I’ve never picked a personal Word for the Year, even though I’m pretty sure all the popular kids do it.
I assume I don’t pick one because I’m lazy.
Or maybe because I’m busy.
Or, more honestly, probably because I’m too invested in making sure I don’t have time alone with myself to actually sit and be quiet and think about what I want, who I want to be, and how best to love this broken, shaky, beautiful world around me.
So, instead of sussing a Word for the Year, I’ve spent the last week trying new Instant Pot recipes, baking No Knead Crusty Dutch Oven Bread, and researching whether or not it’s possible to dry the starter for Amish Friendship Bread, like this, so I can eat it whenever I want without needing Actual Friends to pass it along to me. (Answer: I STILL DON’T KNOW AND THIS BOTHERS ME).
My friends come up with cool words every year like BRAVE and LET IT GO and LOVE BIGGER, and you know what? They do it. They Pay Attention to their words. They let themselves be challenged. They try and they fail and then they keep trying which is success as far as I’m concerned, and so they change themselves in important and profound ways.
I want to be like them.
But I’m not.
I’m more… muddled, I guess. Murky. A maze of both Magic and Mess. And also, I don’t know what to make of Things Lately. Like 2017. I don’t know what to make of that. Cluster Fuck seems too mild, and Dumpster Fire is downright adorable now, from Good Old Days of 2016. Remember that? When the fire was still contained in the dumpster? THAT WAS SO FANTASTIC, friends! I feel like we should apologize to the dumpster, you know? Like we maligned the dumpster without cause.
So, while I love seeing my friends’ words like Hope, and Thrive, and BE, and Listen, I can’t quite wrap my brain or my heart around just the joyful, contemplative goals right now. They feel… important, but also… incomplete. I’m happy for the New Year, I’m grateful for a symbolic fresh start, but I’m also mourning all the things that died last year, and I’m not sure my Expectations and Mirages are done dying yet. I still hear the death throes, so brushing off my hands and declaring Mourning Over feels premature. But I can’t choose Mourn as my word, either, because I don’t want to only lament what’s lost. I’m too grateful for that. Too glad to have my people. Too thrilled with this utterly strange, wild life.
Is there a space, I wonder, between positive and negative? Between darkness and light? And, if so, how do I choose Dusk or Dawn, where light and dark converge, instead of Midnight or High Noon? What’s the word for that one? Where I’m content and confused, mixed and a little mangled, heavy-hearted and hopeful, but OK with all that? Where’s the quantum magic that takes us more than one place at once? Lost and found at the same time and somehow more free because of it?
Where do we get to be complex? Fully human with all the grand, gory bits that entails, and still made in the very Image of God? In the Image of Love? In the Image of all that is Divine and perfect?
Where is that place, and how do I find it in 2018? Remember it in a word?
I sat on the couch tonight, my back and brain aching from Doing All the Things this holiday season; my heart on cruise control because sometimes I Just Cannot Deal with all the Heart Things; my mouth running to remind kids of chores and chastising them for “not remembering” their work, as though that’s not simply part of the Human Condition.
I sat on the couch tonight, and I thought about the complexity of the year gone by and the undoubted challenges in the year ahead.
I sat on the couch tonight, and I thought about the joy and grief of wandering in the wilderness, which is where we’ve found ourselves in this season. I thought about how glad I am discard the false idol of safety and to release the pressure to conform in favor of being free to love my neighbor as myself.
I thought about what it is to be wild like the earth shakers and game changers.
I thought about what it might be to be wilder than I allow right now.
I thought about what it would look like to acknowledge I’m complex.
To be fierce and a little feral.
To welcome both strength and weakness. To rest in either one. To fight neither.
I thought about what it might mean to allow myself to be intense without apology; to stop listening to the voices that tell me I’m too much; to give free rein to fervent kindness, bold joy, deep grief, and love which never fails. Even when they arrive in rapid succession. Even when they overlap and make things messier.
I thought about being wild.
I thought about what it might mean to be wilder. To be more free. To be more me, as I was made to be. As though I’m worth pursuing, even in the tangle and chaos of the wild. Especially there.
So I picked my word.
Which is, of course, also bewilder.
Because I want to remind myself that it’s good and right to become ever more free. And it’s also OK that there’s going to be some confusion. Some consternation. Some complexity. Some muck and some mess.
Welcome, Wild Ones. Come and be free.