship, writing, teaching, mentoring, all the encouraging notes….Thank you!

  4. Pingback: house-hunting lessons | Day-By-Day Masterpiece

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