Words Matter

Toward the end of 2017, I decided to think of a word that might help me focus my intention for 2018. My Dan was increasingly unwell, and as I thought through a list of words that seemed likely, I settled on the word, “Grace.” It suited me because I wanted to practice grace every day as Dan and I worked toward the goal of restoring his health during 2018. I looked forward to performing millions of little grace-filled acts … preparing healthy and healing meals, discovering new ways to increase Dan’s energy, and finding every possible way to keep ahead of every health snag that might crop up. Still, we simply didn’t know how truly ill Dan was. When he died then on January 2nd, only two days into what was to be our year of grace, I realized that I had unknowingly selected the right word, but in a totally different context. Grace! On that day … January 2nd … as Dan’s body failed, piece-by-piece, organ-by-organ, system-by-system, I needed a tremendous amount of grace, if only to keep my legs standing. Then, in those first days and weeks, I needed to live deep inside my chosen word … to let it wind around my broken heart, to enter my bones with the strength of its promise. Grace! People say that grief comes in waves. It’s true. Big, towering, breath-stealing waves. It’s clear I live now in an ocean of waves that sometimes knock me to my knees. But it’s grace that helps a widow stand up again … and again. It was grace that gave me the courage to say yes to the many kindnesses that people gave so freely, and it was grace during those early days that helped me get through the myriad administrative duties of paperwork and shaky signatures and tearful phone notifications. Grace was indeed the right word.

Near the end of February, a dear girlfriend pointed out that living within the influence of only one word is like eating the same thing for every single meal. I took her advice to add a new word each month. Again, I thought long and hard about my next word, finally choosing the word, “Comfort” with visions of a massage and pedicure because it’s been a very long time since I’ve had such treats. Comfort! Two days after I wrote down my new word, I came down with that horrid chest cough that’s been running around the country and striking down everyone in its path. Again, comfort was the right word, yet again within the wrong context. So, now I’m hunting down small moments of comfort within cups of chamomile lavender tea and big spoonfuls of cough medicine. I’m living for the comfort of locating a few minutes of sleep between rib-shattering spasms of intractable coughing. I’ve discovered how so many small nuggets of comfort still live in an inelegant world of improbable words.

When April comes around, I don’t know if I should offer up another word for the Universe to tumble around into something unintended, or if I should stick up my chin and begin choosing a word a week. The biggest question is what my next brave word should be!



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