words for the new year, 2022.

My favorite day of the year is finally here again–New Year’s Eve. An ending, a beginning. It is a quiet place to reflect on the past, and to anticipate the future. In other words, it is a doorway–a sacred one at that.

Some of you may know that every year, instead of doing New Year’s resolutions, I pick theme words and a verse. Last year, it took me longer than usual to arrive at the word freedom. The Year That Shall Not Be Named had taken such a toll on my spirit that I didn’t have my word until two days before New Year 2021.

But this year, the words–three of them, in fact–came to me much easier and sooner than I expected. In fact, I knew all three of them by the end of October. I think this is in part because I have experienced freedom in new ways this year (spiritual, emotional, financial, physical, creative, etc.) that have allowed me to be more present, to listen, to understand my own needs, and to intuit the Holy Spirit’s leading.

These words came to me from various sources: books I read where common themes kept popping up. Podcasts I listened to. Therapy sessions. Contemplative painting and free-writing sessions on a church Advent retreat. Journaling. Ideas that intrigued me, that I couldn’t get out of my head for whatever reason. Conversations with co-workers, long talks with friends. Working out at the gym. Sermons. Instagram posts that moved me. Three words spoke to me over and over again, and now, here I am, sharing them with you.

They are: root, dream, and embody.

Isn’t it only right that root came to me first? Roots symbolize so much–origins, home, ancestry. They signify stability, tethering yourself to something stronger–the earth, the place you grew up, God. I found myself thinking a lot about roots in the winter and early spring as I read two books: Native by Kaitlin Curtice and Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Both about being Potawatomi women, both deeply spiritual (in different ways), both about connection to the earth and to their peoples’ histories, both profoundly challenging and healing. As this past year has gone on, I’ve been thinking more and more about this word and what it signifies for me for 2022–it is by far the most complex and multi-layered word of the three, but I’ve tried to articulate what it means here:

  • There is a literal, natural sense of the word–this year I’ve been learning that walks in the woods do wonders for my mental health, and that reflecting on the beauty of nature helps me to experience God. I want to continue to deepen my relationship with the earth, to learn to love and care for her well. To be rooted to this planet I live on.
  • Then, here’s the domestic sense of root–I think it means establishing ourselves here in our new neighborhood, in our first home. It means laying the foundations for and beginning our own family. And it means reconnecting with our relatives, most of whom live much closer to us now that we’re in Pennsylvania.
  • In a larger sense, roots also signify ancestry, heritage, and lands of origin. One of the ideas I’ve been exploring here is what it looks like to connect with my ancestors and the places they came from, especially as it relates to cultural traditions, spiritual practices, language, and storytelling. There are riches to be found in this journey of discovery.
  • Spiritually, rootedness means getting down to the core of what I believe after a couple of years of floating, and being true to who I am. It means tethering myself to our new church community here in order to grow deeper, stronger relationships. It means holding onto what compels me about Jesus and letting go of the dross of certain spiritual trappings, of others’ approval, of needing all the right answers.
  • Creatively, the word root signifies to me a return to my authentic self as an artist, connecting with my inner child and just letting her play, letting her like what she likes, write what she wants to write, and not worrying about others’ perceptions. It means writing about magical worlds and horses and castles and myths and forgetting what’s “literary.” It means that original, deeply rooted art comes out of being true to myself.

[E]ach of us is our own country, an interesting place to visit. It is the accurate mapping out of our own creative interests that invites the term original. We are the origin of our art, its homeland. Viewed this way, originality is the process of remaining true to ourselves.

–Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Dream was the second word that came to me, this time in the summer, during a really frustrating season at work. A friend and co-worker who was thinking about leaving told me I ought to consider applying for a job at a company she had just interviewed at. And the conversations that followed made me wonder for the first time in years–what do I actually want to do with my life, career-wise? It occurred to me that I had not allowed myself to dream about my writing career, because for so long I was working and saving for a wedding, then a house, and then we entered survival mode when the pandemic started. And besides, I didn’t know where the story was going, anyway, so why bother? I had forgotten about career goals, but no more. So I sat down, I prayed, and I wrote down my first ten-year plan to eventually become a full-time writer (and/or writing coach and/or developmental editor). What surprised me was not that I came up with a plan for my career, but how good taking that first step toward my dream felt. Dreaming is life-giving. And I think, when it’s right, it calls God to action on our behalf.

Shortly after putting that dream out into the world, a perfectly-aligned opportunity presented itself. So now, I’m working for Fresh Ink. It’s the first time I’ve been paid to do anything related to writing, and it’s the second step I’ve made toward my ultimate goal. Both of these steps have empowered me and inspired me to keep moving forward. So, what would dreaming look like for me in 2022? Well, with regard to my writing, it means:

  • Finally submitting my short story for publication for the first time. That’s the next step.
  • It means doing some world-building for my novel.
  • It means creating more space in my life for a consistent writing practice so that I can look back and be proud of the progress I made.
  • It means taking on more responsibility at Fresh Ink.
  • But more broadly, dreaming in 2022 means that I’m trusting my intuition and being open to new desires, honoring myself by articulating them, investing time and energy in them, and occasionally taking brave risks to realize them.

I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle–something heroic, or wonderful–that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all, some day. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous; that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream.

–Jo March, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

My last word, embody, arrived in the autumn. My relationship with my body has changed a lot this year, from trying new forms of movement and going to the gym, to doing EMDR therapy (a type of therapy that restores the mind-body connection), hiking in the woods in Portland and in Pittsburgh, seeing an intuitive eating nutritionist, paying closer attention to my body’s signals, and learning how the body physically holds trauma. I’ve also been discovering how to integrate my body into my spiritual practice–attending a highly liturgical church here in PA has been helpful for this. There were just so many instances this past fall where I encountered this idea of embodiment that I had to pay attention.

What does embody hold for me in 2022?

  • I already have a couple of books on this topic at the top of my to-be-read list–The Wisdom of Your Body by Dr. Hillary L. McBride and The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. I think I’ll learn a lot about how to integrate my body into my spiritual life, as well as how trauma can affect the body and how the body heals from it.
  • Hopefully, focusing on embodiment also means learning about what movement feels good, especially in seasons of fatigue, pain, or lack of motivation. Jack and I are planning on joining a gym in the New Year (now that we don’t have free gym access across the street, like we did in Austin), so I’m hopeful to get back into that kind of routine.
  • I think it could also mean developing more awareness of the hunger, thirst, and emotional signals my body is sending, which has been difficult for me in the past because of my ADHD and the medicine I take to manage it. With the help of my nutritionist, this is getting easier, and I’m hoping to make progress there.
  • If we do end up starting our family this year, I can pretty much guarantee that my relationship with my body will change, ideally by growing more intimate and compassionate with my body as I move toward pregnancy, motherhood, and beyond.
  • And, of course, I hope to take more long walks in the woods.

Your embodiment is always telling a story. Learning to listen to, interpret, and work with this story is central to connecting to wisdom.

–Dr. Hillary L. McBride, The Wisdom of Your Body

So, there they are: my three words. Root. Dream. Embody. But what about my verse of the year? I typically try to find verses that specifically speak to the words I’ve chosen–in the past I’ve been able to choose sections of Scripture that articulate all of them in one passage, but this year, it was a bit of a challenge. There are lots of separate verses about embodiment, dreams, and roots, but nothing that incorporated them all together. But I think the verse that does the best job of integrating all of these ideas is Psalm 139:14, particularly when read within context of verses 13-16.

13For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15     My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me,
    when none of them as yet existed.

The passage pulls all three of my theme words together, and verse 14 synthesizes them. Roots–the idea of where I come from, my ancestry, my home, my culture, my spirituality, who I am at my deepest core–God created and formed these things, and in so doing created and formed me. Dream–the idea that I am a person that God dreamed up, that God has a vision for me and my life that I get to discover and to take ownership of. These dreams are fearful and wonderful things. And embody–that, like Jesus, I grew from a single cell in my mother’s womb, that God created my bones and brain and organs and veins and skin and fat and muscle and called it good, that I may someday give life as a mother to my own child, that I too can reflect Jesus and say, “This is my body, given for you,” that I can love my body and others’ bodies as God loves us. This one verse carries all that weight for me. And how beautiful is that? That the honest-to-God truth is that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and that 2022 will be the year when I reflect on that truth? Joyous.

I am so deeply looking forward to this New Year.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

Current Novel Word Count: 16,690  
What I'm Writing: Almost done with revisions for my short story, which feels incredible. Planning to send it out next month for submissions.
Weird Writerly Topics I've Googled This Week: Music education in ireland, do irish secondary schools have orchestra, ninth grade cello solos, christian magic, irish christian magic 
Writing Exercises I've Done: Nothing lately.  
What I'm Reading: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky 
What I'm Listening To:"Auld Lang Syne" by Ingrid Michaelson, "Your Peace Will Make Us One" by Audrey Assad, DIY MFA podcast

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