In 2017, I chose STRENGTH as my word of the year. It was two months since Trump had been elected, but still before the inauguration, before the Women's March, before I'd started a resistance group. I hadn't started working yet, but I knew there was work to do, so much work, and I felt that I needed to be strong, resolute, enduring in order to do what had to be done. I knew that over the coming year I would get tired and would at times despair—and, indeed, that did happen. The word I chose was meant to be a reminder, a mantra to repeat when exhaustion set in, a way for me to push through, to keep fighting.
Yet although I had worked hard throughout the year, often speaking to myself and others about the need to fight, to resist, the metaphor of combat never really fit for me. Anger, rage, fury—these are words that I'd see over and over from others, but they're not emotions I can sustain. And although I felt and continue to feel that it is important not to shy away from struggle, that adversity and challenge bring the opportunity for growth, and that the work still yet to do is necessary even though it is difficult, it is not enough for me to be defined simply by struggle. Maybe this works for other people. It doesn't for me.
Ultimately, what I needed was not strength or force of arms to overcome. Nor did that outlook match my principles or my approach to leadership, if “leadership” is the right word for what I did—I'm still uncomfortable with how grandiose it sounds. I set myself some ground rules from the beginning: that I would present myself as a resource, not an authority figure; that I would speak my truth and offer what information I had, but not tell anyone what to do, nor even try to persuade anyone to change their minds; that I would ask for help when I needed it, but never make demands, and I would accept it when people refused my requests; and above all that I would always aim for kindness, respect, and understanding. None of this was meant to be high-minded—or at least not mainly—nor did I always live up to what I had set out to do. I just knew that this approach would make it easier for me than feeling frustrated or despondent when people didn't do what I wanted, which of course they could and did.
In thinking about what word I would choose for 2018, I imagined a rock in the ocean, around which the tide flowed and onto which the waves crashed, but which was itself unmoved. But when I described this to others, the words they thought of—“resolute,” “stoic,” “enduring"”were closer to what I had felt I needed last year than what I wanted for this year. That isn't to say that they didn't fit the image. They did. So perhaps the image was incorrect. Or at least incomplete.
What I'm looking for in 2018 is acceptance without passivity. Calm and quietness of mind and spirit; peace, but not appeasement. To stand for what is right, but to forgive myself for my shortcomings, as I forgive others for theirs. Forgiveness without capitulation or condescension. Empathy. Kindness.
My word for 2018 is GRACE.