When I started writing about the Word of the Year about 10 years ago it was a fresh idea, interesting and creative. (The idea was not originally mine.) A decade later, it needs a rest. 2017 was a tough year for many, judging from social media. I lost friends, had a new, profitable business idea pulled out from under me, lost income and, in general had a tough year.
But still, Solstice and New Year are a time to reflect. Some learning led to a new ritual.
1. Happy, easy, healthy, and problem-free is not the norm. It’s not even the old-normal. Good times and bad times happen.
2. Opposites can be compared, so we can see growth, change, and make more changes. Looking back is as important as looking forward.
3. Bad times challenge us to make decisions and take action. Like mistakes, they keep us awake, aware, and in the present.
4. Blessing someone is not the privilege of priests, shamans, or holy people. Anyone has the power to call a blessing on anyone else. It’s healing.
So what about the word of the year?
Well . . . it’s a little different. Probably, I’m not alone in clutching insults, hurts, and slights to my heart and letting kind words, compliments, and smiles drift away. That diminishes the power of kindness.
On a recent morning walk, I gathered the long, thin leaves from a eucalyptus tree. The leaves get pressed between watercolor sheets until dry and flat. (Flat is important. Dry is not.)
This is a variation of an idea I used in my book, The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal. Using a Stabilo “All” pencil, I write the things I want to let go on some of the leaves. Worries about money, health, relatives, vanishing friendships, anger, loss, lack of control over my own life–all the existential dread I can call out. All the pain gets written on one leaf at a time. It is quite a pile.
Then I use more leaves to write down blessings I’d like to leave to the world: kindness, compliments, generosity, forgiveness, appreciation of what I have, the blessing of seeing another full moon, another dawn, enjoying a meal. More blessings than I thought. Another pile of leaves.
When I go walking through alleys in Phoenix, on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, I’ll scatter the leaves, blessings and worries both. I let go of the worries, drop them from my hands, knowing that letting go will allow more room in my soul for blessings. I release them by saying, out loud, “I am releasing myself from X, this worry cannot darken my soul.”
But I also let the blessings go, fall into the world, with the phrase, “May there be more X in the world, and may I see it and be aware and grateful.”
The leaves do not damage the environment, they belong to the environment. It’s a form of communication between nature, the future, the past, and me. It’s simple. It feels good.
What if you live in an area where there are no leaves at the moment? You can buy eucalyptus from a florist. Or use Alstroemeria, that cast-iron-tough flower, also called Inca Lily. Press the leaves. Just don’t use fabric or artificial leaves. Connecting yourself with nature is the healing here.
While the leaves are drying, think about what you want to let go of, what you want to keep. That alone is worthwhile for 2018.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing. She is also a creativity coach who helps people heal trauma through writing.