*Sorry for the wonky formatting! Blogger is being a jerk :( I'm working on it. Happy New Year to you! :) *
Listening to: I and Love and You by The Avett Brothers
|Line Obsession: "I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen." - Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children|
Last December, my sister decided we should pick a word instead of a resolution. You’ve heard of this practice, yes? I see bloggers do this all the time, but my sister is not a blogger. I’m not sure how she got the idea, but I thought it was way snazzy. Because I can’t think of the last resolution I actually made and kept. And I think it’s because, for me, once everybody starts doing something, it doesn’t feel as personal or as special. I’m a New Year’s Resolution rebel.
But a word? That idea made my heart kick. Words make me happy. (“Ha-peh, ha-peh, ha-peh,” as Phil Robertson would say.) I spend lots of time weaving words and sentences into stories. But even beyond writing, I’d been thinking about the power words have over people. About how easy it is to speak hope into someone’s life, or to crush their spirit, just with a word. And about how some people dwell on affirmations they’ve had (sometimes dwell to the point of “ego-swell”), and some people let criticism or rejection (from ten years ago) suffocate their dreams. Words are a big deal.
“Take some time and think about it,” my sister said.
“Right,” I nodded. And then with my next breath, I decided: “I pick JOY.”
It just seemed like the right thing to do. And truly, I assumed that I’d make whatever word I picked into some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. And HenryCavilIsInLoveWithMe isn't actually a word. So joy seemed like a good choice. Joy’s something we all need to embrace more of, yes? So joy it was! Er … joy was me! Or something.
Honestly … joy never felt like my word.
Joy was like the square-shaped chocolate you pull from the box, the one you think is caramel, but then you bite into it and it’s mushy, tasteless orange-fluff-puff. My disdain made no sense. JOY – the real kind – is amazing. So how could joy be the fluff-puff of word pickery? I decided to try and roll with it.
And then my mom got in on the act and picked a word. She was like, “What’s your word?” And I said, “Tell me yours first!” And at the same time we said … joy.
Except my mom said it like, “JOY!”
And I said it like: *shrug* “Joy, I guess.”
Though it made no sense, that’s when I knew: I had no joy for joy. So I decided to back up, and ponder the word-thing some more, and keep an open mind. If I found a word better than joy, I’d claim it. As if.
The next day, I woke up to a word perched on the edge of my tongue, a word trembling to be spoken, said, hollered, declared. A word that was so obviously meant to be mine.
And it made no sense at all.
So I said it like a question, “Roar?”
My dog sat up and cocked her head at me. I sat up and scratched her adorably fuzzy face and said it again, “Roar?”
Like Biscuit was going to nod back and affirm that ROAR was, for sure, the word of the year. (It would have been so awesome if she had.) She just sighed and rolled over so I’d scratch her tummy. And I remained perplexed.
Joy … makes sense. But in the immortal words of Tina Turner (and Simba), I could not help but wonder: what’s roar got to do with it?
And then ROAR was everywhere. I found it in quotes. I heard it in church. I heard it in a song. I read it in books. (Lots of characters roar with laughter.) One day I was trying to remember a brilliant quote from the great theologian Count Olaf, so I reached for Lemony Snicket. And, as I did, a ginormous purple book fell out of my shelf and thunked against my toe.
The word I shouted could be roughly translated as: “poop.”
But the word I saw, swirled across the cover of the fallen book was:
Roar. (It’s a commentary on the Chronicles of Narnia.)
Since you probably have no desire to snorkel in the Sea of Metaphor, I’m going to cut to the specifics: my word for 2012 was ROAR. And while I didn’t think of it every single day … I can look back over this collection of days and weeks and minutes and know that roar … is exactly what I did. At the risk of sounding like a cornball, life roared at me. And I roared back.
I collected all sorts of roar quotes this year, but one of my favorites was from Mark Batterson who says, and I’m paraphrasing, then when opportunity roars at you, you have to roar back. And when fear roars at you, you have to roar back. So while I know ROAR could mean a thousand things, positive or negative, that’s the meaning it took on for me
ROAR = Be brave, be bold, and engage your life.
(Even when it scares the poop out of you.)
The irony in all of this, of course, is there is absolutely nothing about me that roars. I’m barely 4’11” and while I have certainly been described as “feisty”, I’ve never been described as assertive or even very loud. I veer more toward shy and timid. And that’s not a bad way to be, if that’s actually how you are. But I think, for me, the shyness has more to do with self-consciousness, and with fear (fear of rejection, in particular). Fear is a word I embrace every year, without consciously meaning to. (I’m a total Piglet.) And I know all too well that the fear-stuff, however founded or unfounded it may be, is emotionally and socially crippling.
Unless you roar back at it.
This year I roared back. It’s not like I ever got un-afraid, but I did stuff even though I was afraid. Instead of waiting for opportunities to fall in my lap, I chased after some of them. I had good days and suck-days; years are always a stormy mix of both. But I lived hard this year, in a good way. I roared with laughter and with tears and with brazen little whisper-prayers. Joyously. Wondrously. Hopefully. Every breath I drew was hallelujah, as Leonard Cohen would say.
Instead of a resolution, what I discovered this year was a realization: that 1.) I’m little, in every possible way. And 2.) I'm a little bit lion-hearted.
Transformations don’t have to be heralded in Facebook statuses, or announced for all the world to see, in order to be genuine. They don’t even have to happen on January 1. But they can happen. And sometimes, the loudest changes begin quietly.
Beauty for ashes. Water into wine. Apathy into passion.
A whisper into a roar.
And some days, the whisper is the roar. Those are the sweetest days of all, I think. When you take that first little step and realize you’re walking toward something good, toward the kind of life you were too afraid to fight for before now. I’m forever inspired by people who keep moving ahead through their fear - boldly. Courageously.
So, in the off chance that you’re bored with resolutions, or just a little bit disillusioned by 2012 … if you need a word for the year, I would love to entrust you with ROAR. When fear roars at you, roar back. When you’re happy, roar up at the smiling sun. Roar softly. Roar bravely. Roar, and run after the life you’d like to be living. You've got it in you.
Here’s to your year of the lion. May it rock your socks off.
If you had to pick a word to describe the last year what would it be? Are you a resolution keeper? Or a resolution rebel?