I was sitting in a yoga class on New Year’s Day when I found my word for 2018, the word that would shape how I wanted the coming months to feel, that would be my beacon into the experiences, the moments, the journeys that would mark another dawning year.
That word, which surfaced at the prompting of the teacher leading the class, was “good.” And now that 2018 is winding down, I can honestly say it lived up to that intention. What I love about choosing a word for the year — versus the ponderous practice, which I’ve long abandoned, of making resolutions — is the spaciousness a single word can hold. Rather than the burden of “musts” and “shoulds,” plans and expectations, a trajectory moving toward an exhausting and often over-ambitious series of goals, an intentional word feels roomier to me. To claim it is open myself to multitudes — of possibility, of choice, of ways to invite its meaning into my life.
When I chose “good” to steer me into this year, yes, I was thinking about how I wanted to feel and also practicing a willful defiance in the face of a world churning with the grim and catastrophic. But without being more specific, I set my intention and then let it go, though it would be the silent refrain and seeded promise carrying me through my days.
2018 has been good to me, even with its personal sorrows and disappointments and the constant clang of national and global despair. There are many highlights I can point to, but the most meaningful were the ones that took me by surprise: finding healing and joy in my first trip back home since my dad died; abandoning my long-standing status as a non-athlete to join a dragon boat team; and discovering new purpose in twin vocations as a death midwife and grief coach.
Now on the cusp of 2019, I’ve found my new word…or rather, it found me. I was standing at the booth of artist Colleen Attara at a holiday market last month when another customer, browsing through her assortment of hand-scripted words cut from scrap plastic, asked if I had my word for the year. I had discovered Colleen’s greeting cards, with her heart-wise, healing messages, at a bookstore only a few weeks earlier, had seen her journals and prints on social media, and had come to the market expressly to meet her.
Though unfamiliar with her salvaged words, I glanced down at the table before me. Immediately, my eyes found the word “magic.” I scanned the others — picking up or running my hands over “courage,” “dream,” “breathe,” “fierce,” “believe” — but kept returning to “magic,” and then dismissing it, much like I did when “good” first popped into my head last year. It was too easy. How in the space of seconds could I have chosen a word that was going to guide the entire next year of my life? Shouldn’t the process require more thought and deliberation? Wasn’t magic too light and whimsical of a word? Was there something I needed more of in my life? Something perhaps that would feel suitably aligned with serving the grieving and dying?
No. Magic it was. The word rose up through my body, a knowing, branding song. And my interactions with Colleen, after I’d chosen it, only affirmed its rightness, as we realized we’d met before. Suddenly, it made sense why I’d felt compelled to be there that afternoon when I’d tried to talk myself out of going several times, given the pull of other to-dos. In the more than 30 minutes I spent at her booth — sweet, tender, honest minutes of opening and unfolding to each other — it were as if I were keeping an appointment I didn’t know I’d made.
The magic had already begun.
With a new year just days away, I’m excited about my word for 2019. So much about this coming year feels unpredictable and unknown. Into January, I carry lingering questions with no clear answers, an eagerness to begin my work as a death midwife and grief coach with no marked path to follow, the invitation to stretch, explore and trust.
I do believe in magic, and I believe it’s at its most potent when we’re open, when we’re willing to face the world with soft eyes and even softer heart. When we believe we’re bound for somewhere wonderful even if we can’t yet see it. When we’re able to take life in our arms, with all its glorious mess and mystery, and love it fully still.
I’m ready for you, 2019, and all the magic you’ll reveal in these unspooling veils of time.