I have been reading a lot lately about choosing One Word for the year. Instead of making an exhaustive list of All The Things I Wish I Could Do Better But Will Give Up By February, it’s more of a focus or an intention for the entire year. So I made up my mind that I was going to choose a word… like I was really into this idea. It was kind of like a beacon off in the distance that I could steer my ship toward throughout the year without having to feel that guilty about eating too much cheese or skipping a workout. I mean, I’ll probably still feel kind of bad about myself, but at least I won’t have a long list of resolutions sitting in my desk drawer rolling its eyes at me, sighing, and thinking I knew she couldn’t do it.
It’s a word that you choose carefully and with purpose. It’s kind of a big deal to pick one word for your entire year… I mean, that’s a lot of pressure. So I started thinking of all the ways that I could figure out My Word. I could ask God for a hint or maybe I could meditate and in the quiet space of my mind I would hear My Word whispered to me or I could journal, brainstorming all the words until I hit upon The One. And as I was thinking about all the ways to come up with it, I started realizing that there are seriously a crap ton of words. I should have started this back in the summer so I could have ample time to vet all of the words. Which is probably beside the point since the idea is that you would be still living with your word in the summer and, therefore, shouldn’t be trying to come up with your next word right in the middle of that word’s year.
So, instead, I cheated.
Well, before I cheated, I talked to Ryan.
On the morning of New Year’s Day, while he was painstakingly writing out his Book of Resolutions, because he basically writes a dissertation every January on what his goals are for the year, I told him about the One Word idea. He looked down at his exhaustive list.
“Huh. That’s a really good idea,” he said.
I went on to tell him all of these thoughts swirling around my head. As you can imagine, he was delighted to listen to me for infinity minutes. But since he loves me and knows that this is the only way I can make any sense of my own brain, he usually just lets me ramble until I figure whatever-it-is out. Finally, I thought I had landed on My Word: Discipline. But as soon as I said it, I felt the cold hand of terror clamp down on my soul. It felt similar to praying for patience… as in, for crying out loud, don’t ever pray for patience because you’ll get all sorts of opportunities to learn patience and every last one of them will suck. I don’t want to spend a year focusing on discipline. In fact, I don’t want to spend five minutes focusing on discipline. I could definitely use a little more discipline in my life, but focusing on it for a year will land me in the same place as my list of resolutions. Discipline will just be side-eyeing me all year long, shaking its head in disappointment.
Understandably, I needed a break from my own self, so I turned to Instagram… of course. And as I was scrolling through, I came across one of my favorite new accounts, enneagram and coffee. If you don’t know anything about the Enneagram, the best New Year’s present that I can give you is to introduce you to it. You can read about it here. And if you want to read an actual book about it, here is the one I read and loved.
Basically, it’s a way to better understand who you are… in its simplest form, it’s like a personality test. But once you start to truly understand it, it’s really so much deeper than that. There are nine types and once you know yours (you can take the test here — there are free ones out there, but do yourself a favor and spend the $10 to take the good one), you will have all sorts of clarity regarding who you are and why you do what you do and when you inevitably make everyone around you take the test (like all good spouses and friends and parents do), then you’ll understand your people better too. I am sort of a complete nerd when it comes to personality tests of any kind. But trust me. This. Is. So. Cool.
Okay, so there I was scrolling through Instagram and I hit a post that said, “Word of the Year for your enneagram type.” And I thought, No Way! God is definitely speaking to me through Instagram.
To put what I’m going to tell you into perspective, I’m a Type Two, which is The Helper… basically we are generous, emotional, and want to take care of everyone else. We are also people pleasers, want to be needed, have major boundary issues, and we really want you to like us. These things all resonate deeply with me. I’d really like to be the kind of twoish person who is good at taking care of other people and also good at taking care of myself, with boundaries… whatever those are. And so when I read the word for twos on this little, unassuming Instagram post, I knew it was My Word.
The word was: Release.
Here’s what that means to me… This year, as I navigate the waters ahead, I want to lean into the idea of releasing myself from other people’s expectations, releasing fear, judgment, and crappy self-chatter, releasing clutter (can I get an amen?), releasing other people’s feelings (meaning no more of this: when you feel bad, I feel bad and when you’re happy, I’m happy— perhaps the biggest area of focus for me will be continuing to empathize without taking on other people’s actual feelings; basically I’d like to stop being an emotional chameleon), releasing my own expectations, along with the rest of the stuff that comes up this year.
I ran into Ryan’s office to tell him about my discovery. He agreed with My Word. In fact, he loved it, mostly because it echoes almost everything he has been saying to me… well, basically for the past twenty years. I took this as the last bit of confirmation that I needed and hereby decreed that from henceforth, My Word of 2019 would be Release. After mulling it over for the past couple of days, it still feels right… it feels like a relief, like it always does when God talks to me through social media.
Now that I was settled with my theme for the year, I turned to my husband, who is a One on the enneagram, and asked, “So do you want to know your word?”
Being a One, The Perfectionist, means that Ryan is a doer in its highest form (he rarely sits still or sits down and when he says he’ll do something, by God, he does it), he is remarkably disciplined (you’ve heard opposites attract, right?), and has incredibly high expectations for himself. He’s also constantly trying to outperform his inner-critic, he can be kind of judgy, and can become a little (a lot) obsessive about getting things done.
“Definitely,” he said.
“Your word is, Play,” I answered.
We looked down at his full page of words, his Dissertation On Resolutions 2019, and we both burst out laughing. Later that day, he told me that he’d been thinking about this One Word thing since I mentioned it and thought it might be good for him. Apparently, he ripped up his long list of resolutions (but not before jotting down the most important things into the Notes app on his phone, of course) and before I told him about the word Play, he had landed on the word Curious… something else we’ve been talking a lot about. So, because he’s a One and needs to be just a little bit better than everyone else, Ryan has landed on two words for the year: Play and Curious. For my planning, list-making, serious, self-reliant guy, these are going to be so good for him.
So even though we basically cheated to find out how we are going to approach 2019, I think this might be my favorite new tradition. No list of resolutions being a jerk from the desk drawer, no feeling of complete failure by February, no hand cramps from all the writing, just an insightful and inspirational way to approach the year. It’s also a pleasant surprise to know that God likes Instagram.