As I contemplated my word for this year (back in my head again, you see) I looked back on how last year went, and realized that the most growth and progress came, not in what I planned, but in what I actually did.
I know, that sounds so obvious, doesn't it?
The word I picked stayed conceptual in a lot of ways, while the things I actually did day-to-day became habits that had good results, including:
Flossing my teeth
Translating my great-grandfather's letters
Collaborating with friends I respect and admire
A bit of an odd list, I'll admit. It doesn't conform in a neat or rational way with how my mind approaches the developmental moment that I find myself in (you can read more about that here). And yet, I look back on the work done and there is some weight in the palm of my hand that I can feel. Like stones picked up on a beach walk, the bits are modest but worth holding onto.
They arrived by doing bite sized chunks of work. Really, impossibly small increments. So small that in more than one sense I gave up hope that I'd accomplish anything at all, and instead resigned to doing what I was able to do between attending to knots in the finest girl-hair, a failing washing machine, missing socks, and all the rest of the pieces you, yourself, are so familiar with that I need not add to the list.
I shifted focus from what I wanted to accomplish to figuring out what I could accomplish on a day to day basis. And it turns out, this is a very loving, sane thing to do, and indeed, the only way that things actually get done.
Which brings me to my word for the year.
My word is practice.
With the word practice there is a commitment to being process oriented. Imperfection is built-in-which feels liberating. There is a sense that repetition eventually leads to progress, and that showing up to work at a small piece of something, at least in the stage I'm in, trumps conceptual thinking and planning.
Without a doubt, for me, this is the territory of faith, of taking one small step after the other, not knowing exactly where the path will lead or how it will unfold.
And yet, I have last year to look back on.
I had grand plans for the word celebrate, elaborate schemes of how I would manifest that word in my life--some of which happened (like renewing vows with my husband) and many of which didn't. One thing that did happen though, a thing that I did not plan for at all, was that I started looking around at what was right in front of me and taking pictures of that with my phone.
I found extraordinary, saturated beauty in my back yard, and I encountered the most everyday, regular harmony thousands of miles away. I was more attentive to my surroundings, and more open to a feeling of tenderness that would rise up in me when I saw things. And ironically, completely off plan, with nothing more than my iPhone, Instagram, and new habit of looking around and taking a picture or two, I stumbled into what is probably my best manifestation of last year's word. Celebrate.