Two or three years ago a friend of mine told me that each year she chooses one word as a focus, a word to contemplate, to guide her. (Thank you, Jane!) I was fascinated by this idea and immediately chose a word of my own. It might have been perseverance, since I often struggle with procrastination. I think I chose another word later on, or perhaps I chose another word first and perseverance later. I don’t know. And that in itself shows that while I was intrigued, I was not intrigued enough to allow these words to inform my life.
This year, though, I am coming out of a month of severe back pain, which I intensified with lashings of hopelessness and self-doubt bordering on self-loathing. My first word for 2014 is compassion, and by that I mean compassion for my very own self. So, I am doing my best to approach myself with kindness, and in that kindness toward myself, I find space, wide open and ready to be filled with kindness toward others. The tricky part is when I notice I’m being hard on myself, and I react with anger and a sense of defeat. Turns out it’s particularly difficult for me to be kind to myself about my unkindness to myself. (Oh, the layers!)
I have chosen two more words for this year, a pair. No rush. They are themselves filled with kindness and compassion, those words. They calm me. They allow me to read my book, prepare my class, write a few words, spend time with my husband or my friend, walk by the river, and in each instance be where I am. Faith is built into that small pair of words. And peace.
It’s only mid-January as I write this. I’ll report back later on to let you know how I am managing with my slower pace and my greater kindness to myself. So far, it feels good. So far, the words, which spoke themselves into my mind without my invitation, are gentle guides.