In 2018, I chose the word “Joy” as my word of the year. I stuck the little white letters in between the teal felted rows of my letterboard and hung it on the wall.
But “word of the year” has never stuck with me very well. I tend toward some harsh self-criticism, and I found the word to only remind me of the ways I did not have joy.
That year, I was struggling with the worsening state of my body due to my genetic condition and found myself wandering back to the river to dive deep in her silent dark water and feel at peace and rest again.
One night in pure frustration I swam as hard as I could to the middle of the open river. Legs and lungs burning, I finally flipped over and looked up at the sky. It was dusk and the water was cool enough that I could feel the heat of the tears on my face.
I whispered, please help me. Please. I’m so overwhelmed.
As I rested in the water, I felt held. I felt cared for. I felt baptized. When I came home, I found a tiny miracle. A bit of encouragement to keep going.
And so 2018 became the Year of Water. Of rest. Of healing.
As the days began to get colder and longer, I sat on the last warm day at the edge of the river. I had been shocked by how cold it was when I stepped in. My days of swimming were drawing short.
I wrote a little vignette in my journal about my fear of this newfound comfort slipping away from me:
“The minnows pick and nibble along the shoreline,
the sun making tiny submarine shadows on the sandy bottom.
They’re happy in the shallows where the edge of the water is so warm…
(I wonder where they will go when the world turns cold.)
(I wonder where I will go.)”
But like the minnows, I found my comfort in the warmth of the sun. 2019 dawned as the Year of the Sun for me and I saw its light everywhere. I saw lots of sunrises and sunsets, heard little connections about the sun and light in books, movies, TV shows, and especially music. I thought that it would be the year for me to begin actually shining — to start showing up publicly with everything I have and feel and create.
But it was actually a different kind of light. More like a burning really– so intense and bright it takes the first layer right off. Afterward, you feel a little tender, but also a little glowing.
As I wrapped up my “year of the sun” and thought about the ways it had changed me and grown me, I knew that I wanted to find another natural element to hang onto next year. The moon had cropped up multiple times but it seemed like the less-bright version of the sun. The unloved little brother of nighttime illumination duties.
But then I realized that the moon brings the light and warmth of the sun into dark places. Our quiet places. Our safe places and scary places. The moon is shining while our sleeping brains grow and change and process the days’ events– the silent watchman that guards our unconscious growth. The moon is a companion on the lonely nights where sleep won’t come.
So 2020 is my Year of the Moon.
Looking forward to what it has to teach me.