On the New Year, Choosing a Word, and Being Wilder on Purpose

I’ve never picked a personal Word for the Year, even though I’m pretty sure all the popular kids do it.

I assume I don’t pick one because I’m lazy.

Or maybe because I’m busy.

Or, more honestly, probably because I’m too invested in making sure I don’t have time alone with myself to actually sit and be quiet and think about what I want, who I want to be, and how best to love this broken, shaky, beautiful world around me.

So, instead of sussing a Word for the Year, I’ve spent the last week trying new Instant Pot recipes, baking No Knead Crusty Dutch Oven Bread, and researching whether or not it’s possible to dry the starter for Amish Friendship Bread, like this, so I can eat it whenever I want without needing Actual Friends to pass it along to me. (Answer: I STILL DON’T KNOW AND THIS BOTHERS ME). 

My friends come up with cool words every year like BRAVE and LET IT GO and LOVE BIGGER, and you know what? They do it. They Pay Attention to their words. They let themselves be challenged. They try and they fail and then they keep trying which is success as far as I’m concerned, and so they change themselves in important and profound ways. 

I want to be like them.

But I’m not.

I’m more… muddled, I guess. Murky. A maze of both Magic and Mess. And also, I don’t know what to make of Things Lately. Like 2017. I don’t know what to make of that. Cluster Fuck seems too mild, and Dumpster Fire is downright adorable now, from Good Old Days of 2016. Remember that? When the fire was still contained in the dumpster? THAT WAS SO FANTASTIC, friends! I feel like we should apologize to the dumpster, you know? Like we maligned the dumpster without cause.

So, while I love seeing my friends’ words like Hope, and Thrive, and BE, and Listen, I can’t quite wrap my brain or my heart around just the joyful, contemplative goals right now. They feel… important, but also… incomplete. I’m happy for the New Year, I’m grateful for a symbolic fresh start, but I’m also mourning all the things that died last year, and I’m not sure my Expectations and Mirages are done dying yet. I still hear the death throes, so brushing off my hands and declaring Mourning Over feels premature. But I can’t choose Mourn as my word, either, because I don’t want to only lament what’s lost. I’m too grateful for that. Too glad to have my people. Too thrilled with this utterly strange, wild life. 

Is there a space, I wonder, between positive and negative? Between darkness and light? And, if so, how do I choose Dusk or Dawn, where light and dark converge, instead of Midnight or High Noon? What’s the word for that one? Where I’m content and confused, mixed and a little mangled, heavy-hearted and hopeful, but OK with all that? Where’s the quantum magic that takes us more than one place at once? Lost and found at the same time and somehow more free because of it?

Where do we get to be complex? Fully human with all the grand, gory bits that entails, and still made in the very Image of God? In the Image of Love? In the Image of all that is Divine and perfect? 

Where is that place, and how do I find it in 2018? Remember it in a word? 

I sat on the couch tonight, my back and brain aching from Doing All the Things this holiday season; my heart on cruise control because sometimes I Just Cannot Deal with all the Heart Things; my mouth running to remind kids of chores and chastising them for “not remembering” their work, as though that’s not simply part of the Human Condition.

I sat on the couch tonight, and I thought about the complexity of the year gone by and the undoubted challenges in the year ahead.

I sat on the couch tonight, and I thought about the joy and grief of wandering in the wilderness, which is where we’ve found ourselves in this season. I thought about how glad I am discard the false idol of safety and to release the pressure to conform in favor of being free to love my neighbor as myself.

I thought about what it is to be wild like the earth shakers and game changers.

I thought about what it might be to be wilder than I allow right now.

I thought about what it would look like to acknowledge I’m complex. 

To be fierce and a little feral.

To welcome both strength and weakness. To rest in either one. To fight neither.

I thought about what it might mean to allow myself to be intense without apology; to stop listening to the voices that tell me I’m too much; to give free rein to fervent kindness, bold joy, deep grief, and love which never fails. Even when they arrive in rapid succession. Even when they overlap and make things messier.

I thought about being wild.

I thought about what it might mean to be wilder. To be more free. To be more me, as I was made to be. As though I’m worth pursuing, even in the tangle and chaos of the wild. Especially there. 

So I picked my word. 

Be wilder.

Which is, of course, also bewilder. 

Because I want to remind myself that it’s good and right to become ever more free. And it’s also OK that there’s going to be some confusion. Some consternation. Some complexity. Some muck and some mess.

Welcome, Wild Ones. Come and be free.

With love,

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
11 comments
  1. “Because I want to remind myself that it’s good and right to become ever more free. And it’s also OK that there’s going to be some confusion. Some consternation. Some complexity. Some muck and some mess.”

    You’re great and I love you.

  2. I’m not a fan of resolutions, but I do love me some words!
    Mine for 2018: Better Boat (inspired by this song written by my brilliant songwriting friend, Travis)
    Rumor has it that Kenny Chesney will be releasing this particular song on an upcoming album soon…remember that you heard it here first!

  3. I have a movie recommendation that so perfectly fits your word and theme – “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”. This is a trivial response to a deep post, so I also send my best wishes and wholehearted gratitude for your blog

    Trailer:

  4. My phrase for the year one year was “Words Have Power. Chose Them Wisely.” Tapèd it to my computer screen because I am an analog grandma in a grandchild digital world. If you are like me, an analog anomaly in a digital world, maybe tape your Be Wilder/Bewilder on your bathroom mirror so that you can remember that being wilder can be so bewildering but so rewarding.

    My phrase for this year is “Remember to be astonished.” Because when you get to be my age, you begin to think you have seen it all, done it all, felt it all, but you haven’t.

  5. ((hugs)) friend. Go get ’em! When you can. And when you can’t… don’t be afraid to crawl under the covers and be kind to yourself.

    Any time you want bread starter, let me know. I’ll be happy to send some along. <3

  6. Didn’t know picking a word was a thing.
    While reading this I picked one for myself:
    Beth.
    Be more like Beth.

  7. This year I’m taking some advice that my daughter heard. Instead of “resolutions” which I hate and never make I’m making a list of 18 things I want to do in 2018. I’m calling it 18 for 18. I only have 6 things on my list just yet – so there’s plenty of room for more things to accomplish! I love your “be wilder/bewilder” word choice – sooo spot on!

  8. Ah, Amish friendship bread. SO YUMMY! Here’s a tip to make your 2018 even better… you can freeze the starter! So you CAN make it any time you want!

  9. I love the double significance of Be Wilder and bewilder, it seems perfect. I’ve picked words before…I don’t always remember them, or put them into practice.

    But I’m sitting in a similar place at the beginning of this year, and the word that comes to mind for me is ‘Fight’. Because I can feel myself slipping into darkness and sometimes I want to let go and sometimes I want to claw my way back up out of it. Because God is really abstract to me right now and I want to be the woman fighting though the crowd to touch the hem of his garment. Because the world IS a raging fire right now (Oh dumpster, I miss you too…) and I want to learn how to fight back against that with light and hope.

    (I wasn’t going to blog about my word this year, because sometimes it can be terrifying to admit just how dark things are in my life. But I think maybe that will be my task for the day, because I think there are more of us who need to know it’s okay to have a word that isn’t all sweetness and light and lofty goals.)

  10. I’ve been down and seeing people posting what they accomplished this past year. So I asked on Facebook for people to tell me. One said existed but honestly that is just enertia. Other friends noted my activism, and humor, which was really nice. A bunch said the number of books I read- and honestly? Reading is breathing for me. I’m like a reading shark- if I stop reading I die. Then my husband posted “you persisted.” which was perfect. So Persistence. That’s my word.

  11. I think your word of the year should be AND.

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