Just Life

And | December 2020.

Today is the last Tuesday of December, which means it’s the day to share our OLW thoughts. This was the 14th year I’ve picked a word, and I keep wondering if/when the magic will wear off. Y’all, it hasn’t yet … and at this point, I’m thinking it probably never will. Thanks to these monthly check-ins, I’ve captured ten snapshots of this year’s journey. what a time capsule! As I prepare to make space for another word in 2021, I want to use this post to look back at those posts.

January 14 – I welcomed the word knowing the year would bring challenges. “I trust this year will bring more of that same wonder and discovery, along with (sadly) more discomfort, discord and likely terrible news.” whoa. I had no idea did I?

January 28 – I started paying attention to saying/thinking “and” in place of “but” (and sometimes in place of “or”). I wrote about paradox regarding Kobe Bryant’s tragic death. “I wonder why it’s so hard to hold two conflicting ideas in our heads (our hearts?) at once?”

February 25 – February is full of paradox. Cherry trees bloom (here in Atlanta) in the midst of winter … literally and figuratively. “another friend gets a cancer diagnosis. another friend (actually many other!) celebrates a birthday. and still. the cherry trees bloom.”

March 31 – the first post of the pandemic. “Honestly, this word has been really hard for me to get my arms around. It’s more a state of mind for me – a way of approaching the world, if that makes sense – than a set of actions, habits or behaviors I can embrace. It’s those intentions I laid out (with painstaking care on the felt board 😉 ) back in January. It’s being open. present. hopeful (yes, even that). It’s also about letting go and making room. for everything. and right now, that’s maybe the hardest thing ever.” sometimes I am really proud of past me.

April 28 – I shared a graphic from Holistically Grace (link) that normalized how we all were holding and processing paradox during the “early” days of quarantine. “Who knew that AND would become a life skill?! I cannot begin to credit the late 2019 self who chose this word for being prescient … still I am grateful to her.”

May 31 – George Floyd was murdered and the world caught fire. I felt my own words were insufficient and I shared the closing words from our pastor’s sermon that morning. “The Hebrew word for breath is Ruach. It’s the same word that the Hebrew language uses for spirit, or even wind. On Pentecost, what you and I recall is that the wind that blew over the watery chaos of creation and the breath that filled Adam’s nostrils when he came to life is the same spirit that descends from Heaven and calls God’s beloved community into being and into action. We have a dream. It is a dream of a world animated by respect, desiring dignity, equality, kindness, humility, and harmony. We dream of a beloved community, a community to which we belong and in which we see and honor one another’s difference and humanity. Ours is a God-given vision of a kingdom, a reign, a community of God come to Earth finally and fully, such that God’s beloved children have a good and a safe place to live, to be, and to breathe. Amen.”

June 30“I’ve written before about AND being the perfect word for surviving a pandemic. and I think it’s also the perfect word for embracing the kind of action required to address systemic racism. By its very nature, it’s additive. it invites abundance. it welcomes new ideas and other opinions. fundamentally, it MAKES ROOM.”

July 28 – We were deep into the summer session of Marmie & Poppa camp and I found some helpful lessons in Sam’s two potential career paths – a true binary – Darth Vader or a firefighter. Also, I shared a favorite quotation from Frederick Buechner about a seemingly binary choice that is really a lifetime of work. “The grace of God means something like: Here is is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.”

August 25 – I hit a wall this month and shared a little of what I’d experienced, and what I learned trying to get back on track. “The path forward is becoming clearer. I can disconnect from the negative voices. I can practice creative and constructive habits. I can DO things. I can be OK feeling many things at once. and I can open myself to surprises in a positive way (not always expecting the worst).”

September 29 – I finished Diana Butler Bass’ Grateful and started to think about being grateful in instead of grateful for and updated my intentions list to include “more gratitude”. “Paraphrasing both Krista Tippett and Diana Butler-Bass: Gratitude is a choice that becomes a practice that becomes spiritual muscle memory.”

October 27 – I re-read Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward with my small group and shared some of the passages that had struck me on my initial read back in summer 2019. That was when I first started thinking about both/and as a skill and a life-practice. The lessons from the first months of 2020 certainly cemented its importance. Thank you Richard Rohr for these wise words “You no longer need to divide the field of very moment between up and down, totally right or totally wrong, with me or against me. It just is. This calm allows you to confront what must be confronted with even greater clarity and incisiveness.”

and that brings me to today. I have no new lessons or insights to share except to acknowledge the process. These monthly check-ins have added so much to my OLW journey. and not only for what writing the posts teaches me. What y’all have shared through your posts and comments here have enriched me immensely. thank you!

Linking up with Honoré, with much gratitude for hosting us this year.

9 Comments

  • kym

    I couldn’t agree more, Mary . . . the magic never wears off! These words hold such a special place in our hearts . . . when we allow them the space to do so. XO

  • Carole

    You’ve been choosing a word for 14 years! That’s amazing! I don’t think the magic will ever wear off so long as you are doing the work of looking for it and bringing it into your life.

  • Kat

    Wow…I am joining Carole in wonder at 14 years! That is incredible! I look forward to seeing what word you choose for next year!

  • Sarah

    I am also in awe of 14 years — and I’m so glad to hear that you are still finding having a word for the year a valuable experience. I wasn’t sure how it would go for me this first year, but it ended up being a really good way to focus my thoughts in this crazy year. Thank you for sharing how your journey with And has gone the past few months. I’m looking forward to hearing where 2021 takes you!

  • Alexa

    I have loved your posts about your word and what it has been revealing to you, and felt humbled by your depth and honesty. Your pastor’s words really resonate with me. Whatever the year ahead holds, and whatever your word is, I am confident you will navigate both with your customary gracefulness.

  • Jane

    What a perfect word for this year. I especially like the application of “and” to social injustice of this country. We need more of and and less of either/or. I imagine this word will stay with you for the rest of your days (and may they be many. ) Happy New Year.

  • Katie @ The Cozy Burrow

    I’ve loved following your AND journey. Just typing the word AND in this context makes me stop, pause, and think, wait… is that what I mean? And then I think aobut how you’re playing with the word and it reminds me to play with the way I think about BUT/AND. It’s wonderful! (I hope that all made sense)

    I can’t wait to see where you’ll focus in 2021!

  • Honore´

    AND – such a unique and “filled with possibility” word AND I thank you for not only sharing and also enlightening our individual paths during this unprecedented year … AND here we are, now in 2021 AND aspects of 2020 seem to continue, being ne’er ending {deep sigh}…
    As always, I have learned so much from you AND with you as we journeyed over these years together, courtesy of our One Little Words.
    Here’s to 2021 AND Friendship.
    Cheers~