Do you choose words of the year? For the last few years, I’ve chosen a word or phrase to guide and remind me of where I want to go (figuratively speaking, of course, or my word every year would be Italy) in the new year.
In 2015, I chose: Integrate
In 2016, it was: Full
In 2017, I went with: Joyful Responsibility
Last year I chose joyful responsibility because I’m always mud-wrestling with the question of how to engage in service with less stress and a lighter heart. I just went back to re-read this post and I was like, oh hey, sometimes I really know what I’m talking about! So maybe you want to check that blog out.
But did it work? Was I all gleefully responsible in 2017? That’s what you really want to know, right?
I was sidetracked by a lot of personal grief and loss in 2017. I wasn’t expecting to be on the floor crying for so much of the year. Even so, I was still conscious that I had chosen joyful responsibility to guide me.
Which means that although I started off the year volunteering at Planned Parenthood like a boss (I even went to DC to meet with my senators and made this video), when grief took me out at the knees and grad school had me begging for a brain transplant, I knew I had to dial it way back.
How did I know? Because I got weepy when I was asked to lead a communications training and that was a (not at all) subtle sign that I was overwhelmed.
2017 was a way more stressful year than usual for me (and lots of you – I know I’m not unique in this regard). When we have increased stress, we have to increase our self-care or we risk compassion fatigue, burnout, and other beasties that can take us out of the game or make us ineffective if we stay in it. I didn’t want that to happen.
I knew I had to redirect my limited energy to doing my (paid) work well and finishing up grad school. That meant less volunteering for Planned Parenthood.
Normally I would beat myself up for this, but because I was embracing the idea of joyful responsibility, I offered myself a lot of self-compassion instead. I refocused on joyful responsibility when it came to my job.
Having this phrase as my 2017 guide consistently helped me to see when I was contributing in a meaningful way and when I was reactive and spinning out (which feels terrible and does not help anyone).
So, yes. It worked.
This week, I chose my words based on what I want to invite into my life this year.
My 2018 words are Ease and Receive.
Simply put, I am inviting ease into all areas of my life in 2018. In this context, ease means I’d like to struggle less (which is not the same as hard work. I’m down with hard work).
I want to be that cat.
I believe that struggle is NOT required in order to do great work, to help others, or to make changes for ourselves.
I forget this ALL the time.
One way that I forget is that I tend to dismiss what I do well if it comes naturally to me. If someone tells me I did a great job, I think, “Nah, it’s no big deal that I stood in front of a room full of grumpy, sleepy nurses at 7am and got them laughing about compassion fatigue. I’m sure anyone can do that.”
I dismiss what I have to offer when I can do it with ease.
But this is what I know is true: Just because you can skillfully do something with ease, doesn’t mean it’s not awesome or that everyone else can do it. We’re each naturally good at different stuff. We all have different strengths.
Even more importantly:
The ease with which you do things does not negate the value of what you do.
Suffering is not required. Something can come easily to you and still be immensely helpful or useful to others. If accounting and taxes comes naturally to you, I highly value what you offer.
So I am inviting ease into my life this year. I am going to remind myself (often) that what I offer is good enough and that I don’t have to struggle in order to offer something of value in this world.
And here’s the big one: I am open to receiving in 2018.
I am issuing a delightfully quirky letterpress invitation to the Universe (call it whatever works for you – God, Spirit, The Great Comforter, Source, Creator, sometimes I just call it Birdie), to bring on what I need to thrive.
In other words: I’m down to receive help from others, new opportunities, guidance and support, collaborations, l-o-v-e, compensation, and time for naps.
I am turning up the appreciation dial, using the power of ease to make some space (literally and figuratively) in my life to receive the new, and I’m turning down the volume of noise so I can really listen and notice what’s being offered.
Let me tell you: this is not easy for me to write.
As I type these words about ease and receive I can hear the critical, stingy voice in my head grumbling:
“Who do you think you are?”
“Other people are way worse off and deserve this stuff way more than you.”
“Giving is better than receiving…says everyone, duh.”
“Could you be any more selfish?” (say it like Chandler)
“Woo woo woo woo woo.”
“Well now, looky here. That lady thinks she’s real special. Round here, we call that entitled.”
“If you’re not bleeding, sweating, and going broke, you’re not doing important work!”
For the love of Birdie, how boring and annoying is this?
Not gonna do it this year. This year I am talking back to Edith (I think that’s what I’m going to call the critical voice in my head. I’ll let you know in 2019 if the name sticks) and I’m saying nope. I’m all for it.
I’m open to receive and I’m rolling in the ease.
Can you relate? Do you struggle with receiving?
Receiving help from others? Gifts? Compliments?
Recognition for your work? Money for your services?
Love and kindness from yourself or others?
I’m going to make a sweeping assumption that lots of you struggle with this, as I do, because many people who are in helping professions have difficulty receiving.
We love to give and fix (we’re in control!), but we don’t like to be on the receiving end. We’ll explore that more in future blogs, because it deserves it’s own space.
But for now, I invite you to take a minute to sit with the idea that there is more than enough to go around, that the degree to which we struggle or suffer does not determine the value of our work (or ourselves), and that we can only truly give (without judgement) when we allow ourselves to receive (without judging ourselves).
Want to practice receiving? It’s a muscle. Start with small reps.
Try this: the next time someone gives you a compliment or acknowledges your good work, receive it. Just say “Thank you.” Do not dismiss or qualify it. If it feels uncomfortable, notice that and allow those feelings to be. They’ll pass. Then high five yourself (when no one is looking).
What are your words of the year? Or what would you like to choose for 2018? What do you want more of? What would you like to guide you? I’d love to know – tell me in the comments.
May you live with ease in 2018 and may you receive what you need to thrive in the coming year.