oneword

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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New(ish) Ink for My Year of Wholehearted Living

Last January I decided that instead of making resolutions I would just choose one word to focus on for the year. A single word that summed up how I wanted to grow during 2015. I chose the word “wholehearted.” I wrote that:

Wholeheartedness is about sincerity and commitment. For me this means authenticity in my life and my writing. It means commitment to continue my faith-wrestling and to asking sincere questions. Being Wholehearted is also a commitment to courage, compassion, and connection. It is the courage to be vulnerable despite the risk, the compassion to love other people well and to extend grace quickly, both to myself and to others, and the choice to develop genuine connections with others. Wholeheartedness means committing to being fully present, to showing up for every day of my life instead of checking out when things are hard or boring. It means engaging with Today and believing that every day is a gift. And Wholehearted means believing that I am worthy of love and belonging – not because there is anything especially great and deserving about me, but because we are all worthy of love and belonging and because we can’t fully accept love and belonging unless we believe we are worthy of it.

My journey with wholeheartedness isn’t over, but I can honestly say that I think I can see where I’ve grown in these areas. I have taken more risks in trying to connect with people and I have learned to be kinder to myself. I have also failed in some of these areas, and that’s OK too. Choosing one word for the year was never about mastering a particular virtue. It was simply about setting my intentions.

Just before we left Korea in August, I got a new tattoo. It wasn’t something I posted to Instagram or Facebook and I didn’t tell many people about it at the time. It wasn’t meant to be a secret, but it also wasn’t something I wanted to hear a lot of conflicting opinions on or make a big deal about. I wasn’t getting it because tattoos are trendy or because I wanted other people to think I was cooler than I really am. I wanted a symbol of my time in Korea and my journey towards wholeheartedness that would stay with me forever.

I know that tattoos are not everyone’s cup of tea and if you don’t like them, that’s totally fine. There are certainly plenty of people who get tattoos that they later regret. But for me, my tattoos are physical marks of my own story. They remind me of where I’ve been and of the places in my life where God has broken through. I like the permanence of them – the sense that in a world where everything is always changing, these things will always be true and constant.

This tattoo is a compass inside of a mandala. The mandala is a traditional Hindu or Buddhist pattern symbolizing wholeness and unity in the universe. The intricate dot-work shading and the symmetry in the pattern are meant to point to the order in the universe and to our smallness in relation to the greater pattern. I had the compass placed into the middle as a reminder of this time spent living abroad and also that my life has direction. And while these really are meanings I thought about before having this piece done, I also chose it because I think it’s beautiful and I believe that’s a worthwhile reason in itself.

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This was when it was freshly done.

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And this is what it looks like now that it’s healed.

I chose the placement on my leg partly because it was a big enough area to handle a larger piece like this and partly because it’s relatively easy to cover. It shows when I wear shorts or a swimsuit, but it naturally covered by pants or dress clothes so its no hassle for a more formal setting. I was hesitant about putting it on my thigh which has long been my least favorite part of my body. I wasn’t sure I wanted to call attention to the part of me that I am most self-conscious about. But then I thought, “Why not put something beautiful on this part of you that you don’t think is beautiful?” And the cool thing is, since getting my tattoo it’s become one of my favorite parts of myself. I feel so much more confident and beautiful even if the rest of my legs still jiggle like Jell-O.

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This was also the day I got it. I had my shorts rolled up so they wouldn’t irritate it, but normally my shorts fall right to the middle of the tattoo.

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This is the only picture I can find where you can sort of see where it falls with my regular shorts on. It’s just barely showing here.

2015 is drawing to a close, but my journey towards wholeheartedness will continue into next year and on through the rest of my life.

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My tattoo is a beautiful, one of a kind piece that was designed for me by an artist in Busan, South Korea. In other words, don’t go get my exact tattoo somewhere on you! Most artists are happy to design something unique for you – they don’t want to just copy other people’s work either.

Feature Image Credit: The Blue Mug