Back in January, I decided my one little word for 2015 would be gentle.
After an intense, often difficult autumn, I wanted to slow down, take a few deep breaths, treat myself and others with a little more care. It’s so easy to channel the snark when I’m stressed, to snap at my friends and co-workers and husband instead of really listening to them. I wanted to step away from that, to value being kind and gracious over having the last (witty or sarcastic) word.
It has not (you may have noticed) been a gentle winter around here, weather-wise. The blizzards, the piles of snow, the piercing cold, are the opposite of gentle – they are brutal. The stress of daily life doesn’t slow down when the weather behaves like this; if anything, it gets compounded. But I have been trying my best to be gentle, with myself and with others. (As you can see below, it has involved lots of chai.)
Being gentle has sometimes meant biting my tongue: just because a remark is true doesn’t mean it’s kind or helpful. Sometimes it means stopping myself from rolling my eyes. Sometimes it means listening when I don’t want to. I chose this word partly because I want to be a safe place for my friends and family. (The older I get, the more it matters to me that my friends are safe instead of cool or beautiful or witty.) Being gentle is sometimes – I admit it – a royal pain.
Being gentle also means giving myself a break. I do not have to eat all the vegetables, clean the whole apartment in a single evening, finish all the work projects in one day. I don’t have to like a book or TV show even if I feel I “should.” I tend toward high expectations for myself, which can lead to self-criticism and anxiety. So being gentle means dialing back the critical eye I sometimes turn on my own life. I’m only human.
I saw the new Cinderella movie with my mom and sister when I was in Texas, and while I loved the gorgeous costumes and sets, I especially loved the film’s central line: “Have courage and be kind.” Since brave is a vital word for me and gentle is my word for this year, that line felt exactly right.
If you’re following one little word this year, how’s it going?