Why should you choose a “Word of the Year”?
I sat down with Me Ra Koh earlier this week to chat about that.
During our chat, Me Ra’s heart about choosing a word of the year blew the doors right off mine. She’s been doing it for 20 years! I consider that pro-level!
Here’s what she said that resonated so dearly to me:
“I can be very goal-driven, type A. I don’t feel like goals give to me. I feel like I expend myself on goals. In contrast, choosing a word for my year is something that’s going to nurture me. Something that feels sacred. It gets to be my companion for the year. To walk with me through the different things I’m going to face. It seems silly like it’s just a single word, yet it has given me so much over the years.”
In a world where everything is vying for our attention, Me Ra finds tangible ways to make that word real, physical to her.
Over the years, she’s done self-portraits, because “mom” is already rarely in the picture. But especially, because she’s the photographer, she wanted her kids to have this history of her and her growth as a woman. The pictures are a tangible reminder of her choice to nurture herself in different seasons of motherhood. This is so important in the current state of our lives. Everyone has an opinion and a microphone to tell you why you should either, choose to care for yourself OR give every last ounce of yourself in the care of others.
Here’s why: I’ve shared that my word for 2019 was “rest”. As a result, 2019 cemented this idea of self-care for me, so deeply. Needing rest isn’t selfish. It’s life-sustaining. Of course – it’s not about kicking your feet up on the sofa, ignoring the needs of everyone else 100% of the time. It’s about still doing the care-taking, rocking work, raising kids, being a good wife, friend, and all the rest of the things you do, 90+% of the time, AND being sure to include a cadence of rest and self-renewal. Strong feminine wisdom is a beautiful dance of “both/and”. Self-renewal is the obvious requirement to be a caretaker, contributor, and human.
IT’S NOT SELFISH.
For me, it’s been about things like: instead of my usual 5:30 wake up time consisting of a coffee cup in hand, steam meeting my face while I walk in the still darkness of the morning to my office to read and write . . . for this season, it’s been about waking up at 5:30 to be sure Noah was up and ready for soccer practice and out the door by 6:35. I’ve tried rushing up to be sure he was awake, then rushing back down to let the dogs out, make my tea, and then sit at my desk as quickly as I could to get a blog out.
But it was rushed and stressful.
The blog wouldn’t end up being the best work I had to offer, and Noah didn’t get the best version of me I could offer either. So in this season, rest has sometimes looked like getting him up and on his way, then using any quiet moments in-between to write. If it means I only get one paragraph done, that’s where I leave it. If it means I have an opening in the day and can finish at noon, then so be it. If it means I have to pick it back up the next morning in the sporadic quiet moments. That’s what I do. And rather than having frustration and judgment toward myself about it, I’m choosing to see it as a small act of love for both of us. A present mother for him. A peaceful mindset for me. A letter of love that comes right on time for you.
I’m learning to trust that even doing my very best work, doesn’t involve sacrificing everything dear to me.
Of course, anything taken to an extreme isn’t good. I’m talking about a more balanced approach. I find that especially in some spiritual communities, there’s often a focus on something like “laying down of one’s life”. And let me just tell you – I am ALL in for that in the spiritual sense. But it can easily get tangled up and confused with an expectation of literal self-sacrifice. In my faith, I am grateful I have a Savior who sacrificed himself for me so I don’t have to. He asks me to follow him – to make myself less and make him more – and 100%, there’s no place that should be more evident than in marriage and parenting. I’m ALL in for that (failing mostly, but all in for trying!). But it’s not a request to literally allow your physical body to die. To pull the plug, to go without life-sustaining treatment – food, water, rest. . . and JOY.
It’s not right that women are constantly told they have to pick a side.
In fact, it’s just plain wrong. The idea that you can only have it one way or that forever you’re only ever meant to do one thing – either work or stay home, either be all in or all out – it’s not fair. And it’s not true.
It’s not about what you do for a living, or where you find personal fulfillment.
It’s not about working or staying home.
It’s not about kids or no kids.
It’s about living.
Literally. It’s about being alive, a living thing. Living life to the fullest! Which last time I checked does not include suffocation, self-torture, or withholding good things from oneself. In fact, the God I follow withholds NO good thing from his children.
It’s a battle for your joy.
And Sister, I am here for it. We are here for it. If you find your joy in the pile of laundry because it means you’re doing exactly what you were made to do in this season, then by all means, do more of it! (I have some I can bring you!) If you sit with a baby in your lap on your back porch swing and feel like you’ve found the secret to life. . . YOU HAVE. Relish that. If it’s painting, do it! If it’s closing deals in a high rise downtown, do it.
Don’t listen to all the judgment from others.
Because what makes you feel fulfilled will change with the seasons. It WILL change. You might, one day, be fulfilled doing the very opposite of what you’re doing today.
Do you know what won’t change?
The fact that intentional, supportive, human connection will fill your soul, time and time again. But you have to make space for it. You have to prioritize it. If you want your kids to see that being a mother isn’t about literally depriving yourself of all good things so they can have the best life until they’re gone – it’s time to stand up for that.
It’s not selfish.
Modeling healthy self-care through joyful, healthy relationships and living your life to the fullest, is quite possibly the most loving thing you can do for them.
IT’S NOT SELFISH.
It’s the essence of living.
So do yourself, and everyone around you, a favor and pick a word to guide and nurture you this year.
It’s a loving gift to all.
to more love,
p.s. We’re basically sold out for One Word GNO tonight, but we’re too passionate about this topic to close the doors just yet. We’re bringing in chairs! So if you’ve been on the fence, snag your ticket quick! XOXO