This card that says "be gentle with yourself" from the love notes deck Lori Portka illustrated for Kris Carr is one of the images I kept seeing last year that invited me to choose the word "gentle" as my 2016 word.
A year ago when I first wrote about this word, I was thinking about things like: softness, tender moments, wholeness, grace, boundaries, and the quiet strength that awaits deep within. I was longing for softness and ease, and I thought gentle would guide me toward more of that. I thought when writing this post reflected on my word, I'd be sharing all the ways my life became softer this year.
But as things go in The And Space that makes up this life of mine, 2016 was one of the hardest years I've had in a while. Probably since the year EJ was born and had open-heart surgery at four months.
There were a lot of good things this year (like #thehouseofmagicalbluesky).
But there was also a lot of stress and internal struggles and hard relationship stuff. The kind of stuff you don't always share in your online spaces. You probably had some stuff like this too. Some years, there's just more of it.
Gentle pushed me to begin to acknowledge the ways I was hard on myself, ways that were so internalized, I didn't realize how deeply ingrained they actually were. I thought I was past them, and 2016 said, "not so much." Gentle helped me, even when I was raging against it, to find that kinder internal voice again.
Then, of course, externally and in the world around us all, this year was anything but gentle. I had to really push myself to look for any kind of gentleness amidst all the anger and pain.
Today, as I reflect on this past year, I have to admit I loved having this word as my companion, even when it annoyed me that I'd chosen it with hope in mind. It's helped me see that my words, my intentions, will stretch me just as life does. Yes, I want my practices to be safe places to land AND they can challenge me. This is The And Space after all. This is the space where I hold the beauty and the grit. This is the space where I can still choose gentleness if that is what best serves the moment.
And I actually did learn more and experience "softness, tender moments, wholeness, grace, boundaries, and the quiet strength that awaits deep within." I just thought I'd experience those in a year that would feel gentle most of the time. It felt like it was time for that in my life. Know what I mean? But in reality, keeping the word "gentle" in front of me every day (or as Ali talks about, "keeping it visible"), taught me more about how to actually embody gentleness and ways to invite it into my daily life more often.
When it comes to this word of the year thing, there are those who would say, "It's just a word." And I know there are those for whom this practice isn't a good fit. I get that, I really do.
But for me, the words become symbols and touchstones that can deeply help us through the real, raw, and true journey we're on.
And I can take all the help I can get.
I do plan to create a little ceremony to say good-bye to 2016 (using some of these ideas). And then, I'm going to be so ready for 2017 and the adventures, lessons, and maybe even some gentleness to come.
In early January, I'm going to share more about my word and phrase for the year along with the self-care practices I'm bringing with me into the new year. (Remember, this is always a create your own adventure sort of a thing, sweet soul. So yes, you can choose a word, a phrase, a color, an animal, a quote, an intention, a prayer, a book, a poem, all the above, anything that you feel will guide you into and through 2017.)
How did you experience your word or intention this year? If you chose one, I'd love to know in the comments.