Word of the Year

Last year, my word was “Stretch.” I intended to stretch out of my comfort zone and do things I’d never done before (like seriously marketing my own business.) I made it out of my comfort zone, I did some stretching. I didn’t get my business off the ground. I didn’t market particularly well. I didn’t become the success story we all want to hear. And that’s ok.

I got enough contract work that I think I’m going to be ok financially. The work I’m doing is not what I envisioned for myself, but it’s in my bailiwick. {The dictionary cautions that the use of bailiwick is considered pedantic these days, but I chose to use it anyhow…} I’m enjoying the work and feel like it’s meaningful and brings some purpose to my life. And it pays moderately well. And I don’t have to work an excessive number of hours. Actually, when I think about it like that, I’m pretty damn lucky.

Actually, I could think of it like this: I lost my job at the end of 2018, when I was 62 years old. I had just moved far away from where I’d lived all my life, bought a house, started sharing the house with my daughter, who was also reinventing her career path, two grand kids, and MP. MP was working (thank goodness) but not making enough to support us. (Not that I would have wanted him to, but it wasn’t an option.) Among us all, we managed to cobble together enough income that we made it work. The kids didn’t lack for anything important, we paid the mortgage on time, we did ok.

And here I am now, with an apparently stable flow of work. I can see the possibility of getting out of debt and even building some financial reserves over the next couple of years. This is really a small miracle, that I’ve built a new career path at my age. I’ve known people, both friends and clients, who were not able to do that.

So. I thought my word might be “Settle,” as in not stretching, but allowing myself, my nervous system, my soul even, to settle in place and just be. But it sounded a bit too much like “settling for,” which is not what I mean.

Then I thought it might be “Shine,” because I do love that concept. You know, “This Little Light of Mine…” Yes, I know I’ve posted that here before. Yes, I’m posting it again. This version is by Odetta, which I don’t think I’d shared before.

Anyhow. “Shine” also makes me think about the Anne Lamott quote:

Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”

That’s always been my philosophy, but I feel like I spent the last year trying to find somewhere to stand where people could see the light I bring. No, I didn’t do it very well, but still. That’s not what I want to do. I often felt like I was jumping up and down yelling, “Look at me, look at me, over here, over here.” And now I don’t need to do that. I’m not exactly where I wanted to be, but at least I’m in a place where boats would look for a lighthouse.

Oh, here’s a rock version – Bruce Springstein. How fun!

But “Shine” doesn’t feel quite right either. It’s too – it feels like there’s an element of striving. That’s not what I’m looking for.

So then I thought about “Service” or “Purpose,” but they don’t hit the mark.

Oh, here’s a nice country version:

I thought about “Love,” but I don’t think that’s it. That was my focus for several years, years ago.

I think my word for the year might be “Compassion.” Compassion combines empathy and love and action. It is not just warm and fuzzy, it’s also clear-headed and motivating. Compassion provides and protects, it sets limits and says no when that’s the right thing to do.

I’m not committing to it yet, but it feels right. It also connects with a class I’m adding to my plate in February, so there’s that, but it’s really about the principal.

When I google it, the links distinguish it from love or empathy, and I’m sure that’s accurate in a dictionary way. But still.

Ooh, one last version:

The way I see compassion, you have to have empathy for the person, because how else would you understand what’s going on with them, how else could you relate to how they feel? So empathy is part of it. And you would need to have love, or some version of caring – otherwise, you could be like, “Oh, yeah, that’s really sad, but it doesn’t affect me!” Finally, there has to be the urge to action. At the heart of compassion is the desire to alleviate the other person’s suffering. It’s a Venn diagram. (No, I can’t create that on here.)

Anyhow. If you have the three overlapping circles, Love, Empathy, Action then in the middle is Compassion. That might be my word for the year. I’m gonna sleep on that..

10 thoughts on “Word of the Year

  1. I like the word too so I can see why it fits and you might choose it. I also like the idea of a word but not sure I will find one that I feel will work. You have got me thinking though. Thank you. Missy x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Shine is a great word for you, Olivia. Just like the light at the end of a tunnel, it’s shine is guiding you, and given you the focus to achieve things you might have thought, at one time, were unachievable.


  3. This made me smile Olivia, so many words I love, bailiwick..I hadn’t actually heard this before. Love it 😁

    I think both Shine and Compassion are great, perhaps you can have two words this year! BTW, loove Bruce and love that song. So glad to hear things haven’t quite worked out as you wanted career wise, but that the career you have is one you enjoy and is working out well financially.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Roz – it is a great word, isn’t it? “bailiwick…” I’m glad you enjoyed Bruce and the song.

      That’s a pretty good idea, actually! There’s no reason I couldn’t have two words.

      Thanks so much, Roz. 💜


  4. It sounds really good. And sometimes its the definitions or what the word / pic / song means to u that really matters more than the “standard” meaning.

    Besides, I’ve always associated “compassion” with being more of an active rather than passive state, as it were… and that strikes me a good thing to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re definitely right – it’s the connotations the word has for me that matters. Yes. And I think compassion’s the winner. (No prize involved though.) Although – it could be the year of shining with compassion. Or some such…



  5. I love this idea of choosing a word for the year. My sister did this also. I loved hearing your process in thinking it out, and now I’m wondering if I should choose a word for myself. I’m placing done very big changes reinventing myself also.

    Liked by 1 person

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