One Word ~An Intention for 2021

Many years ago, I was introduced to the idea of selecting a single word for each calendar year to act as an intention, touchstone, and big-picture goal. The beauty of a single word intention is that the simplicity means multiple ways of connecting are possible. For example, one of my words over the years was ‘Courageous.’  For me, being courageous sometimes meant facing down a bad mental health day and still getting one or two things done.  Being courageous meant having conversations that made me nervous.  It meant pushing outside my comfort zone. It meant displaying some of my vulnerability and authenticity to the world.

As it turns out, being courageous looked like this a lot

My word for 2020 was ‘Manifest.’  One of the interesting aspects of single-word intention practice is watching the way a word will play out against opposition. One of the biggest, most ridiculous hats I wear in life is my Community Organizer hat.  Manifesting community during a pandemic can seem like a laughable goal but somehow, that’s exactly what happened.  To manifest something is to take it from an idea to a physical reality. With the work of the other organizers within Frederick CUUPS, we were able to manifest an online version of our community.  We offer a minimum of one activity per week, generally more.  Workshops, rituals, classes, social gatherings, the works.  We manifested completely different versions of the rituals that have become part of Frederick CUUPS liturgy. It’s no small feat – our balance of offerings means a lot of people working together in service to community.  Manifesting indeed.

At home, manifestation was underway as well. I learned early in the pandemic to turn really bad days into gardening days. I started to learn about permaculture (I’m currently working my way through a massive permaculture DVD set courtesy of a friend) and how it relates to my little piece of land in the city limits of Hagerstown. I have begun to manifest more fertility and support for the earth where I live.

Sometimes it’s not a metaphor at all.

This upcoming year, 2021, is dawning a little darker than previous years. On the macro level, we are not out of the woods yet with the pandemic. It will be several months till we can hug our friends and families.  The political system here in the United States continues to stagger forward unbalanced, the product of unchecked greed and poor governance in favor of ‘progress’ and capitalist values. Our cops continue to systematically oppress and assault black, indigenous, and people of color on a daily basis.  The accelerating climate crisis is worsening (see also ‘progress’ and capitalist values).

On the micro level, my father is in the end stages of a battle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. His condition is progressive and ultimately fatal – it is the slow buildup of fibrous tissue in his lungs. Right now, he can barely breathe enough to speak to me on the phone.  And I cannot go to be at his side due to the pandemic.

These are heavy burdens, and sometimes the flickering candle I hold in my heart feels like it will finally gutter and go out.

As I was contemplating what would be best this year, what would help the most, what would recenter me on bad days, what would act as the torch I carry on good days, the word finally surfaced this morning:


My word for 2021 is ‘Nurture.’  I am beginning this year by returning to therapy (been a bit since my last regular sessions and I am overdue for a tuneup).  I am beginning this year by aggressively ignoring the barrage of diet and weight loss bullshit that has already begun to populate the ads I see on the media platforms I visit (report them as offensive when you see them – they are.  Remember that the fitness industry is largely owned and operated by white men who thrive off fueling your self-hatred. Fuck those guys). I am beginning this year by caring for my heart.  I am choosing to nurture myself this year.

Things I think nurturing will look like when it is self-directed:

  • Meeting my struggles with love, acceptance, and support
  • Going to therapy and doing any homework I’m assigned
  • Feeding my body less convenient/easy foods and more nutritious and strengthening foods
  • Moving my body in ways that feel good, that make me feel stronger
  • Setting boundaries on my own behalf, including with me
  • Self-parenting in a healthy, loving, constructive way

Things I think nurturing will look like when it is outwardly-directed:

  • Holding loving, supportive, empathetic space for others
  • Tending my community and growing my Cottage
  • Listening to and supporting BIPOC voices in any way I can
  • Enriching the soil and supporting the biome where I live
  • Staying politically active to help foster a more just and equitable future
  • Carrying a torch of pagan spirituality to shed more light on the path for my own feet as well as others

There are a lot of ways to anchor your intention in your everyday surroundings.

Find an image containing your word, or that reminds you of your word, and set it as the background on your phone, tablet, or console.  This is the one I’ve chosen for my own device:

Shamelessly stolen from this article

Display your word.  Write your word on a sticky note and stick it to your desk. Or, go one step more elaborate and build an entire vision board.  There’s not a ton of useful stuff that’s going to happen between now and January first.  Break out some old magazines, glue sticks, and scissors and make a big self-care mess. Arts and crafts will be a better use of your time than most stuff right now.

Build a playlist.  I have one that I created for my Courageous year that I still listen to when I need to be brave.

Write an affirmation. Those of you who have studied with me personally have already most likely experienced my affirmation lecture, probably more than once.  I’ll TL:DR it for you: self-talk matters. Say nice things instead of shitty ones. Here’s my Nurture affirmation:

“I am nurturing my whole self: mind, body, and spirit. I am meeting myself with love and support.”

Journal. Write about your word.  Think about what actions will support it and write those down too.  Revisit that journal entry from time to time to help hang onto the thread on hard days.

Set some check-ins. Put a calendar notification in your device for two weeks from now, a month from now, three months from now, or even further out to check in with how you’re supporting your intention. Remember, we all fall off the wagon sometimes.  Resilience is the ability to dust off and climb back on.


So, what’s the word?

Your word?

Hit me up in the comments.  Let’s figure out what we most need to carry with us into a new calendar year.







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