A few years ago, after coming across the writings of Benedictine abbess Christine Valters Paintner I started the Word of the Year practice. This has become for me a reminder as I go through the hectic lifestyle of a mother, a full-time worker and a wife of a deacon.
On one particular year, my Word of the Year was Slow, and while life was never anything but, at particular periods it allowed me to breathe deeply and allow myself to stop and enjoy moments.
My practice of going for a walk, listening to calming music, sitting on the kitchen bench at home while I have coffee, and treating myself to breakfast before starting my day, were all fruits of having Slow as my Word.
Christine Valters Paintner was clear about how to choose your Word. She has a webinar (online retreat) about it. But the way I choose my Word is this. It has to come to me. It chooses me, rather than the other way around. And when the word selects me, it has to feel right. It has to make me feel that it drives direction and purpose for the coming year.
A few weeks ago I thought of the word Radical. The word came to me while watching a film, and I thought “Yes, I want to be that.” I want to break conventions and live life on my own terms.
To own the Word, I declared it on social media and I wrote:
Radical. A new way of doing, being, thinking and seeing things. Challenging what currently is.
I let it brew a bit more, see how it will transform my 2019, but no words came. The initial feeling of connection to the word dissipated.
You see, I chose this word. I injected my own agenda to my 2019. That was me, being stubborn and saying to myself, This is who I want to be, and so let it be.
I sat in Church yesterday, eyes closed, reflecting on my stresses of the past year, and opened my yearning for a more relaxing 2019. I read about the Visitation when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth to announce that she was with child. And it said:
We read this story of the visitation and we remember that these two women are blessed by God. In the eyes of their community, they have little status: Elizabeth is childless and Mary pregnant and unmarried. And yet, they are blessed. And their blessing now, as we move to Christmas, becomes our blessing.
And just like that, my Word came to me. Small. Rejecting the temptation to seek out the trappings of worldly achievements. And yet, scripture shows us that to be small is not to be insignificant. To be small is to make a contribution in the best possible way you were destined to be. Not always in a big way, not always in a grandiose and outwardly way in the consumerist standards of the world.
But to embrace the small things – and make a difference through the small things.
Asther, it’s ok not to be a hotshot worker, to not produce the greatest literary piece, to not be everyone’s best friend.
It’s ok to just be the best version of yourself that you can manage, and not exceed your capacity all the time or at any given time.
And yet because this is not the popular way in the world, perhaps to think to be and to want to be Small is also being Radical.