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, 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. A host of volunteers picked up the ball and ran with it – workshops, rituals, classes, social gatherings, the works. We manifested completely different versions of the rituals that are part of Frederick CUUPS liturgy. It was no small feat – our balance of offerings meant a lot of people working together in service to the community. Manifesting indeed.
My 2021 word was “Nurture.” I entered 2021 in deep grief at the loss of my father in late 2020. I returned to therapy, a practice that continues to this day. I became more aggressive in my rejection of the Body Shame Profit Complex, and was gentler and more loving toward my body. I stayed more aware of my mental health and my needs on that front. When the vaccines came out and we had a spring and summer of something resembling normalcy, I spent time with my beloved family and community. The Full Moon Labyrinth walks during the warmer part of the year filled my soul and began healing the deep wounds the previous isolation caused. Best of all, I was at last able to marry my beloved partner in the sight of the gods, our family, and our community. Nurturing indeed.
My 2022 word was “Shine.” After two years of relative quiet, I felt called to shed as much light as I possibly could. I released my first book, Kindred Crow returned to the stage with a busy festival schedule, I produced the Frederick, Maryland, Pagan Pride Day with the help of an incredible team of people, and supported the growth and expansion of Frederick CUUPS, the Pagan community I have the honor of leading. There was so much shining that I sometimes felt a bit too like Bilbo’s quote: butter scraped over too much bread.
My 2023 word was “Root,” and it was a great illustration of the way that intention words can play out in different ways. 2023 took me through darkness. I lost a dearly beloved friend to cancer, my Crow-brother Caine became desperately ill with long Covid, my wonderful dog Corey died during the summer…it was a hard year. And yet, somehow, here in the month of December – a month that is traditionally awful for me – I feel more firmly grounded than I have been in years. This year taught me many things about what I’m rooted to, where my values lie, and what happens when I must travel in the dark.
This upcoming year, 2024, is rolling in with a wild mix of hope and horror. We continue to adapt to the pandemic, but do not yet know how the mutating Covid variants will play out, or what flu and RSV will ultimately do to the picture. A contentious election looms before us and too many people are missing the warning signs of fascism the Republican favorite is showing. His cult-like following in our governing bodies is throwing roadblocks toward anything resembling governance and we continue to stagger forward unbalanced. Our cops continue to systematically oppress and assault black, indigenous, and people of color on a daily basis. The accelerating climate crisis is worsening. Two major horrific wars are playing out as I write this.
On the micro level, I am wrapping up the writing of my second book. My band’s show calendar is already filling for festival season, even with some restrictions. I have garden plans for my beautiful old haunted house that I am excited to put into motion. My own Pagan community continues to grow, with wonderful new leaders and teachers grabbing the torch and running with it. There is hope amidst the chaos, new growth below the muddling haze of life in these United States.
I have been sitting with all of these thoughts, with what I learned from a seriously rough year. I want to try to tackle my tendency to over-commit myself. My nature is to help, sometimes to the extent that there’s barely anything left of me at the end of the day. If 2023 taught me anything, it’s that I need to factor in recovery time as well as time to just be “off.” 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 lamp I carry on good days, the word finally surfaced:
My word for 2024 is ‘“Choice.”
My work as a guide and organizer, musician and teacher, leader and healer, is important. However, I need to remember that I am sovereign within my work. I have agency and need to remember that when I am choosing which efforts to lend my strength to, I must also choose to care for myself. I want to be more intentional, more deliberate, and choose from a place of care rather than from a desperate sense of “somebody has to do this and no one else is stepping up.” This year, I want to choose my path carefully.
Things I think Choice will look like when it is self-directed:
- Taking time to respond when different asks are made of me
- Thinking through the potential consequences of my responsibilities and planning for them
- Prioritizing my mental and physical health for stability and resilience
- Parenting myself through my impulsive moments and bouts of excitement
- Spending more time on spiritual practices that align me to my Gods and Allies so I can choose the right path forward
Things I think Choice will look like when it is outwardly-directed:
- Mindfully continuing to create, support, and otherwise hold spaces for others to connect with community
- Using my role as a teacher and community organizer to shore up and strengthen the various groups, circles, and communities I come into contact with
- Prioritizing quality rather than quantity when it comes to my presence and work in community
- Modeling boundary setting and intentional commitment
- Being a stable, reliable voice for the world we are building
- Holding the lantern of Pagan spirituality steadily for all who need it
There are a lot of ways to anchor an intention in 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.
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 Choice affirmation:
“I am choosing my Path mindfully and prioritizing my needs.”
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?
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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