There were parts of last year that knocked me out. Moments that cut me off at the knees and left me bloody and limp. By the time fall came around my tank was empty and there was no more energy to be found. I started thinking about my word then, in the darkness of September nights, what it would take to feel like I might survive a string of tough days and still have the energy to face a teething toddler.
I contemplated the idea of grace: how to get it, how to hold on to it, how to use it to better glide through the challenges life had to offer.
I thought about energy and rest. One thing I seemed to lack on a daily basis, the other I craved in just that same amount.
I asked myself a lot about focus. What would it take for me to run with a theme for the year, to hold tight to the threads of it and pull myself forward?
All of this introspection lead me, time and again, to a single word. A word to encompass the thing I wanted for myself and my family. A word born out of this desire for more - more energy, more grace, more focus, more patience, more faith.
I felt deflated. I felt beaten. I felt weak. In my muscles and bones, yes. But also in my character. In my choices. In my faith. I felt like I had grown soft and lazy, too prone to choose the easiest way. It's not that I sought to excise all vulnerability from my life, because I know that it's the soft center that gives us the best ability to reach and be reached. But there is an opposing side to that vulnerability, where it weakens the bones and melts them down to a moldy mess.
Strong. An antidote for the holes in my body and soul.
That was my word. And it became my mantra, my meditation, my talisman. It was the word I said (and repeated under my breath like a prayer) as I first climbed on the treadmill. It was the promise I made myself as the weight of personal challenges pulled me down into the darkness. It was the word that pulled me forward when I wanted to stop. It was the word that helped me to reorganize my days and my decisions. It was the word to encourage me to make the tough choices. To say no when I wanted to go with the flow and agree. To say yes when I wanted to give up. To stand up for myself, again and again. To be strong.
I'm so glad I did it.
But it's important to know that I didn't take action right away. From those first few days of Autumn last year, when I tucked Strong into my pocket--- I held it there quietly for quite some time. I took it out to examine its texture from time to time. I rubbed my fingers over its surface and thought about the months to come. I dreamed. I formulated plans. I created a structure. I examined myself closely. I asked questions.
Many dark weeks passed in fall and into the winter when the word slept quietly in my deepest center.
As January dawned, I felt a restless movement within: the seeds of my changes stirring in that wonderful internal garden. And that's when things started to happen.
Again and again, I clung to my word. In situations that still sting when I think back on them now, I considered: What is the strong thing to do? I can't promise that I did everything right, or that the year passed by without trouble. But I can tell you this: there is strength in my muscles that wasn't there before. There is a tenacity inside of me that has grown. I feel better and braver and more me than I did a year ago.
I feel strong.