In early December, a friend shared with me that she allows the Universe to pick her word for the year. This piqued my interest. How do you do that?, I asked. And she very simply said, "I just pick an angel card at my yoga studio and whatever the word is, that’s my word for the year."
The seed was planted.
I thought about her simple statement and how freeing it might feel to give up control and allow the Universe to show me what it had in mind of me, instead of me trying to control the narrative of my coming year. It would be a lesson in letting go and releasing my carefully orchestrated ritual of selecting my word.
And, then I didn’t give it another thought.
Four days later, smack dab in the middle of December, I found myself seated in a large circle with 30+ strangers at a Buddhist retreat center nestled into the hillsides along the Sonoma Coast. The leader of this retreat introduced herself and then passed around a jar full of Angel Cards and asked each of us to pick one out of the jar with our non-dominant hand and then state our name, along with the name of a band (living or dead) that we would like to see in concert and the word on the Angel Card we selected.
As the jar was making its way around the circle counter-clockwise, I thought to myself here’s my chance to let go and let god. I’ve always heard this saying and it never really resonated with me. Now, all of a sudden, it did.
I also thought, I can let the Universe pick my word, so whatever word is on my Angel Card will be my word 2018. It felt daring and uncomfortable at the same time. I knew this is what I was supposed to do.
As the jar was circulating counter-clockwise around the circle, thoughts kept flooding my mind, like, Are you serious? You’re just gonna let your word be random? That is so counter to how you’ve always done it? How stupid. Get real. It’s all just chance anyway. You’re supposed to set an intention and then push off and into the new year, doing it this way will just screw it all up.
When the almost empty glass jar finally was handed off to me, I slowly dipped my left hand into the vessel and plucked a card from the few that were remaining.
Hi. My name is Tammi. I’d like to see Dolly Parton live in concert. And, my word is grace.
It sounded so pretty.
It sounded elegant.
It sounded like something I could work with.
Once the New Year hit, I started to doubt my word. Sure, it was a nice word but once I looked up the definition, it started to confuse me.
noun: grace; noun: grace period; plural noun: grace periods; noun: His Grace; noun: Her Grace; noun: Your Grace
simple elegance or refinement of movement.
synonyms: elegance, poise, gracefulness, finesse; courteous goodwill; an attractively polite manner of behaving.
(in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. A divinely given talent or blessing; the condition or fact of being favored by someone;
synonyms: favor, approval, approbation, acceptance, esteem, regard, respect.
a period officially allowed for payment of a sum due or for compliance with a law or condition, especially an extended period granted as a special favor.
synonyms:deferment, deferral, postponement, suspension, adjournment, delay, pause;
a short prayer of thanks said before or after a meal.
synonyms: blessing, prayer of thanks, thanksgiving, benediction
used as forms of description or address for a duke, duchess, or archbishop.
verb: grace; 3rd person present: graces; past tense: graced; past participle: graced; gerund or present participle: gracing
do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one's presence.
"she bowed out from the sport she has graced for two decades"
synonyms: dignify, distinguish, honor, favor; enhance, ennoble, glorify, elevate, aggrandize, upgrade
(of a person or thing) be an attractive presence in or on; adorn.
"Ms. Pasco has graced the front pages of magazines like Elle and Vogue"
synonyms: adorn, embellish, decorate, ornament, enhance; beautify, prettify, enrich, bedeck
"a mosaic graced the floor"
None of this resonates with me. Not one thing. I'm even bored reading all of this. The word would need to grow on me.
I’ve shared here and on my podcast and at meetings that I went through a spell where I didn’t believe in God. That time period just so happened to coincide with the last decade of my drinking. I have been a lifelong seeker and finally came to the conclusion that I had definitely been duped in the God-department. I really didn’t have anything to hang onto, so it was pretty easy to let it go.
In early sobriety, I heard an acronym for G.O.D. that struck a chord with me and that was this:
Something about those three little words have remained with me ever since hearing them in late 2015. Slowly (like, a snail’s pace slowly) and over time, I started to realize that when I choose Grace Over Drama in situations that previously used to baffle me, I feel a calmness wash over me and a feeling of relief and self-assuredness quickly follow suit. It's like nothing I've experienced before. Was it God with a capital G? I don’t know and funny enough, I stopped actually caring about whether it was or it wasn't. I just liked how it felt. I wanted more of it in my life. In sobriety, I started to realize that I control the narrative of my self-hatred and self-loathing and that was an eye-opener for me. I could also stop this narrative, but it would take work and a whole lot of time. Grace will come in handy in this department.
I surmised that maybe this is what others must feel when they talk about getting a God-shot or God directing their thinking when they talked about God. Only, I was talking about G.O.D. and not God with a capital G. At the time, I felt like I needed to differentiate between the two; only now I know that it really doesn’t matter because I don’t need to control others interpretations of their own God, but that’s another conversation for another day. The good news is this: My God-talk judgment left me around this time and I no longer care about whether people do or do not believe in God. That’s their business, not mine.
Choosing a state of grace is going to be the action I work on this coming year.
Grace will be my teacher.
Grace is a state of being I can either allow myself (or not) and, in this way, I do have control over the way this word is integrated into my life. I must choose G.O.D. every single day if I want to grow and evolve; and I do.
Am I going to do this perfectly and all the time? Probably not. But if I can allow myself a little grace in the perfection department and live with intention around this principle with the people I interact with and love, then I think I’ll be better off than if I just bulldozed may way through the year with my only intention being to live my word and take action. No, I think I need a new way. I wanted to listen to the Universe on this one.
Since the jig was up on picking my own word, I'm looking at this whole process as a way to teach me a little more about being open to another way of being and sitting with just the right amount of discomfort, enough to show me another way, and try it on for size to see how it fits so that I can learn something new. I want to slowly inhabit my word this year and take my time with it.
Will I be more graceful in my relationships? I’ll try.
Will I give myself more grace when life is hard or challenging? I hope so.
Will I chose G.O.D. when I’m backed up against the wall emotionally? I’d like to give it a go more often than not. We shall see.
When I walked into my first-ever all women’s 12 Step meeting back in the Fall of 2015, the speaker sharing that day was named Grace. I knew her from outside the rooms and, in a weird way, was comforted by the fact that we shared a common problem.
That night my skin felt like it was on fire and my mind was buzzing with thoughts of leaving, thoughts of crying, thoughts of hiding. So many goddamned thoughts. The room was packed with sixty or so other women who were complete strangers to me. Jesus Christ, I thought, what are they all doing here? I felt like I had I walked into the middle of a secret society and, in a way, I guess I had.
I now wholeheartedly believe the Universe had something to do with that whole experience, too. Grace was my soft entry into accepting AA as a program of recovery. Her calmness and the quiet cadence of her voice caused me to hang on her every word. Inside my head her voice was speaking so loudly it was almost deafening. We are the same.
Shortly after that night, I asked Grace if we could meet for coffee and if I could ask her a few questions about AA. She was the first woman in the program I asked to do this now common thing I do with women in recovery - meet for coffee - but it felt HUGE when I initially asked. So, one morning we met and I asked her point blank why she chose AA and did she think the 12 steps were worth my time. She shared more of her story and made a lot of sense, but what resonated with me the most was when she said this:
"Just bring your body and your mind will follow."
And, that's what I've been doing ever since.
I received a large, sturdy envelope from my friend Caitlin last week and I saved it to open. I wanted to open it when the dust had settled from the holidays and I had the time and space to take in what was inside.
Isn’t she beautiful? Her stark contrast with the positive and negative of the black and white. A metaphor of a girl. The darkness and the light all rolled into one beautiful being sent to me lovingly as an offering all the way from Berlin, Germany. She reminds me of all of the women I’ve met in recovery through social media that are all over the world. She reminds me that there is so much hope and beauty and connection in telling the truth; being seen and heard; and staring my old stories square in the eyes.
She helped me usher in the New Year and my new word for the year, too. See how the Universe keeps revealing more to me? I better start paying closer attention.
You can find more of Caitlin's artwork and music on her website stores by clicking here.
A year and a half ago, I wrote this piece called Grace is the Engine. I re-read it this morning and it hit the spot. Maybe you need to read it, too?
I'm looking forward to the coming year in this grace department. I hope you’ll follow along.