One word. A reminder. A focus. Sometimes it is a wish, a goal, something to aspire to. In the past, the words I chose, or the ones that chose me seemed to take on a role that was different from what I thought they might play in my life.
My word for 2017 was “energy,” and I paid a lot of attention to how I used my energy, what seemed to feed it, and what seemed to drain it. I noticed where I seemed to be getting smaller returns relative to the amount of energy I was investing. My relationships started to change. Some flourished, becoming stronger and deeper. Some started to wither. I became more protective of how I spent my energy.
I took long breaks from social media, no longer willing or able to marshal the energy necessary to insulate myself from people who did not share, and seemed unwilling to respect my outlook on life. I began to withdraw from relationships where I felt constantly assaulted by criticism, and negativity. I became increasingly protective of my energy, wanting to spend it wisely, but also to spend it where I felt it might do the most good.
Towards the end of the year, it occurred to me that one of the areas that might benefit from an investment of my energy was myself. I started the hard work of trying to heal from the pain of losing my father, something I don’t think I’ve ever done properly or adequately. I started paying attention to patterns of behavior that don’t benefit me or that have held me back. During all of this work, there has been a recurring question: “What do you feel?”
I had learned to see every event in my life from someone else’s perspective. I’d learned to understand that someone’s fear for my well-being might manifest itself in anger. I’d learned to interpret silence as an indicator of how badly I had hurt someone I cared about. I’d learned to make allowances for other people’s life experiences, pain, or naïveté. I had even interpreted my own traumatic events in ways that somehow extended mercy or grace to another, while leaving none for myself. I couched this perspective shift in terms of compassion, sympathy, even growth, but, in the process, I denied that I have paid a very real emotional price for such understanding.
My word for 2018 is “feel.” I’m giving myself permission to feel sad over even an understandable change in a friendship. I’m giving myself permission to feel angry when someone lies to me. Again. I’m giving myself permission to feel joy over my nephew’s engagement. I’m giving myself permission to feel deep gratitude for the people who have not given up on me. It’s my nature to try to be understanding, but I’m going to try not to be so understanding that I deny how I have been affected by another’s actions.
Happy New Year, friends. This year will, no doubt, come with some growing pains, and I want to feel them all.