One of my favorite conversations in Eat, Pray, Love is when Liz Gilbert’s friend Giulio tells her that the best way to get to know a city and its inhabitants is to learn its word. As Giulio put it, “…what is the word on the street?” It is the very essence of the city. Before long he asks Liz what her word is. She thinks for weeks, but hasn’t the slightest.
At the beginning of every year I witness myself and various people in my life making “New Year’s Resolutions.” We resolve to get fit, pay off credit cards, put more effort into our appearance, or to quit smoking. All noble aspirations in my book except for one thing – they don’t seem to last. I, like all the others, have grand intentions when it comes to my resolve for change, but for some reason the words on the page never seem to bring lasting improvement. Some say I have weak resolve. Some say my “why” isn’t strong enough. But I say that I’m plenty strong and that perhaps the method for these changes is the weak one.
So, what exactly is my word for 2016? It wasn’t something that I had ever put much thought into until Liz struggled to come up with her own. I later discussed my desire for my own word with Dr. L., a dear physician and confidante, who shared that she has benefitted greatly from assigning a word to each new year. After deliberating on an area in her life in which she wishes to improve she then selects a word to help bring about that improvement. One year she chose the word “adventure” to encourage her to enjoy the fun that life has to offer and another she chose “balance” to understand the meaning of moderation (good thing those weren’t in the same year!). All chosen words were meant to encourage, remind, and instruct her all through the year. She said she noticed that as she kept her word in mind opportunities to embody that particular word became more and more common. I positively adore this simple concept because it gives you pause to think about where you truly are in your life. No frills. No false notions. Just an honest conversation with yourself about where you are in your life and where you want to go.
After much thought and prayer, I chose —- Respect.
Respect for my Creator.
Respect for the created. Their minds. Their souls. Their hearts. Their bodies.
Respect for myself. My mind. My soul. My heart. My body.
Respect for all creatures – great and small.
Respect for the planet that I call home.
Respect for the flat that houses my earthly belongs.
Respect for all blessing – animate and inanimate – that I come in contact with every day.
The word just fits. It speaks to the kind of teacher I need right now. The past several years have brought their challenges and during all the stress, the fast pace, and the changes I forgot the meaning of this short, simple, but life-altering, word. I need to learn Respect.
One of the best parts about a yearly word is that I no longer need to remember all those lists of resolutions. Respect encourages me to take care of my body. Respect reminds me to put effort into my appearance. Respect instructs me to not spend money that I don’t have. Respect encourages, reminds, and instructs me in many different ways every single day.
So, that begs the question: What’s your “Word”?