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When You Can’t Choose One Word Until March

| written by Rachel Pieh Jones | 2 comments

My word for 2019 is clarity. Brain fog settled in thick and heavy because of a family crisis and then thyroid cancer and the treatment has a known side effect of brain fog.

Nope. Not clarity. My word for 2019 is purpose. All that brain fog, the crisis, and the health issues contributed to aimless wandering and I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.

Nope. Not purpose. The word is focus. Lack of purpose has led to lack of focus. I need to figure out where I’m heading so I’ll understand my purpose and move forward with clarity.

Nope. Not focus. Health. Family health, physical health, spiritual health. All the health things. That will enable me to focus with intention.

Hey! Maybe my word should be intention, that’s kind of a trendy word lately.

No, I know. My word should be anti-trendy. Because I’m anti trendy. And if I do things that aren’t currently trendy, they could become trendy and then I’ll get another book deal.

But a book can’t be written without clarity, purpose, vision, or health. Even if it is on an anti-but-now-trendy trending topic…and so the cycle continued.

I ended up not picking a word for 2019. Does that surprise anyone who knows me? Not a bit. Making decisions is not a strong suit of mine and these kinds of exercises highlight this weakness, at least I consider it a weakness. I’m dependent on other people’s opinions to the point of paralysis. I have all kinds of excuses for this.

Other people simply have better ideas.

Other people have good insight into my skills, personality, strengths.

I might make the wrong decision.

I don’t want other people to be caught up in my wrong decision. This plays out in things as minor as choosing a restaurant. What if we go to the one I chose and someone is dissatisfied? Or suggesting a song to sing at church – what if someone else doesn’t like that song?

But, by limiting myself this way, I’m also robbing others of the possibility of joy and delight – discovering a new and delicious meal, singing a song they had forgotten but love. Or maybe not, but that’s okay, too. I am not responsible for other people’s happiness (I repeat this often).

I’ve spent my adult life putting other people ahead of myself. This was good and appropriate. I married at 21 and gave birth to twins at 22. But those twins graduated last summer and now I find myself not knowing myself. I am afraid of the stranger inside, afraid of steering her wrong, afraid of wasting her talent, afraid of missing…I don’t know what.

And so I don’t decide things. I wait until they are forced upon me or decided for me. I can’t even decide on a single word. So silly because how could I go wrong? It’s a word. It could only offer good to me, unless I choose, say, murder. Or greed. And I’m pretty sure I won’t.

It is already March and I haven’t decided my word yet.

And then, as I’m writing this to explain why I can’t decide on my word and to offer all the excuses and to write about how not having only one is also okay and won’t ruin my year, it slaps me across the brain.

Decide.

My word is decide.

I’m not going to change it. Not going to forget it. Not going to refuse it. I’m going to own it, which is one aspect of the word itself. Owning the things I decide, not leaving room for guilt or shame. I’m going to explore the times I’m afraid to decide and am going to practice listening to my inner voices as I decide.

This is going to be hard. Maybe that is kind of the point. So, a few months late, bring it on 2019.

Decide.

How long does it take for you to choose your one word?

Rachel Pieh Jones writes about life at the crossroads of faith and culture. Her work is influenced by living as a foreigner in the Horn of Africa, raising three Third Culture Kids, and adventurous exploration of the natural world. She has been published in The New York Times, Runners World, Christianity Today, and more. Her next book will be released in October, 2019. Get all her stories and updates in the Stories from the Horn newsletter.

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