One of my favorite memories from 2021 was standing outside as the thin blanket of snow melted across the grass. The sun’s brightness was in sharp contrast with the frigid temperatures surrounding me, and the juxtaposition of light and air held me spellbound for just a moment. As my gaze traveled from the treetops to my feet, I saw the most wonderful sight: a heart shape formed by the snow.
I have a special connection to hearts discovered in unexpected places which I wrote about in March and captured in photographs throughout the year. They remind me of family and friends who have passed on. They remind me of God’s love for me. They remind me that I’m never alone.
They also create a moment of awe and wonder, pushing pause on a busy life that might otherwise overlook the ordinary.
When this year began, I chose “Appreciate” as my #OneWord2021. On the heels of a pandemic that turned the world upside down, I wanted to make appreciation intentional.
To look for the good.
To experience the joy.
To appreciate the world around me.
Small moments. Big moments. I wanted to embrace all the things with a new level of satisfaction and contentment, without assumptions or expectations.
I wanted to live in the moment and not take things for granted.
I embraced simple pleasures in 2021:
Feeling the weight of a cozy fleece blanket as I curled in my favorite spot on the sofa to read another chapter in a new book.
Standing in wonder at a star-filled sky on a clear autumn night, remembering camping trips we had taken with the kids when they were younger.
Enjoying the warmth of the sun wrap around my skin like a heavenly hug in the summer as I listened to the melodic pentameter of waves crashing on the shore.
I captured moments with my camera that made me smile:
#HiMom hearts that appeared from nowhere.
Witnessing kind acts of others.
Playing board games with my children.
I acknowledged the limitations that this pandemic (and life spans in general) place on our daily activities, yet decided to live my best life just the same. I embraced every opportunity that came my way.
I traveled to Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Venice, CA.
Las Vegas. Arizona. Utah.
Rochester, NY and New York City.
I stood on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and listened to the sweet serenity of silence.
I marched in the New York City Veteran’s Day parade beside my husband and reflected on those early years of marriage that carried us from Florida to Nevada to Tennessee and later brought forth three children.
I traversed my home state of Virginia from the East Coast beaches to the western Appalachian Plateau and marveled at the four seasons of change while reflecting on my own changes, too.
I celebrated milestones with my family:
My daughter’s college graduation and engagement five months later.
My oldest son’s engineering internship and his college acceptance letters.
My youngest son’s newfound spark for reading and mastery of advanced classes at school.
I placed boundaries on my time and commitments and enjoyed the slower pace of intentional choice.
I read books.
I wrote pages of story drafts.
I said “No” to make space for a greater “Yes.”
Even in this space of appreciation, there were several things I didn’t do:
I didn’t allow the opinions of others to dictate the passions of my soul.
I didn’t compromise my beliefs to make someone else feel comfortable.
I didn’t seethe in the spiral of bitterness and hatred the world so often portrays.
I didn’t live in fear.
Was 2021 a challenging year?
Were there times when I wanted to crawl into the sanctity of my personal space and walk away from the suffering and strife?
Did I feel the public whiplash of negativity towards education in a year where teaching was just as stressful as 2020 (if not more so?)
But the lessons I learned through my year-long focus on appreciation showed me that satisfaction isn’t about reaching the summit each time you climb. Nor is it about the accolades of others who only appear at the finish line.
It’s appreciating the adventure along the way.
Sometimes our journey requires small steps. We might need to adjust the weight of the load we carry. There are moments we should pause to catch our breath, to restore and renew. We might even need to backtrack a bit should we discover ourselves off-course.
Our journey requires kindness, for ourselves and for others. How are we holding space for those around us with empathy and compassion? Are we giving others grace in their time of need while still maintaining boundaries for self-care? Are we doing our best without burning our candles at both ends?
Continue the journey.
Seek joy in each day.
Recognize that making the first step towards action is the most important step to take.
Never forget the transformational power of kindness to heal the brokenness of this world.
My #OneWord2022 is inspired by the eloquent words of Maya Angelou captured below:
My wish for you
Is that you continue
To be who and how you are
To astonish a mean world
With your acts of kindness
To allow humor to lighten the burden
Of your tender heart
In a society dark with cruelty
To let the people hear the grandeur
Of God in the peals of your laughter
To let your eloquence
Elevate the people to heights
They had only imagined
To remind the people that
Each is as good as the other
And that no one is beneath
Nor above you
To remember your own young years
And look with favor upon the lost
And the least and the lonely
To put the mantle of your protection
Around the bodies of
The young and defenseless
To take the hand of the despised
And diseased and walk proudly with them
In the high street
Some might see you and
Be encouraged to do likewise
To plant a public kiss of concern
On the cheek of the sick
And the aged and infirm
And count that as a
Natural action to be expected
To let gratitude be the pillow
Upon which you kneel to
Say your nightly prayer
And let faith be the bridge
You build to overcome evil
And welcome good
To ignore no vision
Which comes to enlarge your range
And increase your spirit
To dare to love deeply
And risk everything
For the good thing
Happily in the sea of infinite substance
Which set aside riches for you
Before you had a name
And by doing so
You and your work
Will be able to continue
I hope 2022 brings moments of appreciation to help us grow in our love for one another, celebrate moments of joy and wonder, and continue our purpose in this world.
One Word Goals
2022 – Continue