where wildly different is perfectly normal
Once upon a time I chose a word
Once upon a time I chose a word

Once upon a time I chose a word

once upon a time I chose a wordOnce upon a time…ok, four years ago…I said good riddance to anything resembling a New Year’s Resolution and instead picked a word of the year. Something through which to observe, interpret, and respond to the world. A semantic pair of glasses, if you will.

2011 the word was strong, which was the best word I could have chosen, as that was absolutely the year from hell. It amuses me, in a shaking my head sadly sort of way, to read the word post from that year; I thought 2011 would be an improvement over the previous two and instead it was quite likely the hardest year of my adult life. So strong was a lifeline for me, something for me to clasp tightly when it felt like I was going down for the third time.

2012 I was so thrilled to dropkick 2011 out the door that my word was grateful. I survived and was more or less mentally intact. My plan was to be grateful for all I had; instead I started sliding into a downward spiral, screaming “But I’m grateful!” as I went.

2013 I’d had enough. I’d had enough putting up with crap, I had enough in my life, I was enough. Strangely though, the word wasn’t enough for me, and I more or less abandoned it last fall. That surprised me.

So when I started feeling the urge in December to pick a new word for 2014, I didn’t quite know where to look. I was one for three with previous words, and really didn’t care to go one for four. For me, the word needs to be something deeply personal, and after two years of meh words, something on which to grow.

Back up a bit.

In November I got to hear Stephanie Tolan present on resilience at the NAGC conference. I like her a whole lot, love her books, am deeply grateful for her contribution to gifted advocacy; her Is It A Cheetah? metaphor is one of the best things I’ve ever read. Her presentation stuck with me long after it was over, the main thesis being the story you tell is the story you live into. I could not get this thought out of my head. Last June a friend of mine challenged me to find the joy in every day, and while I’ve continued to do that I still struggle with depression and general anger frustration dissatisfaction with my life. When you have a complex child who has challenges in every aspect of his life you tend to wear out and rail against the universe; I know I’m not alone in that. I’m not leading a life I particularly enjoy, though there are parts that kick ass and I love. So her presentation on resilience was really one on story. As a writer, it hit home for me. I have the power to change my story.

Write my story.
Rewrite my story.
Live my story.

Her book, Change Your Story, Change Your Life, was the first one I put on the Kindle I got for Christmas (how I went so long without this little bibliophile’s delight is beyond me). I’m working my way through it and thinking hard about the year ahead. For the first time in a very long time I’m hopeful about the year. It’s been a long time coming.

I’ve been strong, I’ve been grateful, and enough’s enough. This year it’s all about my story.

And I get to write it.


  1. Sue

    Jen, thank you for this wonderful blog. Like you, I struggle with the Black Dog.
    The downward spiral creates such fear and anger. There are a number of strategies
    you have used that I would like to try this year, picking a word for the year (caution needed here),
    writing about what we are greatful for, and purchasing a copy of Stephanie’s book.
    We have yet another big move this year and as it approaches I find myself teetering on the anxiety/anticipation
    tightrope, with the ‘what ifs…’ looming ever larger. I feel that the suggestions you have made provide concrete
    physical things I can do to get out of my head and into the world. I am not sure what your word for 2014 is, but after
    reading your blog ‘inspirational’ comes to mind.
    Thank you for inspiring me .

  2. I’d never read the cheetah essay, but am glad you linked to it. As much progress as my daughter has made in the two months I’ve homeschooled her (and holy hell, what progress) I’d been second-guessing the decision (mainly for social reasons: there are so few kids in our neighborhood that on this rare sunny day, we were alone at the park at noon). I needed a reminder.

    Happy year of the story–you have earned it!

    1. Jen

      I struggle with the social aspect too, so much. Not for me, for A. So yeah, with you on that.
      Sounds like your daughter is in the right place for her. 🙂 I have to keep reminding myself of that with my son. He’s in the right place for him, even though I doubt it daily.

    1. Jen

      Oh, I’m glad you like it! 🙂 I’ve been working my way through it slowly, really thinking as I go. Plus I’ve also determined that I read differently when on a Kindly than on pages. Who knew?

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