My One Word for 2018

According to personality typing and such, I should be a list person. I’m not a list person. Pushing a grocery cart around in a store full of strangers while simultaneously trying to read and check off items on a list is more stressful than getting home and realizing I forgot the toilet paper. For this reason (and plenty of more cynical ones), I’ve never been a resolution person, either. I resolve to avoid making New Year’s resolutions, but that’s about it. (And yes, that’s hypocritical, but I prefer the term “ironic.”) The real problem, I think, is that I know deep down I’m going to wake up in February and realize I forgot the metaphorical toilet paper.

But there I was in the shower — which happens to be in the bathroom, which happens to be a thin space, where heaven and earth meet, and where revelation is more regular than most elderly folks — and the thought occurred to me that I should pick a word on which to focus my intention for the upcoming year. Of course, I’ve seen people do this in years past, but by the time I’m reading about them on social media, the ship has sailed. Needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise for me to feel this sort of prompting with enough time to (over)think it through properly.

As I lathered and rinsed (but didn’t repeat, because I’m a rebel), two words came to my mind: “joy” and “yes.” “Joy” seemed like a pretty noble aspiration, but I also know that between my panic disorder and the semi-regular waves of depression, “joy” would annoy me only slightly less than Amy Poehler’s character in Inside Out. And for a person whose boundaries aren’t always the healthiest, “yes” seemed like a potential recipe for disaster, a la Jim Carrey’s character in Yes Man. Knowing these things, a friend of mine suggested the word “open.” I loved it instantly.

It’s religious or political fundamentalism that prides itself on being a closed system. Draw a circle around all the things you like, and then build a wall to keep out the ones who don’t belong. Whether that’s a literal wall on the southern US border (but why not the northern one?) or a tacit expectation that those who are members of a certain church believe a certain set of things (and wage war against anyone who doesn’t swallow it hook, line, and sinker), every decision made in a closed, fundamentalist system is rooted in fear. Every. Single One. And I burned that bridge years ago on my journey to mental health.

But there’s more. I can’t stop here, with an open-minded respect for different faiths and feelings. This year, I need to take the next step into openness; I need finally to be open to life itself. My mind can be engaged from within my comfort zone. But to be open to life? That requires me to leave my comfort zone. Regularly. I’ve resisted this brand of openness for a long time. But I see that I can be open-minded while still being closed off. I see that I have been open-minded while still being closed off. And I don’t want to live like that anymore.

I want to reach out and take God’s hand, even if my own is shaking. To follow the Spirit into the unknown with childlike trust and faith, instead of becoming intoxicated by the siren song of fear, which always leaves me shipwrecked, in the end — stranded on a desert isle, chasing the mirage of comfort and safety.

In 2018, my prayer is to be open. Not mindlessly to say “yes” to everything, but intentionally to be open to new possibilities and experiences. Open to growth and change. Open. I’ve resisted for long enough.

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