Five years ago, I drove down the highway with butterflies in my stomach. A few days prior, my husband and I decided to start the process for adoption. This knowledge was the source of the millions of tiny wings brushing up against my insides. It felt something like hope.
I whispered a prayer — a small, insignificant question.
Give me something to hang on to during this process....
And jubilee landed square in my gut. A single word, weighty with its implications. I didn't fully know what it meant, but I knew it was something I needed to remember. A few months later I would read a blog post by a friend explaining how to choose a word of the year. That's when I knew I already had my word. We purchased a domain and started blogging through the adoption process, dubbing 2011 as our year of jubilee. If I'm honest, I thought it was almost cute having jubilee as my word. That changed quickly. Two weeks into the year, my world fell apart as I began to face the story I ignored for far too long. Suddenly, jubilee felt more like a reckoning.
Jubilee gave way to abide. This word found me in another blog post. I knew jubilee was not done with me yet. Having turned me inside out and right again, that word sunk deep into my soul and wasn't going anywhere. So I learned how to stay, even in the pain. I christened the year with a tattoo, an anatomical heart donned with a crown and two sparrows.
If I could stay in the pain of needles piercing my skin, I could stay in the pain of healing the messy bits through therapy.
Then there was risk. This word came to me like so many things that year — appearing out of nowhere. Fresh from a placement that went south, we were tender about the adoption. This word carried me through the struggle of believing in hope and seeing myself as a mother. That spring, I embraced the word heart first when we were placed with another birth mom. We prepped everything, and I allowed the mama-heart inside to come to life only to see everything shatter beneath us when the birth mom decided to keep her baby.
And so came soft. nspired by the poem Wild Geese, I was going to take a year to find what this soft animal of a body truly loves. I did, too. I learned how to speak, how to stand up for myself. I woke the lioness inside (hello, Leo) and came home to myself in so many ways. At the end of the year, my word for 2015 came to me in a dream.
And it has been. I finished my third novel, broke up with my agent, embraced my core desired feelings, wrote curriculum for five workshops, developed The Coterie, wrote an eCourse over text with my partner Alicia, started a memoir, went back to work full time, got a promotion within six weeks, and navigated the turbulent waters of friendship and relationships.
So in the fall when I still hadn't received a word for 2016, I wondered if I was missing something. I started paying attention to words like root and ground — they were becoming a theme of sorts for my life, and I thought maybe there was something in my consistent need to be reminded to root myself deep.
I carried these words around for a bit, letting them roll around on my tongue for a while to see how they felt. And they were close — but not my words. So one morning, while sitting at a light, I just asked.
What's my word?
She came to me immediately, landing like a feather on my heart but carrying the weight of so many hopes and dreams. I always have a visceral reaction to the word when it comes — it's how I know. But never before have I started sobbing, which is what happened. I texted my best friend first.
"Please tell me I don't have to do this..."
Her response, something between a four-letter word and an apology, solidified it for me.
I fought the word for weeks, feeling clammy and a cemented gut when someone mentioned it in passing. But then I got a message on Facebook from a friend who knew nothing about the word, and I couldn't deny it any longer.
This was my word, and something was happening.
That night I called a friend who keeps my heart safe and she started crying when I told her about the message, agreeing with me about the confirmation. I told her I didn't know how I would share this one, how it felt too personal, and she mentioned, "you know...sometimes, a story must be experienced before it can be told."
It clicked then — all of it. This word is meant for me. Maybe someday, there will be a story attached to it. For now, it's something for me to embrace by living it.