Over the last eight years, during the end of December I spend time contemplating what my word for the next year will be. The idea is to have a word that guides your entire year with intention. It’s something you refer back to in an effort to find personal growth along the journey.
Some Facebook digging revealed all of the Word of the Year announcements thus far:
- 2014: Joy
- 2016: Restoration
- 2017: Abundance
- 2018: Release, Rest, Renewal (trifecta shared with my husband that year)
- 2019: Trust
- 2020: Bold
- 2021: Believe
- 2022: Traverse
Of course, it goes beyond this generalized notion of the word, and gets deeper into what these specific words mean to me. In 2019, it was about trusting that what was ahead for me was purposed. In 2020, it was about tossing away the washed down version of myself and being fully – and boldly – me. Last year, I worked on believing that I was worthy (of all the things) and believing in God’s provision, because I clearly didn’t get the message in 2019 completely.
One thing I’ve failed to do enough is to find a state of reflection at the end of the year. I often just dive into next year’s word, which I’ve come to find may be a subconscious effort to avoid acknowledging what I had to go through the last 12 months. But the last few weeks have been so difficult, that traverse has constantly been at the forefront of my mind.
When I announced that my word for 2022 would be traverse, I made reference to the mountain I climbed with my family on our vacation in 2021. That is the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically other than birth my children. In June of 2022, I reshared the traverse post, mentioning how that part of the year was showing itself to be a rough spot in the mountain. That was when I was days from quitting my job to work as the Executive Director of On Angels’ Wings full time. It was terrifying. And a million other things were going on at the same time, making the path I was walking steeper.
And right now, in the difficulty that this very moment of my life is holding, I’m reminded of when we were nearly to the top of Mt. LeConte, but didn’t know it. It had been about five hours of climbing up on uneven, rocky, muddy, narrow surfaces. It felt like we’d never reach the top, but giving up simply meant going back down. Everyone passing us on their way back down said we were “nearly there,” but then another 30 minutes would pass and nothing. At one point I started speed walking up the path just to try and get it over with – surely the top was just around the corner if I could just get there sooner.
It didn’t work.
And then, when we finally got to the top – soaking wet, cold, exhausted – the idea of walking back down was laughably insane at that point. What had we gotten ourselves into? We literally had no choice. There was no other way to go, and the downward climb would have its own set of challenges; even though it was the same path as before, it would feel entirely different. And again, it felt like we would never reach the bottom. I was limping the last mile down, unable to put any weight on my left foot (which I have sprained twice in my adult life, and clearly it was not strong enough for this mountain!). When it was over, we were to a point of physical exhaustion I had never experienced before. My entire body ached for weeks (not days).
When I look back on this last year, it has been wholly and completely like that mountain. Full of breathtaking moments when the view was incredible and it felt like every step was worth it just to have that. Wrought with insanely difficult terrain that made me want to just sit on my butt and slide down the side of the mountain so I could get back to the start and flee. These extreme highs and extreme lows, and a lot of plowing away at the path I’m on in between.
Thing is, right now, today, I feel like I’m in that space before reaching the summit where I’m pushing myself as hard as I can to finally reach the top and it’s like the destination keeps slipping away from me. [Damn. I just wrote that sentence and then remembered that’s exactly the dream I had when all of this traverse stuff started. Am I back to square one here?]
I have my word for 2023. It came to me in church yesterday after days of seeking on it. And I’ll share about it soon. But right now, I need to sit in the journey this last year has taken me on and finding what I’ve learned from it.
Yeah, in some ways it feels a bit like I’m not moving, but there are clear indicators that I’m not walking in circles. The last six months have been a whirlwind of growth and expansion, because I now have the space and time to devote to the organization that has my heart and I’m seeing the fruits of my nearly 10 years of labor. The book that I worked on for five years was published this year. I’m not only working on getting this organization in a place to help more families, but I’m working on becoming an expert in the field of grief so I can personally take this passion beyond the reaches of On Angels’ Wings.
My sons and I are part of The Art of Being Me, a touring art exhibit on mental health awareness. I’ve started a wedding collaborative business a dear friend and a host amazing female entrepreneurs. I gave a presentation to a standing-room-only group on responding to someone grieving. I won Philanthropist of the Year for our community.
I’ve learned that I’m capable of enduring a freaking whole lot of unsteady surfaces. I’ve learned that I’m capable of pushing through the pain, fully feeling it, but knowing that I can’t let it stop me from reaching the summit. I’ve learned that there is beauty to behold upon even the most grueling parts of the journey.
I’ve learned that, even though 2022 is nearly over, I still have some traversing to do. And that maybe I should revisit the destinations of Trust, Bold, Believe too, along the way forward and up.
This proverbial mountain hurts like hell, but it won’t kill me. Like the actual mountain I climbed, the experience was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done before, and I will never do it again because of that. But I’ve never been so proud of myself for finishing it, making it simultaneously one of the worst and best days of my life.
2022 = the mountain.
What was your word or motivation in 2022? How have you grown or changed with that in mind?
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