My choice of a word for 2013 began with three observations I made during Advent.
The first was that many of my friends were busy, rushing from store to meeting to Christmas tree lot to extra worship services to children's pageant rehearsals to end-of-year reports to extra choir practices to work deadlines to wrapping gifts to hospital visits to . . . insert your own.
The second was that I wasn't. My church committees and council cancelled all meetings for December. Everyone who was already healthy and injury-free stayed that way. Some of our choir members sang a cantata with another church, but it was they and not I who had to rehearse.
The third was that the Newtown school shootings sucked the wind right out of me. I remain plagued by clear, detailed visions of what happened in that building and continues to happen in that community. It's a bit of PTSD, I know; once you have held your own child's broken body in your arms, those of other children you do not know and will never see leave their own imprint. It becomes a sort of neighbor who inhabits your head and never leaves, and was already rattling its chains as friends gleefully prepared for the holiday return of children living in distance places. I don't know how I could possibly have managed additional, rather than less, work in December.
"All will be well, and all manner of things shall be well, " said Julian.
I rather doubt it. But she did say it in the midst of the ravages of the plague. So I do consider her words on a fairly frequent basis.
I began to wander down a "less is more" pathway of thought. I did not imagine that all would be well, but I had no trouble seeing that I could be more attentive to others and to what did, in fact, call for my time and attention, when there were fewer of them and less of it. I wondered whether I might be resolute in a "less is more" approach to life.
And so I decided that my word for the year would be "less." But when I looked it up in the thesaurus, I found that the synonyms listed are almost entirely negative, and do not reflect what I intend at all. I was not, for instance, seeking to promote "deficiency" in my life.
The same sort of results accompanied the word 'small."
And then, gradually, the word "serenity" emerged. Closer to what I had in mind. After all, I cannot always do less, and there are many things which by definition cannot be accomplished in small ways. But: more or less, huge or tiny, beautiful or terrible, they might all be accepted with serenity.
It's only the second day of the year, and I'm already facing two situations that pose major challenges to any likelihood of serenity. But I am getting older, and these kinds of things are going to happen regardless of my personal preferences, and I am sick and tired of the word "anxiety."
364 days remain to practice serenity. We'll see how it goes.