My word of the year is an exercise that I have participated in for eight years. 2021 marks the ninth year that I have selected a word of the year. This word was inspired by a beautiful painting from my friend, A’Driane. It is called Drive. After we got the painting back from being framed, I realized how much I am drawn to the lines and the colors. The definition of drive is “determination and ambition to achieve something”. As I navigate my mid forties, I am starting to lean into the wisdom of my middle age. I know that I do not have all the answers. My anchor words are clarity, peace, and abundance. I use these anchor words to keep me grounded in my word of the year.
I am trying to focus more on my writing again. It has been a long time since I have written. As my daughters get older, I become even more fiercely protective of their privacy. I still have these words and ideas swirling around inside me. It is so interesting to watch these girls blossom into womanhood as I navigate middle age. I sense similarities and parallels in our journeys. We are learning how to navigate changing relationships with each other as I work to foster their independence. I have to find a balance between giving them space and holding them close. Our conversations are much more complex now about femininity, patriarchy, racism, puberty, childbirth, spiritual beliefs, the institution of the church, and my mental health advocacy.
As I reflect on this past year, I realized how much I had to fight to maintain my drive. As we move into year three of this pandemic, I had to continue to focus on my self-care – mental, physical, and emotional/spiritual. I have gone back to basics. I try to journal daily, move my body, get enough water, and get enough sleep. I needed to give myself pep talks and really listen to my body. We are experiencing global trauma and grief. It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to rest and regroup. The power of rest and being intentional with my energy and daily routines is what kept me going. Of course I continued to let my love of art in all forms inspire me and remind me that there is still love, light and beauty.
For the past eight years I have done the word of the year. I was introduced to the possibility of the phrase of the year last year. When I reflect on last year’s word of Inspire, I felt inspired by so many works of art. I realized that I had not been making the time to write as much as I wanted to. It wasn’t for lack of inspiration. It was fear that was holding me back. When I put my words out on the Internet, they are up for interpretation. I cannot control how my words get interpreted. I need to “close my eyes and leap” as Elphaba sang in Defying Gravity. Clearly I need to write more. I am reading Big Magic again by Elizabeth Gilbert to give me the nudge and push I need.
This year I chose a phrase of the year. My phrase is Use my voice. I realized that I have a unique perspective to share as a dear friend Yael once reminded me. When we share our stories, they can help others heal and understand. When I share my story, it helps me remind myself of where I have been and where I am now.
As I am nearing the end of a year unlike any other I have experienced in my adult life, I realize that I have had to “use my voice” many times this year. I had to ask for help for myself which meant increasing my therapy sessions from once every three months to a monthly and sometimes weekly check in. I needed to schedule my vacation and personal time even though I wasn’t traveling anywhere. I still needed that brain break and virtual meeting break. I hate to ask for help, and I was humbled by offers of help from dear friends when our entire nuclear family came down with Covid-19. I accepted those offers of help which brought us joy, comfort and sustenance.
I am continuing to use my voice as I use my white privilege to speak up and speak out. If I want to do better, I have to start with myself. I keep examining beliefs I learned and internalized. I am listening to different thought leaders who are diverse in their beliefs and opinions. I continue to read as many books as I can by authors who do not look like me. I am continuing to consume movies and television shows that do not center the white male or white female gaze.
I use my voice every time I talk or text with a new parent to let them know that they are not alone. I keep urging our lawmakers to do better and pass laws to help protect all birthing parents. I use my voice to help smash the stigma of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders every time I share my story or share information from Postpartum Support International.
When we started to decorate the house for Christmas, I realized that our girls did not know the story of our Christmas angel. My husband and I lived in this darling little flat as newlyweds. He moved into my flat that I had been renting from the same landlady since 2000, Alice.
This flat was Alice’s childhood home. She did not raise my rent the four years that I lived there. We paid a minimal rent for the area. In return Alice baked us Christmas cookies and crocheted the angel.
When I first moved in, Alice lived with her sister, Harriet and Harriet’s husband, George. After he passed, then it was just Harriet and Alice. I would run the rent check up the stairs and slide it under the door in an envelope. Sometimes I would knock and chat with Alice for a little bit.
We took pride in shoveling the small sidewalk and stairs. We didn’t want Alice or her sister to slip and fall. It was a fantastic duplex, and I still miss that neighborhood. We moved out of the duplex when Alice decided to move into assisted living after her sister Harriet went into assisted living. The duplex was a lot to manage, and Alice wanted to be close to her sister.
Alice passed away in 2009. I will always remember her kindness and generosity especially during the holidays. She always delivered Christmas cookies to us. I think of her as I decorate our tree and bake cookies with my girls.
The most inspirational piece of art that I saw this year was Hamilton the Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I took my two daughters to see this show. It was my youngest’s first Broadway touring show. I have been a huge fan of the musical since it came out. I read the Chernow book that inspired Lin-Manuel to create this piece. I’ve watched the PBS special, and I was gifted several Hamilton gifts. I’m a long time listener of The Hamilcast podcast. Needless to say, I’m steeped in this musical.
Seeing it live was magical and electrifying. I barely knew where to look. The actors danced and sang with relentless energy and passion. I marveled at all the elements – music, dialogue, scenery, lighting, sound and staging – that go into a show of this size. I stole glances at the girls. They were enraptured. My oldest has a new found appreciation for hip hop again; that style of dance isn’t her favorite at her dance studio. She loves to dance, and she’s interested in Broadway. Hamilton’s choreography encompasses so many different styles of dance.
I wept multiple times during the show. I wept at the diversity of the cast and the timeless message of the show. I wept at the deaths of beloved characters. I wept at the realization that my legacy will most likely be told by my daughters. I came away inspired to keep creating and making art. I’m not a visual artist. I am a writer, singer and dancer. I need to keep finding ways to infuse my art into my daily life.
Oh friends, it’s been a while since I posted anything to the blog. I am starting to write again more consistently because it is a key component of my self-care.
I have participated in the word of the year for seven years now. Go check out these two bloggers: Sili Recio and Lucrecer Braxton. They break down how to choose your word of the year. Lucrecer created this amazing print of my word of the year. I asked her to make it extra, and she surpassed my expectation. It sparkles. https://www.etsy.com/shop/LucrecerBraxton/
Inspire means to “fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative” and to “create (a feeling, especially a positive one) in a person”. My goal for this year was to inspire others and to be inspired. My anchor words were seanachie (Gaelic for storyteller), mindfulness and movement. The one word is my overarching theme for my year. The three anchor words feed up to the main word. I’m inspired by movement through dance, music and acting. I’m inspired by storytellers of all ages, races and creeds. Mindfulness for me involves getting quiet and really listening to what my heart and soul need. I am already starting to think about my word or phrase for next year. Do any of you readers participate in this? I’d love to talk about it more with my readers.
I know how tough today is for you. You feel this pressure to be “on” and get all dressed up for church and brunch out at a restaurant when all you want to do is stay in bed and get some rest. Today is a bittersweet anniversary for me. It was seven years ago today that I realized that I was really struggling with postpartum depression and that I was not okay. I treated myself to a free yoga class taught by a dear friend. The relaxation portion of the class was wonderful until I realized how much tension I was carrying around. I realized that the pit of anxiety and panic in my stomach wasn’t going away. I felt like I was drowning. I could not see color; I just saw gray around me. I felt like I had a black cloud of despair over my head.
After the class had ended, I spoke with my friend about the challenges of having two children and how hard it was for me. She was so reassuring and empathetic. After chatting with my friend, I drove home in silence. I remembered that she had disclosed to me several years earlier that she had suffered from severe postpartum depression with her oldest. I wondered if this was what I was suffering from. I got on the Internet, and I found Postpartum Progress and Postpartum Support International. I found a therapist who was fifteen minutes from my house. She had a last-minute cancellation, and I was in her office the following Wednesday. Two weeks later, she gave me my official diagnosis of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.
If you’re struggling this Mother’s day, please know that you are not alone. I want to reach through my computer screen and give you a hug. Imagine me sitting next to you with a cup of coffee, some cookies, and a blanket. I am listening. I hear you, and I understand. It gets better, I promise. There is light at the end of the tunnel. One day you will notice the colors around you. The sky will be bluer, and you will realize how beautiful the sound of your child’s laughter is. You’ll feel those little seeds of hope within your soul. On this Mother’s Day, I am proud to say that I am a survivor of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. I got through it, and so will you. Postpartum depression will make you think that you are a bad mom, but you are not. You are a great mom, and you are so loved and appreciated.
This time I did not listen to my body until my body screamed at me. When I look back on the last several months, my anxiety was increasing. It seemed to have happened so gradually. I let my stress and anxiety over my work take over everything.
It came to a head when I had a severe colitis attack over a weekend. It began on a Friday afternoon where I could barely leave work for fear of not having a bathroom nearby. It settled down Saturday, but Sunday left me weak and on the couch. My body told me to rest. I did not take a sick day. I worked from home that day. Thankfully I had gotten an appointment to get in to see my primary care doctor the following morning.
My anxiety was unmanageable. We increased my medication dosage, and we spoke at length about what had caused this anxiety. I was strongly encouraged to find another job as soon as possible since my anxiety was exacerbated by the stress I was under at work. I had scheduled an appointment with my therapist for the following week. I had initially thought about asking for paperwork to take a medical leave of absence from work to get my anxiety under control. After I had spoken with my doctor, I felt validated. I did not think that it would be necessary to get this paperwork.
I was already actively looking for a new job. I felt hopeful leaving this appointment. I left my appointment, and I went directly into the office. I spent the next three days working with no break for 10 plus hours to finalize procedure updates. I had to text my husband and call in favors from child care. I did not set the expectation about what time I needed to leave the office, so my boundary wasn’t respected. I still felt weak and extremely tired. I finished the week on adrenaline and caffeine.
Now that I am no longer in my position, I see how much of a physical toll the stress took on me. I finally feel rested. I lost weight. My colitis flare subsided about a week after I left. I feel lighter. I’m tending to my whole self – mind, body, and soul.
I normally stink at transitions. Just over two years ago, I was laid off. When I went to the outplacement session, one of the facilitators there said that we stay too long in a job that no longer suits us. This is so true for me. My husband jokes that I get an itch at two to three years.
As someone who’s a lifelong learner, I struggle with finding the ability to incorporate both my right and left brain. I love to create, and I love spreadsheets and schedules. I know what my true calling is. I am a storyteller – a cuentista, a cantadora, a seanachie.
I parted ways with my current job. It was not the exit I had planned. I miss my former team. They are amazing people who I adore and respect. They challenged me and helped me to grow both as a person and as a leader.
I am taking this time to recharge and reset. I am focusing on what feeds my soul: reading, writing, listening to podcasts, dancing and singing. I am trying to be deliberate and intentional about my next opportunity. I am relishing this time to focus on my family. The more I feed my soul, the more I can be present with them.
This year I chose the word Authentic. The definition of the word authentic is “of undisputed origin; genuine.” I am using this word to determine my next steps professionally. I am a storyteller. That is my true passion and calling. I am figuring out how to incorporate that into my life. My anchor words are Intention, Power and Magic. I want to remain true to myself. I also want to be intentional about how I spend my time and energy. I want to stand in my power and speak my truth. I want to use my magic of storytelling and creativity. I am choosing to surround myself with music, exercise, books and podcasts that fill my soul, my family and friends, visual pieces that remind me of my priorities, and writing and journaling. Have you chosen a word of the year? How has it changed you this year?
I sat at work in a fog. I found it hard to focus. I sent my sweet girls with my parents for a long weekend. As I watched them drive away, I cried. I cried with relief that they are in good hands. I cried because I will miss them dearly. I cried because I hate that they practice the lockdown drills.
I own a gun, and so does my husband. My gun is in a locked cabinet, and my husbands gun case is locked. The ammunition is not together with the guns. I support common sense legislation. I support background checks. I support a nationwide gun registry. I am fine with extra checks because I have a diagnosed mental illness. No one needs to collect guns. Only use the ones you need for hunting. Get rid of the rest of them. There is no reason for a semi automatic gun. There is no reason for a bump stock to convert a gun into an automatic weapon. What purpose does owning a weapon like that do? You would not hunt any animals with those weapons. They are meant to destroy and kill as many as possible. Take away my guns. I am okay with that. I haven’t hunted in years. If that is what it takes to stop the epidemic of gun violence in the US, I will do it.
I am heartbroken and enraged at the frustration and outrage from our teenagers. Of course they’re upset. They have every right to be. We have the power to fix this. Thank you to the amazing teachers and parents who are holding space for our teens. I see your brave. We can fix this. Are you with me?