Until a few years ago, I had never heard of a word for the year. I’m now heading into my third year of selecting a word or concept to help me focus, to try to put a context around the choices I make, the paths I journey, and the challenges I choose to face.
My word for 2016 was “valour,” and I thought I had done a poor job of living up to my word (and my ink). There were no specific highlights where I had made a principled stand, or had done something very far from my comfort zones, although there was that time in July. . . .
A couple of days before Christmas, I sat down on a bench overlooking Crown Hill Lake, and thought about the work I had done, the steps I had taken, often unawares, to dismantle the crappy models I had inherited, the efforts to do things differently because God knows the usual way of doing things wasn’t working. I gave thought to the advances I had made in my personal life, the refinements of some the revelations of two years ago, the clarity I was beginning to get.
You know what? It takes a lot of courage, integrity and honour to examine your life and heart, to be willing to face truths it might be easier to overlook, and to make the effort to change the things you don’t like. I’m not saying I did it perfectly, but I was a lot closer to living a life of valour in 2016 than I was to living a wild life in 2015.
And so I came to regard 2017. Like many people I know, I have found my confidence in the institutions of this nation rocked severely. For the first time in my life, I feel almost paralyzed by dread, and apprehension. For the first time in my life, I realize that my voice is one that could be silenced, that I am well beneath the power band. Yet, even as that thought crosses my mind, I realize that there are those who will lose very much more if, as many of us fear, the worst-case scenario ends up being the best-case outcome.
“Hodie Christus Natus Est” by Jan Sweelinck is a song of incredible jubilation and reverence. It’s a piece I have loved since the first time I sang it. It’s also a piece that has scared the pants off of me. The second soprano line is sprinkled with these bold, high Gs, and there’s no way to hide from them. Before this last December’s concert, I had approached those high Gs with a mixture of foreboding and dread. My shoulders would start to climb around my ears, my throat and jaws would tighten, and what sound squeaked out of my mouth was invariably thin and flat, and that’s if anything came out at all.
This December, however, I had learned to trust that my body knew what it was doing. I had learned to relax into the high Gs, let the breath fill me, and let my body do what it needed to. And when I opened my mouth to sing, the high Gs were there, solid, steady, and strong.
“Fear is energy. That’s all.” That’s what Lynn said to me when I tried to explain this wonted mixture of inadequacy, consternation, and near-panic and its subsequent alteration. “The question is: What are you going to do with it?”
And so my word for 2017 is “energy.” How will I spend the energy gifted to me? How will I nurture it? What will I do to create enough space in my life that I can take the fear, the rage, the joy, the love, the strength, the weakness, the mystery and the certainty and DO something with it? How will it remake me, and I it?
I am still filled with a great deal of trepidation, but for the first time in weeks, I’m beginning to feel something akin to hope. I just need to make space for the energy, and then get out of the way.
Happy New Year, friends. Let’s do something constructive with our energy, whatever form it takes.