A friend of mine has an annual tradition of selecting a Word each January 1 as the theme of her “new year.” Now, I don’t believe in resolutions. I believe in setting intentions and working to realize goals. But, she inspired me — as she often does. And this year, I felt moved to do the same.
I mulled over it for several days. I mean, this was the word for my year. And once selected, it had to have staying power. A couple ideas popped into my mind. But there was one Word that showed up more than others.
So, I set my word. And as part of my 2017 Theme, I wore something white (or winter white since I consider cream to be white) every day in January. Just my way of wiping the slate clean and shining in what I consider to be the darkest month of the year.
For the first week or so, my spirits were high. After all, I had Hope. In every situation, I was able to find a hopeful element, something to hold onto. Now, don’t mistake this as my saying I had it all together, nothing went wacky or every aspect of my life was perfect blah blah blah. But, I was able to cultivate Hope in something and nurture it deep inside myself.
But, tossing out a word like Hope to the universe is like daring it to thwart you. It’s like asking for Patience and realizing the only way you develop Patience is by managing a lot of crap and negative stuff to find your strength and calm amidst it all. Hope is like that. Pretty soon I realized this might be trickier than I originally thought. Stuff started flying my way and I began to feel ill-equipped to handle it. My Hope started to waver.
But I held on because I recognized that Hope is like that. It attracts gloom and despair. Then, Hope sheds light on those shadows in the corner … the doubts, fears, struggles and losses you’d prefer to ignore because they cause discomfort. But you know what I’ve discovered during the past 39 days? Hope shines brightest in the darkness.
A little candle flame cannot be seen in the light of day. Its strength reveals itself in the blackest hours of the night or in those times you are in the corner struggling with your personal shadows. The light of Hope shines the most brilliant on sad days, amidst lonely rainy moments where you feel abandoned, scared, uncertain, weary or alone and during the times you experience frustration, loss, fear, self-doubt and anxiety.
It’s easy to hold on to Hope when everything is going your way. But when it doesn’t … when you read about injustice in a local jail, when the Senate approves a nomination you dread, when a friend suffers from a terrible illness or worries about the future of their family in today’s precarious international environment, when you see unkindness all around you … or in those personal moments of gloom when you struggle with day-to-day “stuff,” when you feel rejected, restless and unfocused or when you just can’t seem to find your joy, that’s when the flame of Hope shines brightest. Hope gives you the strength to believe in something beyond your own self.
Hope does not promise me a rose garden or guarantee that there won’t be shadows along my path this year. It doesn’t say I will have an easy go of it in 2017. It doesn’t mean my little flame of Hope won’t struggle on windy, rainy, cold or difficult days. But, it provides me a focal point that helps me cultivate strength to deal with challenging, difficult people and times, as well as the emotions they stir in me. Hope sparks and rises in the darkness.
Of course, there are still those moments when I question everything. When my own personal shadows threaten to rise up and drown my little light. I’m shaken to my core and wonder what difference it makes if I throw in the towel and allow despair and doubt to take me down the river.After all, what can my little light do anyway?
And that’s when I hear it … A still small voice whispering in my ear.
Ah, my child … but that’s the point. That’s why we chose Hope as your word. Now … let’s get on with it. – Jenni
Hope is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird –
That kept so many warm – .
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity
It asked a crumb – of me.
– Emily Dickinson #314