I always spend an immense amount of time journaling and planning for my words of the year. But I am thankful that I do because for the past decade of years, my words have provided an anchor when life was challenging. I reflect on where I’ve come from and plan for where I’d like to go because, as Soren Kierkegaard reminds us, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Humbling and Healing are my “backwards words” for 2021. They reflect what really happened. Buoyant hope were my “forwards words;” they were my anchors and hope moving through what I knew would be a challenging year, in fact, the most challenging year I’ve had in my life thus far.
Coming out of a year like that, what could possibly summarize where I hope to go in 2022? What are my forward words?
In 2022, I long for stability. After a year that was unstable in almost every way imaginable, I long for stability, sturdiness, and balance in my life in every arena. I worked on physical stability throughout the year in physical therapy. I want my foot to literally have better balance. I also want my spirit to see more sunshine and less clouds in life. I want my brain to focus on what could go right rather than on what has gone wrong. I want internal stability.
I had an epiphany while thinking about this word recently: stability is always dynamic. I think for much of 2021, after feeling so out of control, I longed for stopping and sameness. While these longings are real (and in many ways what I needed first) stability requires balance on a changing or moving surface. I, of course, know this as a therapist. I take my patients through many exercises and challenges to encourage their development along this spectrum: mobility, stability, mobility superimposed on stability, skill (For more nerdy therapist talk, see movement theorist Margaret Rood’s work!)
Statues are not stable, they are stationary. Living things exhibit stability because stability carries with it the idea of movement, change, adjustment, and balance at every point. When you stand on one foot, your ankle muscles should fire and you can see hundreds of tiny adjustments even as you stand still. I know this is what should happen because for months, my ankles muscles didn’t fire and I would instantly fall over. I’ve had to relearn how to balance- in so many ways. I had been wanting stationary-ness: for the world to stop and let me catch up physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually from the events of 2020 and 2021, but what I really need is stability. I am not a statue, I am alive. Therefore, I am in constant dynamic movement.
But the more I thought about this dynamic stability, the more I knew I needed a second word to describe it. I wanted to remind myself that it took bravery to step out onto new terrains, literally and figuratively, to challenge my own hard-fought-for stability. I wanted courage. I wanted bravery. I wanted a quintessentially Kelly-style word to describe exactly what I was looking for. And I found it 🙂
Plucky is defined as “having or showing determined courage in the face of difficulties.” It is feisty, spunky, spirited, and exactly the word I was looking for. Plucky peaked in usage around 1900, which further solidifies the thought that I am, in my heart, an old lady. But plucky has a playfulness in its courageousness, which ties to my young-heartedness. I am young-hearted and old-souled and this is my wish for 2022: Plucky Stability.
I’ve also realized that my words of the year don’t end, rather they are cumulative. So as I step into a new year with wounds and gumption, with baggage and hope, I can respond with grit and grace, defiant joy, buoyant hope, and with plucky stability.