Each year, I try to pick a word as my focus for the year. It’s part wish, part aspiration, part dream (as Cinderella sang, “A dream is a wish your heart makes…”).
What was my word for 2020, the craziest, most unpredictable, most rollercoaster-y year I (and lots of other people) have ever had? It was “Ease.”
While Ease is pretty much the last word I would choose to describe 2020, in some ways it was the right word. When things got really challenging or stressful or downright heartbreaking, I had to remind myself to find some ease, to be easy with myself, to be easy with the people around me.
Now, at the beginning of 2021, I’ve been thinking about what this year’s word should be. There have been a few candidates running through my mind and dancing across the pages of my journal, including:
Gratitude: I’ve been saying for the past year that I’m really trying to stay grounded in gratitude. Grateful for my health, and the health of my loved ones. Grateful for my work. Grateful to have a nice place to live. Grateful for my daughter’s hardworking teachers, and for everyone in my community and my country that is trying to keep us afloat. Gratitude snaps me back to the present.
Gentle: Be gentle with myself and others. Don’t push too much. Recognize that some things, and people, need to be handled with care. Is there room for strength alongside gentleness? Absolutely!
Intuition: Is this the year that I can really give way to my inner voice? When I can trust my inner knowing, and trust outer signs that are gently nudging me towards that voice? So much of intuition is about trust, and it’s also about releasing the misapprehension that I can control things.
These are all good choices, but there’s one other word that emerges again and again. It’s calling to me, and I need to answer:
Patience with myself. Patience with others. Patience with life – trusting that things will unfold in their right time and at their own pace. Like intuition, I think that patience often circles back to letting go of control. I can’t control the pace of so many things, and I definitely can’t control other people (I can try, and it might work in the short term, but it’s damaging in the long term). Patience that the world will right itself, that we will be safe and healthy and see justice flourish.
I’ve always described myself as an impatient person. It’s one of my biggest flaws. I know that having faith in the right outcome and letting go of trying to control things will make everything else in my life better and will lead to greater ease, stronger relationships, and more happiness. Yes, I know all of this. But it ain’t easy! I’m just not wired for patience, but I want to believe that I can cultivate it.
One of the hard things about climbing this particular mountain is: I don’t really know how to do it. Nobody teaches you how to be patient. They might recommend things like “take a deep breath” or “count to 10” when you feel yourself getting impatient, but that’s more about releasing stress and anxiety around the impatience. It gets at the symptoms but not the root cause. How do you become a more patient person? If you have advice, great books, podcasts or TED talks, or anything else you can recommend, send it my way!
I’m hoping that patience is a muscle, and that if I am aware of flexing it, it will become stronger. Wish me luck. And deep breaths. And faith.
(PS: Please also wish me luck in not hearing this song in my head every time I say the word “Patience.” Every. Single. Time.)