For the third year, I have invited a word to choose me. It is an intentional practice of hospitality and paying attention. Though, I must admit, the process was not so intentional this year. Neither was it particularly hospitable. My spirit grew weary as the year came to a close. It took most of my energy to simply be present every day. I tossed the invitation out into the universe, but I did not tend it. I asked the word to choose me, but when it came knocking, I peeked through the window and said, “Not yet.” But it persevered, and the word found me, nonetheless.
It was at the invitation of spiritual teacher Christine Valters Painter that I began this yearly practice. Each year, she offers a guided spiritual practice to assist in the process of inviting the word. I have not always used her practice, but I offer the invitation and wait, and the word always finds me.
The first year, 2014, the word that came courting was connect. I recall the word coming fairly quickly, but I wasn’t sure why. By the end of 2014, I was halfway through my spiritual direction training, where I made connections with now-beloved friends who have become cherished spiritual teachers. I also found myself unemployed. As my job search began, the art of making connections, which has always been challenging for me, became a crucial skill to develop. My companion word had been nurturing and preparing me for the task at hand.
As 2015 approached, I invited a new word to choose me. Transition came to call. The uncertainty of my employment, which remains uncertain a year later, and the looming ache of my father’s probable passing, which did come to pass, brought the word to me with some ease as the year began. As the year transpired, its blurry grief and despair camouflaged my word. And while I did not pay it much attention throughout the year, my word showed up from time to time to offer comfort and repose.
2016 has arrived, and its impending approach found me sending another cosmic invitation out into the universe. Choose me, word. But I made the word wait. I did not so much resist the word, as I held it off. At arm’s length. Close enough to see it, but not close enough to engage it. Finally, a shift. Christmas came and went. And the new year came closer. And with it, my word, insistent and unwavering.
A new year has arrived. It has arrived anew.
I looked it up in the dictionary, an actual dictionary that sits on my shelf. Remember those? It has two definitions:
- once more, again
- in a new manner or form
I checked out an online dictionary as well, and it offers the second definition as “in a new or different, typically more positive, way.” Typically more positive.
The word carries with it a sense of continuity that I find comforting. It suggests both familiarity and freshness. And something about that feels so very right. I looked up related words as well. New suggests something previously non-existent or recently acquired and untainted. Renew denotes repetition without significant change, like renewing a driver’s license, though we often use the word renewal to suggest improvement or a fresh start. I think we are misusing that word. Anewal seems a better choice, but that word does not appear to exist.
As I ponder the meanings of my word, in the midst of my search for meaningful work and my continued relationship with grief, I think the word is inviting me to acceptance and openness. It calls me to accept what comes and to stay open to how it comes. I have desires about what I hope will happen this year, and I intend to pursue those desires, trusting and honoring them. But I will remain accepting and open to what shows up.
Each word travels with me through its year, occasionally tapping me on the shoulder and whispering, “I’m still here.” It’s funny how a whisper grabs your attention. Recently, while trying to get my rambunctious 3-year-old nephew’s attention, I whispered his name, and he stopped in his tracks and turned to see what I had to say. Whispers. Listen to them.
I do not typically make resolutions at the new year, but I do often set intentions. So, perhaps my intention for this year is to simply live my life, anew.