New year. New year’s resolutions. The trendy thing to do currently, instead of a resolution, is to pick a word for the upcoming year. One word that represents and signifies something you want to work on. Something you want to embody or become more of. Something you feel you are lacking and want to integrate into your life. Maybe this won’t come as a surprise to those of you who know me personally, but I often tend to want to buck the system and do my own thing. If a trendy word is the new “new year’s resolution” then I don’t want anything to do with that. No trendy “words” for me. To be truthful I had a couple internal eye rolls when people around me were talking about it. Heart check: rude. I really don’t know why I felt this way about it, but after mulling it around for a while I realized that what my friends and people around me were talking about was inspiring them to be better people in a much simpler way. This was their daily memo, if you will, to remember to work toward embodying this word. If this one little word could be something that is focused on, instead of a notion that because it’s a new year suddenly I really am going to eat better and lose weight or whatever these new years resolutions are that rarely get followed through on (because, honestly, if you want to make a big change like that the new year rolling around isn’t going to make that choice more successful, dedication will make that choice successful), this word would serve as a simple reminder to each day, invite whatever meaning is behind your word, into each moment.
If your word is intention, each moment you could invite intention in and ask yourself – “What is my intention in this action, this decision, and is it what I really want? Is it my best intention?” If your word is present, each moment you could invite the present in and check yourself, “Am I being present in this moment? And I fully here? Am I living right now or am I living somewhere else, the past or future?” Maybe I was rolling my eyes as a internal defense because I had no word. Not that I don’t have things I want to work on, things I want to improve, because believe me there is a long list of those. But I couldn’t put all of them into one word. I couldn’t reconcile them all together. And it perhaps made me feel inadequate, because this is one of my internal struggles anyhow. Inadequacy. Never quite being enough. So I worked through my feelings toward this “word” business and I didn’t think it was so meh anymore. But I still didn’t have one. And that was okay, I have so many words rolling around in my head and heart that maybe picking just one wasn’t for me.
And then, I sat down at my desk to write and publish a blog post. It’s long been a desire of mine to be more a consistent blogger. I have hopes that it will help establish some routine of writing and a greater dedication to writing in my life. So, and yes, I do see the irony here, what better time to begin a routine of publishing, at least monthly, than in January. Pretty little beginning of the year that it is. This smells a lot like a resolution, I know. Consider it a coincidence. And the fact that I like things clean and in order. Starting in January will give me a nice solid twelve posts for 2018. So I sat down to write, not having a clear idea of what I was even going to write about. Writers block. Except, I said to myself, you need to be a consistent writer to have writers block. I was lacking inspiration. I found this quote in my notes and it jumped out at me. Inspiration! But for what I exactly, I found out once I started writing.
“It’s hard to know what’s right in this life… We do what we can, but what we really need is mercy.” -Cyra, Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
I thought I would write about having mercy on ourselves. And each other. It’s hard to know what’s right. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do things right. To be successful. If we make a mistake or fail, to only make it once, because that should be enough. Some mistakes should only take once, but some we make over and over. If we can give ourselves mercy in the moments that follow, we can remind ourselves that next time we can catch ourselves before we’ve gone all the way. Mercy is not a free ticket for the hurtful things we do or say, the mistakes we make; it is forgiveness for ourselves and those we share life with. It is letting go of a hurt, a wrong, a shame without requiring a penance be paid. Sometimes the natural consequences of a failure are penance enough. Sometimes we don’t see a lot of natural consequence when others are involved and we are the one being hurt or disappointed but that’s where mercy steps in. We don’t need to be the deliverer of justice: we might just need to hand out a little mercy and change some one’s life. Have you ever been on the receiving end of great mercy? It is such a humbling, loving experience. It surpasses many great things that we can give to each other because it requires nothing in return. Mercy is really purely love, given to ourselves or to each other, free of any obligations. It is a great love that says, “I forgive you, I love you and I don’t need for you to suffer because I have been hurt.” Mercy doesn’t need penance. Mercy says, “we do what we can. We try our best, knowing that we can’t always know what is right. And when you stumble, I have already forgiven you your failure.”
So I did write about having mercy and what I think that looks like for me. But in writing the first few paragraphs of this post and working through my aversion to a “word for the year,” it became clear to me, that above all the other words rolling around inside of me, mercy is the quiet one, the one that whispered, the one I want to hear the most. Mercy for myself, when I don’t feel quite enough, when I hurt someone I love, when I fail. And mercy for those around me when they don’t live up to my expectations. Because those expectations, you know, those are mine. Not theirs. And mercy for those I love when I get hurt, when I am disappointed, when someone fails me. So I guess 2018, you get a word. Mercy.