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Word of the Year

I got this idea from a genealogy list that I follow (and highly recommend. Check it out here). Instead of making resolutions for the New Year, this genealogist suggests that one choose a word to be a focal point throughout the year. It represents your goals, what you wish to achieve, what you want to be the hub around which everything else revolves for the coming year. I really like this idea. I like having a single touchstone to guide one, a single point to which one can return again and again when chaos and stress threaten to derail one’s endeavors. I also like words. This is a win-win for me and maybe for some of you too.

So, I am choosing two, and may they work together like a pair of interlocking hands, each one supporting and strengthening the other: focus and devotion

I think one thing we upon which we can all agree is that 2020 was a really terrible year for so many people. 2021 has already begun, chaotic and terrifying. I write a lot about how it can be difficult to motivate oneself to begin consistent devotional practices, how we can all grow forgetful or obstinate in our devotions, how sometimes it’s just hard to organize oneself to stay the course. All of that is true (Gods know I’ve been through it all myself). What I don’t talk about as much as I should is that external pressures can be equally problematic, and sometimes more so. It can be very, very easy to fall away from one’s devotional practices, especially when anxieties are running high, especially when we’re busy, especially when we need those devotional practices the most. I also really think that devotion, religion, simple piety are all under attack in our world and that can create a terrible degree of resistance as we struggle to find and maintain our footing in our religious and devotional worlds. The key to countering this is to control the parts that are within our power to control.

Let me offer an example: If I’m having trouble getting up to pray in the morning and I really, really want to do this (or more importantly, I feel that my Deity wants me to do this), well, I can choose to go to bed earlier. (This is, admittedly, a very simple example, but use your imaginations and expand the metaphor). That involves something within my power to change and control. That’s not the case with a lot of external stressors so it can be helpful, I think, to have a by-word or touchstone to guide one along the way. It also gives one a lens through which to focus one’s meditation, which is also helpful. 

My devotion to the Holy Powers is the single most important thing in my life. I want to stay clean there, engaged – fiercely engaged, and focused. I don’t want to allow myself to get carried away on a tide of emotion, of frenetic work, of anxiety, stress, and most of all, I don’t want to fall prey to acedia. I have in the past and it is a terrible thing, a deep, dank pit from which the climb back to the light is hard and painful.  

That’s why my second word is ‘focus.’ I don’t want anything to get in the way of my focus, not only devotionally, but across all avenues of my work. Stress can wear a person out and Gods know the past year has been so, and let’s be honest, when it comes to stress, this year isn’t looking great either. I don’t want any of that to impinge upon my focus. I want these two words: focus and devotion to be emblazoned on my brain as something to strive to, to return to again and again, to cultivate, and hone. It gives me a reminder, something to guide my way back when I wander off my self-chosen path, and I’m curious to see the results. 

Excellence in anything, after all, must be (as Aristotle opined) conciously cultivated. It doesn’t just happen. We have a lot of power and potential to cultivate ourselves, especially in the intangible world of devotion. There are so many ways we can go to our Gods and venerate Them. There are always going to be external stressors that we can’t control. I think it’s important to focus on what we CAN. So, (leaving aside those words, you know which ones I mean lol) what are your words, my readers, for the coming year? 

A Zentangle drawing by Lynn Vaughn Allen — I love word art. I think this is just charming. I don’t know Ms. Allen. Don’t go harassing her now. I just found this image on Pinterest.