I love this idea of having a word for the coming year. Ali Edwards has done it for the better part of a decade now, and I must have seen it a couple years back, going around the social media circles. Memorably, in 2012, I chose a word for my coming year–something really tangible and meaningful and far-reaching. It made me feel inspired and excited and wondrous. I felt like I had really stumbled across a concept that tapped right into so many of my own thoughts, and spelled out in a way that so completely echoed the way I like to view the world. This was an opportunity, I remember thinking, to create a focal point and to follow it through the year.
I cannot now remember what that word was. I genuinely haven’t the slightest memory of what word touched and inspired me so, just two years ago.
What does THAT tell you? Right?? I know now, looking back over these past few years, that I was underwater–wayyyy underwater–at the start of 2012. I was living in a rental and preparing to move into a new/old house (I think within a week or so of choosing that forgotten word); I was running a retail bricks-and-mortar shop; I had just published my second book; I was blogging regularly; I was publishing patterns online; I was teaching full-time both in person and online; and I was busy mothering my four children and wife-ing my husband.
Notice the order those things are in. Notice what’s LAST. That was how the majority of my decision-making was taking place at the time, and I knew it and I felt it wasn’t right, and I still kept right on doing it. I could see the things I was neglecting all around me, like crumpled papers on the floor next to my desk, but I was so busy writing that I didn’t take the time to pick them up. Or avoid crumpling them in the first place. “Writing” in this place being sometimes literal, other times a metaphor for all the other tasks I was filling up my days doing. Other other times, a metaphor for the stasis that comes from being overwhelmed, for the sitting-still-ness of total frozen fear.
You know, we’ve all got stuff to work through. And something overwhelming for one of us might be daily life for another. I’m not saying I dislike or am ungrateful for any of the amazing opportunities my life presents me with every day–far, far from it. I am saying that I am SO grateful that I refuse to overlook or neglect any part of my amazing life because I have discovered myself on a hamster wheel of my own making. I think we all, in lots of ways big and small, want to take on more than we really have room for–isn’t that one of the lessons we learn as small children, that we all must make choices? You can’t have the apple AND the tangerine, you must choose. You can’t visit the park AND the aquarium, you must choose. Our culture doesn’t really encourage us to choose anymore–we’re exhorted to multitask and juggle constantly, and promised that the reward will be that we CAN have everything we want.
I’m starting to think maybe we’ve been bamboozled, y’all. I’m starting to get the idea that maybe–sheesh, call me crazy!–maybe we’ve been sold a bill of goods. What is it that Goldie Hawn taught us? “If you let a guy sell you a diamond ring for ten cents, chances are you own a diamond ring that isn’t worth a dime”? Well, this idea that we should do all of it, and all of it RIGHT NOW, it’s starting to sound like baloney to me. And I don’t like baloney.
Last year–just last year!!–I shared my daily schedule. And at the time, it seemed totally normal. Busy, a little overwhelming, something that needed to be addressed “someday,” but not out of the ordinary. I took a perverse feeling of pride out of hearing people tell me they could “never do what you do.” I thought that meant I was doing something meaningful and important.
I began to see through the fog in 2013, and took steps to make more space for all of us: I closed the shop, and we moved our children to new schools that were closer to home and required vastly less drive time each day. I loved the shop, and I loved the people I met there, but it came with a barrel of anxiety and a lot of financial obligations. We loved our kids’ schools, and I believe deeply in the style of education in which they were engaged, but we spent 90 minutes a day in the car, not looking at one another. The difference those two decisions have made for us, at crucial times in my family’s lives, has been incalculable. And it has only been a few months. Having this past summer to spend with my daughter, who was heading off to college–that was irreplaceable. Having the opportunity and the flexibility to go on multiple trips with my husband, just the two of us–that was powerfully healing. Having the hours in the day to sit with my children and share a tea-time snack and learn more about their days and the things that ignite their little eyes–that has been soul-soothing. I can only begin to imagine what more time and more calculated, deliberate decisions to create space in our lives will bring for us.
I love my life, you guys. I am so in love with every single part of it. I don’t often write that here, or not in those words–but I feel breathless when I allow myself to be still and think about how grateful and filled up I am every single day, how tearfully happy I feel when I inhale all the way and realize what a tremendous gift I carry, how delicate it is, how easily it could be taken away. And how careless I have been with all the various parts of it, with all the people who are part of it, with myself–because I am part of it.
This year, I have once again chosen a word. This year, I hope not to forget it. My word is MARGIN. Because that’s what I’ve been seeking, and that’s what we made changes to reach last year–and this year, I want to work toward real intentionality in that margin, toward seeking ways to make space in my life, in all areas, so that I will have the room and the energy to grow and expand and to truly see all the amazing parts of my amazing life. I mean that in all realms: physical, spiritual, relational, parental, professional, creative, marital, temporal. I want fewer temper tantrums (my own or someone else’s) from having too little time and too many obligations. I want fewer arguments because there is no chance to discuss or improve. I want fewer bad dreams because there is too much pressure and not enough breathing room.
I believe that a year built around margin will give me, if nothing more, the time to take those deep breaths, to inhale all the way, and to use my words and my hands to touch those whom I have been graced with having in my life, on every level, in a thousand capacities. To demonstrate my gratitude for every face that crosses my path, and every heart that lies behind it.
I’m seeking more closeness, more softness, more reflection, more deliberate action. I’m not sure where this word will take me–if you read Ali’s posts on the subject, you’ll learn pretty quickly (from her own experience and from the comments others have left on her site) that often, when one chooses a word, it takes on a life of its own. Maybe it’s that the word chooses us. I certainly had a long list of candidates, different ideas that I hoped to pursue or wanted to incorporate or that I yearn for. None of them truly seemed to capture the place I am or to hint at the place I hope to go. They all seemed to be something I could achieve in the future, something that was for the not-now.
For the now, I think I need to make a little more space around me, to take more care about what and whom I invite in, to reach out and grab hold of the things that have both roots and wings, and to give those a soft home in my heart. Right now, I am compelled to plant my feet and reach into the wind, to listen closely and interpret the whispers, to calm my fingers and let the sand trickle over the backs of my hands.
None of that will happen in a cramped room–whatever it is that metaphorical room happens to stand for, because it varies depending on the roles I carry day-to-day. None of that will happen if I elbow my way into a tight corner, pushing and fighting for space. None of that can happen when any of us believes the lie that the corner of the room IS the whole room, when really the room is a palatial dance floor, more than enough floor for each of us to spin with our arms outstretched, if only we’ll stop for a moment and open our eyes.
I’m gleeful about this year, you guys. I am giddy with the chance to slow things down, to look forward, to reach out, and to see what the world has already offered me. This isn’t about getting rid of things, and it isn’t even about finding something new. This is about cautiously opening the window on my own life and allowing myself the time and space to realize just how much I already have.
This is my year to look around. This is my year for uni-tasking. This is my year for MARGIN.
If you want to join Ali and the many, many others who are looking to be active and intentional in the coming year, see her One Little Word posts on her blog, and consider joining her OLW online class for 2014. Here’s wishing you, no matter where you are, an amazing coming year filled with joy and exuberant adventure.