The Things I Carry from 2015 and my One Word for 2016

I lived a hundred different lives in 2015. The adventurous expat, the patient teacher, the homesick little girl, the intrepid world traveler, the anxiety-ridden dependent, the supportive wife, the optimistic partner, the heartbroken friend. I have felt a hundred incongruous emotions — hopeful and discouraged, excited and apathetic, inspired and utterly disengaged, generous and self-protective, joyful and bitterly sad. I’ve traveled through 7 countries and made a 6,000 mile move. Each separate life and identity is self-contained like a square on a quilt, inextricably connected to the whole and meaningless without it.

I move forward into 2016 marked by the experiences of this past year and of all the years that came before it. I carry them with me like the very cells of my body. Who I am today is shaped by what I did yesterday and last year and in the years before that. But who I will be tomorrow depends on what I choose to do with today.

There are dozens of ways I’d like to change, but when I think of all the things I need to do better I don’t feel inspired to step into a new year – I feel too overwhelmed to even know where to start. I need to eat better, to exercise more, to drink more water, to be less selfish, to love better, to make more time for writing, to travel, to explore, to learn a new language or skill, to be a better friend, to volunteer, to blog more consistently, to stop whining so much, to pray more, to be more organized.

Last year I abandoned my list of resolutions in favor of just One Word. The idea of One Word is to get rid of your list and to choose a single word to focus on for a whole year. “One word that sums up who you want to be and how you want to live.”

In 2015, I chose the word “Wholehearted.” It was a big word that encompassed an entire way of looking at the world. I’m not finished with wholeheartedness – becoming wholehearted is a lifelong journey – but I have chosen a new word to represent 2016. My word is Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is “a state of active, open attention on the present. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.” Mindfulness is something I profess to believe in deeply, but fail to put into practice.

From the time I was a young child I learned to disassociate. This began as a coping mechanism for me, a way of dealing with my anxiety, but it grew into a habit. There is a restlessness in me that causes me to grow bored and discontented easily, and when I’m no longer entertained, challenged, or excited, I tend to disengage.

There is nothing more terrifying to me than the thought of living an ordinary life, but most of life is made of ordinary moments. How much of mine do I miss by checking out and simply going through the motions while I dream of being somewhere else? This year, I want to learn to be present for my own life.

The poet Mary Oliver writes often about what it means to pay attention to the world. In her famous poem “The Summer Day” she writes:

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

I believe that nothing is without meaning if we only pay attention to it. And I believe that I can waste my one wild and precious life not through big mistakes, but through day after day of failing to pay attention and just going through the motions.

I am setting my intention this year on just one thing – growing in Mindfulness. I will choose to be present for my every day life. I want to learn to see the extraordinary wrapped up in my ordinary days and to collect evidences of grace that shine true even when the days are dark.

If you’ve chosen One Word for 2016, leave a comment below and share what you chose and what it means to you. 

Header image via: The Huffington Post
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86 comments

  1. Gratitude. Because it’s easy to take life for granted. And when bits of life are falling to pieces, and I’m holding brokenness in my hands, it’s easiest to look for someone to blame rather than something to be grateful for.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My word is ‘Connected’. I want to be connected to myself, all of it, learning to be alone is a challenge for me, to my world (mindfulness is part of that), to other people, being truly present with them, and to my God.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like how you mentioned being connected to yourself as well as to others, to the world, and to God. I think people overlook the fact that we can be disconnected from our own selves, and if you aren’t aware of what you’re thinking and feeling and your own spiritual health, you can’t possibly connect well with others. I think true connection requires authenticity. Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You have such talent as a writer. I really enjoyed reading your post! Right before I moved to Nepal last July my grandpa asked me what “mindful” meant to me. The difference in my answer then and now after 5 months of “developing country living” has changed drastically! Keep up the good work!!

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    1. Thank you! I can’t imagine how much your perspective has shifted since being in Nepal. I was living in Korea for the past two years which isn’t considered a “developing country”but still changed my perspective on so many things.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mindfulness.Yes! Tried to get my head around this one last year and tried too hard-which is kind of the opposite of being in the moment.May join you on this one-but am thinking of “Just Breathe”which is two words really!

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    1. Haha. I totally get that trying to hard thing. I think I bit off an awful lot with “wholeheartedness” last year. The thing I like about mindfulness is that it’s more of an intention than an action. I’m thinking of starting a blog series where I blog about different ways I’m practicing mindfulness throughout the year.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Lily, I am amazed and left in awe every time I read one of your blogs or writings. Maybe in part it is because I knew you as a tiny child and you are that little niece of mine and it makes me proud. Or maybe it is because people your age, these days, don’t have the insight or the interest in life that you do. Maybe it is just that you are just such a gift from God and He uses you to inspire us who are privileged to read what you put in paper. Either way, I am always amazed and enjoy your words and want to say thank you for sharing. And I don’t have my One Word yet. But when I do I will share. Happy New Year!

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  6. Hi, my word for 2016 is ‘Bewustzijn’, a Dutch word which means something like awareness, consciousness or even mindfulness. It has to do with growing my perception of living in the moment, the power of now,

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    1. Ah Ben. There you go trumping us all with your fancy Dutch word. 😉 Sounds like you and I are looking for some of the same things out of 2016. I hope it’s something we can both grow in.

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      1. 😉 choosing the Dutch word had to do with my poor English. Bewustzijn is a multi layered word, with several meanings and associations, and i couldn’t find the proper translation to cover for it.

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      2. Fair enough. I love how different languages have words that are so complex they don’t have exact translations into English or other languages. In Korean there’s a word that means something like, “when all the leaves change colors in the fall.” I love that. PS – Your books are on the way, but since it’s international shipping they might not get there til February.

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      3. That korean word must be very beautiful, I really like the beauty of nature in autumn. I love languages, and looking at different meanings of words. Thanks for sending the books, I’ll be looking out for them and let you know when they arrive.

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      4. I think the word is 단풍 (dan-poong). I think it works as a noun so you could basically say “The color of the leaves in the fall is one of my favorite things” by saying “단풍 is one of my favorite things.” I also think languages are fascinating.

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  7. My word for 2015 was ‘awareness’ which is quite akin to ‘mindful’.
    For 2016 i choose ‘align’…aligning my mind and body so that i can give the best of myself to myself and my near and dear ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I think my word would be “content.” This last year I planned a lot for the future and many things didn’t pan out how I wanted. I was discontent with the life I was living and had my heart broken because I put so much hope in the future. This year, while pursuing my passions and future, I still want to be content with where God has put me: In the now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was just responding to another comment saying how much I struggle with this. One of my goals in pursuing mindfulness this year is to let my attention to the present grow peace and contentment in me. I realized that as I looked forward into 2016, I wasn’t feeling excited at all. In fact, I felt disappointed. Having just come off of two years of living abroad, traveling, and having lots of new experiences, the prospect of being in the same place and doing the same thing for the next year felt stifling. And yet, I am convicted by how ungrateful this is, especially when it’s so clear that this is where God has called us for this season. In the last season, I would get homesick and long to just be home. Now that I’m back in America, I long to be abroad again. It seems pretty obvious that the problem isn’t really where I am, it’s my own heart. I hope and pray both of us can grow in contentment this year!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. This is a huge problem for me too – very much related to “mindfulness.” I want to practice being attentive to my life instead of always thinking about the past or the future. I want to learn contentment.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes I get so caught up in the doing that I don’t take the time to sit back, appreciate, and just enjoy what’s right in front of me. I hope this year is full of simple moments of joy for you!

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    1. I also felt like hope became an important theme for me towards the end of 2015. I considered it as my word for 2016 as well. I’ve actually got a hope-themed tattoo in the works for this year, so I suppose that means it will be one of my rest-of-my-life words.

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  9. Courage – I made a lot of courageous changes this year in my personal life and I hope to make more. I want my one word for the New Year to be courage. I want to continue to make bold choices to hopefully better my life even further than before. Thank you for the push to reflect! Sometimes resolutions can become so daunting.

    Happy New Year! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Love your idea about choosing a word. I didn’t make resolution but set some goals. My resolution word has to be Happiness and I working on a Happiness series, Mindfulness said to be a component. . . . just saying

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    1. That makes sense. I did a whole series last year on gratitude and how practicing gratitude changes our hearts and helps us experience more joy. But practicing gratitude sort of starts with mindfulness too – paying attention to the world around you. Happiness and Gratitude and Mindfulness seem pretty interconnected when you think about it. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Excellent word of the year choice! I chose Abundance for my word this year. I’ve been doing this since 2014 and so far Acceptance and Gratitude have graced me with so much knowledge and new experiences. Best wishes on your year of Mindfulness (I was taught this by a therapist to help with my depression.. it saved my life!).

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    1. I did a whole blog series on gratitude last year and definitely saw a difference in my outlook on life. I think there’s a really cool progression in your words – acceptance (stop struggling for things you can’t change and be content), gratitude (be grateful for the gifts you have) and Abundance (now that you’ve accepted your life as it is and practice gratitude your eyes are opened to the abundance of grace and goodness in your life). Maybe that’s not how you see it, that’s just what I thought of when I read your words. 😉 Mindfulness has been recommended to me as a way to combat my anxiety. I’m hopeful it will help this improve for me this year!

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  12. Intentional. (About who I spend my time with, what I read, how I parent, what I write, how I engage online, etc).

    Good luck with Mindfulness — great word!

    BTW, I love that poem, too 🙂

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  13. I love this post- reading it felt like someone was in my head putting thoughts to paper finally. This concept is fantastic. I definitely will be doing some reflection to come up with a word for myself. Thank you so much for sharing this!

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  14. Love your word and why you chose it. I felt the same way in 2015 and then I chose the word REAL because I wanted to be honest specially to myself, stop lying about my own desires and fears. Focusing on it paid off and for 2016 I feel more confident and mindful so my word now is Experience. As 2015 was a year to look inside of my soul I spent most part of it alone and concentrating in myself. This year I want new experiences – visit new places, see new things, learn new things, try new flavors, meet new people, etc…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really cool story about the pay-off you saw from 2015. I also like that idea of spending a year focusing inwardly and now spending a year looking for more outward experiences. I hope you have some amazing adventures!

      Liked by 1 person

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