CHOOSING A FOCUS WORD FOR THE YEAR IS A SERIOUS PROCESS IN MY FAMILY.
Especially for me. I research, journal, and meditate on several words before I come to the one that I believe is the right (now) fit for who I want to be and where I want to be by the end of the coming year. GRACE in 2020 was no different. When I chose the word, I had no idea how life-changing, self-affirming, and eye-opening it would be. Grace was not a word I could easily grasp nor define at the end of 2019. It was a word in a phrase I’d heard from many people in my life: “Give yourself grace.”
It was something I had yet learned to do. I am still learning. It is what I love about this word. Grace, for me, is not finite. Grace will not end with 2020. I will carry it with me into 2021 and beyond.
Self-deprecation is second skin to me. Like sarcasm, I wear it as protection from those who could judge or condemn my actions. It is my preemptive strike. Similar to those who use humor as a defense mechanism, I beat them to the chase of tearing me down, so they’re left with no choice but to coddle me for being so hard on myself. (I’m speaking in the present tense because, though I have made progress, my work is not complete.) When I noticed this trait start to manifest in my preteen son, it was no mystery where he gleaned the behavior. Children really are mirrors, and they can sometimes show us the little monsters dwelling within us. It was time for a change.
Being reminded that I didn’t have to be Nubia, I sat with words like empathy, self-care, space, meditation. While helpful to the plight I was facing, these words didn’t encompass the trial I was facing. How did I give myself room not only to let go of some of the control I was holding on to but also to forgive myself when I failed at being in control? Friends and family members’ voices rang out as I journaled, scribbling random words on a page: Give yourself grace. I didn’t know how to give myself grace. In my eyes, grace was some embodiment of a characteristic held by princesses. I was picturing Princess Diana and Grace Kelly. Poised and dignified. I felt I possessed neither trait. So I did what anyone raised with a computer in their home would do; I went to Google.
What I found was a multitude of dictionary definitions ranging from Christianity to law to mythology. It wasn’t quite what I was looking for, so I made my own: Grace would be what I give myself when I feel like giving up after putting myself down.
I learned that GRACE had been my Swiss Army knife for 2020. Without it, I don’t think I could have made it through. On top of the pandemic, systemic racism, and the Presidential election, I was diagnosed with PTSD. Opening up the floodgates to my childhood trauma, I found that I am strong enough to give myself all the grace I need. In a culture that has not always been accepting of mental illness and considers the wounds of childhood to better left unspoken, it was a revelation to find the space I needed with therapy, meditation, journaling, and exercise.
A supportive and understanding partner was also crucial. I was lucky enough that my partner happened to be my husband. Your partner can be a parent, friend, sibling, therapist, or pet. Whomever you choose to help get you through the tough times, a supportive ear is paramount if, like me, you have a tendency not to heed your own sound advice. There’s a reason they call it “bouncing ideas” off of someone. Sometimes it takes seeing it come back at you to make sense. Be open to learning from your word—from the successes and the failures.
Grace = Progress over Perfection
What I had hoped to gain in 2020 was clarity. Clarity of thought, especially. What I learned was that you can not control what you let in once the flood gates are open. If you open yourself to lessons, be prepared to learn what is being offered. GRACE showed be that it is progress, not perfection, I seek. My self-deprecation was coming from a place of high expectation. An expectation of perfection. I put myself and others on a pedestal of great heights, then damned myself and others when we fell. What I forgot was that no one can sit on a pedestal for long. No one is perfect. Not on this earth. Not me. Not you. Not my kids. Not my husband. We are all works in progress. As my kids continue to learn about a growth mindset, I thought putting it into the simple terms I could understand would help me wade through the tougher times. In moments when I have placed someone (often time myself) on too-high a pedestal, I remember that GRACE is progress, not perfection. I am a flawed human with a past, allowed to make mistakes, learn from them, and move forward. Lesson learned.
WHAT IS A FOCUS WORD
A focus word, unlike a New Years’ resolution, is a year-long anchor. It is what you return to when you lose your way. Anyone can say they want to lose weight. Why do you want to lose weight? What is the reason behind that why? That is your focus.
HOW TO FIND YOUR FOCUS WORD
I’ve touched on this before. There are numerous ways. I’ll stick with a simple one this time.
Ask yourself the 5 WHYs:
Where do I want to be at the end of 2021?
Why? Answer <<— This is your intention. This where your anchor comes from.
You can also keep asking yourself Why? until you determine the crux of where you want to be.
TOOLS I USED
Talkspace – Text, Voice, & Video-based therapy
Shine App – Meditation, affirmations, and articles on self-care and healing
Myx Fitness – Spin bike and fitness app
Lose It – Weight loss app, food tracker, meal planner
Noom – Weight loss app, food tracker, meal planner, articles, individual and group coaching
Journaling – my favorite journals
Affirmations – my favorite video