Two weeks ago I had dinner with a good friend of mine. It had been awhile since we’d been together, so we spent some time catching up. It wasn’t long, however, before we went deeper — that’s what I love about our friendship, we don’t stay on the surface for long.
I told her about my word for 2019 — open. How I want to be open to whatever comes my way. I want to be open to new experiences and adventures. I want to be open to new ideas and possibilities. I want to be open to people and opportunities. I want to be open.
As I was telling me friend all of this, she interjected with an option I hadn’t considered. She’s an English teacher and noticed that “open” can be used in another way. Rather than the passive “to be open” maybe I need to think about it in a more active way too — “to open.” When the verb “open” is used without an object it’s more passive, but when there’s an object it becomes more active. (Or so I’ve deciphered from dictionary.com!)
This changes things! I left that dinner with a whole new outlook to 2019. What if my selection of “open” has less to do with standing there with my arms open ready to accept what comes my way and is more about walking toward those new things ready to take them for myself? See what I mean — those are two very different ways of interpreting the word.
One requires less of me — I can stand by watching and waiting. I have to be willing to accept what comes my way, of course, but there’s not much else for me to do. We recently had an opportunity to do something really exciting and scary and totally new. While discussing this opportunity I remembered my word and immediately said yes. I wanted to be open to this chance to try something new and step out of my comfort zone. I let my word for the year guide me to something new. Ultimately, we made the decision to say no — it was for the best. But, that experience helped me understand the importance of this word for me in 2019 and that being guided by it makes a difference.
Although saying yes and being willing would have required a lot of me, the opportunity came to me, I didn’t seek it out. I eventually became an active participant, but initially I was passive.
The other open requires a lot more of me — instead of waiting, I’m seeking. I’m opening doors (the object!). I’m the one doing the thing. I’m the one taking the step. I’m the one moving toward. Open without an object means I pay attention to what’s coming at me; open with an object means I pay attention to what I’m walking toward. Standing still, moving toward. Waiting, acting. Passive, active.
Open with an object is scarier. It’s harder. It requires more of me. I kinda wish my friend had never brought it up.
So, now what? I’m not sure. A few things have been floating around in my head lately — things I may have just let sit there before this conversation. Now I’m wondering if I need to take a few steps toward them, make some effort, try harder, wait less.
In the last few years a lot has happened to me physically: an infertility diagnosis, an IBS-D diagnosis. (I know “a lot” might suggest more than two things, but trust me one was big for “a lot.”) I’ve also done a lot of things for me — I’ve made a lot of active choices: half-marathons, new job, writing more, new puppy, etc. When I consider my life, or at least the last decade, the things that have brought me the most joy are the ones I’ve taken an active role in creating for myself. Taking control of my circumstances, my mood, my opportunities, my relationships… that brings me joy! So, maybe open with an object won’t be so bad after all.
I still want to pay attention to those opportunities that come with waiting. I want to be okay with waiting for the next right thing to show up for my life. And, I want to keep paying attention to the ways that I can be more active, ways that I can open opportunities for myself, without waiting for someone or thing to do it for me. I love both/and. I can do both and still be doing just the right thing.
So, with or without an object? Yes!