Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Word for 2014

As the end of 2013 closed in on me, I realized that I had yet to find my word for the new year. 2013 was 'Simplify.' Because the boys were placed in our home in November & we went from zero kids to 3 just a few weeks before Christmas, by the end of 2012 I was craving simplicity. The word served me well- once I committed to it, any occasion that offered me choice was met with the thought "which would simplify things?"

Always holding this consideration gave me a little breathing room & less opportunity to burn out in my first year as a mom.  It allowed me to keep my expectations in check when I knew that my measuring stick was simplicity, rather than what some book told me to do or what my friends or family would do. It also saved me from what would have likely been hours of emotional self-flagellation over not doing the most complex & difficult option. Because 'Simplify.' served me so well in 2013, it was baffling to be unable to find a word as 2014 approached. It needed to be something that would be as useful as my 2013 word. Apparently I couldn't find it, I needed to let it find me.

It found me standing in the street in front of my house, at almost 5pm on New Year's Eve, holding a screwdriver in one hand & a giant water bill & the accompanying letter explaining the likelihood of a leak in the other. I pried off the heavy cover & peered over into the grate where my water meter & my neighbor's meter were shacked up. His hummed lazily along while ours spun wildly. I checked my watch & realized there really wasn't anything that could be done. And the next day was New Year's Day, so the meter would have another day to spin.  As I closed my eyes & sighed, my word found me. Acceptance. There was nothing I could do. No amount of worrying would change what would happen. For whatever reason, it was in this moment, that it finally settled in my head that there really never has been a reason to worry over things I couldn't change. A bit unsettling for someone who basically made a sport out of it for 39 years.

Who knows why it took so long for this to sink in. Honestly, on the surface, it is such a simple statement. It makes sense to accept things you can't change, but it has never been something I could internalize. Not until I was literally on my hands & knees in my front yard. On more than one occasion I have felt my thoughts "spinning" when I would be worrying over something I couldn't change. Oh the irony of seeing it happen outside of myself. 

As I settled on this word for 2014, or I should probably say "as it settled on me", there was a moment of clarity. This word never sat well with me in the past because it seemed to be some form of surrender, which didn't seem like a good idea. As if recognizing that something was a certain way meant that I had to actually like it. Give up on anything being different. The most important thing I have learned in the last few weeks is that I also have to "accept" my responsibility to recognize what can & can't be changed. Work on what can. Accept & let go of the rest.

All of this reminded me of a friend who had the serenity prayer posted in her apartment when we were in college. It didn't mean anything to me at the time, but it certainly came back to me as I stood in the street on New Year's Eve making peace with the power of acceptance. The space it created inside of me to just accept it & move on. It felt good.

How much energy should one waste on something that can't be changed in the moment? How much more energy does acceptance give you to use on things you actually can change? More than you would think. I have spent the first few weeks of 2014 accepting the hell out of some things. I'm getting pretty good at it. I don't know what it was about that meter spinning that made my head stop, but I'm grateful for it... although I may need to be reminded of that the day the water bill arrives.

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