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What's in a Word


This year I decided that I wanted to have a  One Little Word of the year.

One Little Word (OLW) is a single word to pick that encapsulates what you want out of your year. I hadn't ever heard of it until recently but after seeing all the beautiful things people wanted to focus on-- simplicity, peace, clarify, humility-- I decided that I wanted to start out the year with something to strive for. I can already see myself picking up a journal on a cozy night, cup of tea in hand, and unpacking myself in a new light. 

Part of the reason is that my 2019 was unfocused and chaotic; to say that it was a rough year is generous. The last twelve months I have lived in what my mom would call "survival mode." I ate odd meals at odd times, I cried a lot and fit in sleep wherever and whenever I could. I couldn't build onto or even maintain what I had; I watched good habits and friendships deteriorate as I struggled to keep my head above water even just some of the time. It was a thing I'm not sure how I survived.

I not only want but also need 2020 to be a focused year where I develop a better sense of self. I want to be the kind of person who survives life's obstacles with both grace and thoughtful introspection. Or at the very least I need to get out of survival mode and back into living and loving life. 

Armed with optimism about the coming year, I picked the word STILLNESS, lettered it on paper, and took a picture for Instagram. While I went about my day, I let my mind run over it again and again as I fidgeted with the things around me, running my fingers through my hair as if that could somehow penetrate my thoughts and untangle them. I felt the need to mentally check in on myself, notice how not-still I was, and then become frustrated by my not-still mind. 

The problem I didn't want to admit is that the One Little Word became a way of being distracted and being distracted is a way of being loud. It's the same problem I ran into when I came home for Christmas break. As soon as I got home, I started cleaning out closets and dressers and mailing Christmas cards and doing anything that was louder than my chaotic self.

My brother Eli likes to talk about garments of skin. A garment of skin is cover of death to protect us from death. A good example is a fur coat. We cover ourselves with the skin of a dead animal to protect us from the cold that could kill us. It's something seemingly bad that shields us from a greater harm. My One Little Word became the opposite: A seemingly good thing that caused more harm than good. It was an outward appearance of stillness to prevent me from finding actual stillness. If I truly want to have stillness, I have to stop looking at the destination and instead focus on the immediate step right in front of me. If I don't do this, my mind cannot stop checking on my progress and it becomes a constant game of "Are we there yet?"

In the interest of actual process, I decided not to pick One Little Word and not to make resolutions. Right now, I am looking no further than one step ahead. For me, it means not checking my levels of stillness or humility or clarity or any of the dozens of virtues I feel like I need in order to survive the coming year. Instead I plan on practicing faith in the little things and trusting in God that He's set me on the path to the big things. 

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