Love first. Work hard.
I’m not one for resolutions. Both of my birthdays are in July. The new school years start in August(ish). Fiscal years generally begin October 1st. Spring is the season of rebirth. All sorts of religions and cultures celebrate the new year some day other than January 1st. Every day is a day to change and begin anew. Yes, there are days when we specifically take time to look back on our lives and examine how far we’ve come, as well as where we are going. Pretty much the whole time between June 18th and July 3rd is that way for me, as I recall the progression of shaking off addiction’s hold over me. So while New Year’s Day marks a new year on the calendar, it seems more a day for ham & cabbage and other superstitions than for serious life changes.
“Because my love for you is higher than words. I have decided to fall silent.”
– Khalil Gibran
That being said, each calendar year does seem to have an essence all its own. For instance, 2015 was for me “the worst year ever.” And then 2016 happened, which America seems to have collectively dubbed “the worst year ever.” For me, it was a year of coming into independence. The husband and I had split twice already the year before. The second time coming right before Christmas. So, as 2016 began, I was already turning more to group and God, family and friends than to him. Throughout the spring, graduation bolstered me, personally, as did two visits back home which I handled very well. When we split for a third time in July, I was ready to be done, but the kids weren’t. On November 29th, it no longer mattered if they cared or not because it was obvious he didn’t. I shut the door & breathed a sigh of relief.
And then I heard it.
I’ve been following this group that is sharing their process of finding the word that they will focus on throughout 2017. I am not entirely unfamiliar with the concept. My former sponsor once spent a whole year practicing kindness as her religion. It was interesting to see the change in her approach to life over the course of that year. Now, I don’t know that I was ever actually going to pick some random word for 2017, but I do know that it will be a year of hard work for me. With all the emotional upheaval of the last two years, I have not been able to focus on school as well as I should. While that worked alright for my undergraduate work, I have found that I simply can’t continue in that vein through grad school. I am way behind the 8-ball here and I have a long way to go to get to where I want to be. So, my preliminary thinking was that my word will be something to the effect of “persevere” or “achieve.” But I keep hearing:
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.
– 1 John 4:7-8,12b (NKJV)
And it seems an odd word. Especially in light of all of the extra work I am going to have to put in. But I say it and a calm comes over me. I smile. Everything slows down and I feel empowered. It is the thing which has been missing these past two years. I could not feel it during my depression and isolation. And it was the impetus for the final split. I had had a difficult Thanksgiving and when it was over I voiced my dejection, “I feel unloved.” It was not an accusation, simply the truest thing I had said in a very long time.
And so, perhaps “Love” is not so odd a word to carry through this next year. Because everything which has happened since the final split has been me loving myself. I have had to admit failures and reach out for help. I have had to be alone and cry and scream until there was nothing left. I have been patient and gentle with myself. Far more so than ever before. I have been eating better & getting out more. I’ve already lost 11 lbs. and I am loving the way I look just because that’s where I am. I have been digging through my closet wondering where all my pretty clothes are. I have been all about girl time like never before. I have let down my hair and shamelessly flirted and DANCED! I have gone out all by myself and overcome the uncomfortableness each time. And I have similarly found myself surrounded by those individuals who believe in me and will go out of their way to help me succeed. I feel like Dorothy opening the door to Oz – like I am suddenly seeing colors again for the first time. And everywhere I look, I find joy.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
– 1 Corinthians 13:1 (NIV)
This morning, my Facebook feed was populated everywhere by it: Love. Each of the bits about love included in this post popped up there this morning. And I think maybe it is especially this final message from Corinthians that I need to carry forward into the new year as I dig into some research projects. In all my idealism and grandiosity, of course I still want to change the world despite my best efforts to shrink myself. But I should not even attempt to examine social issues unless I do so out of love for the community I am attempting to serve. And that means understanding, rather than dictating. Listening, rather than speaking. Approaching these issues with gentleness and kindness toward myself and others.
Love first. Work hard. Leave the results up to God.
Maybe “love” truly is the spirit of 2017.