My life is guided one word at a time; this year my one word for 2019 was open. Both to be open and to open, though I didn’t realize that at first. It took a conversation with my English teacher friend to consider another perspective.
One word at a time
I had no idea what 2019 would bring when I chose this word. In 2017 I chose gratitude because I knew I needed to focus on the good things in my life while working through one really hard thing. In 2018 I chose explore because I knew I was going to Spain to walk a portion of the Camino de Santiago, so I figured why not let that word guide me through the whole year.
Open just came to me, and so, from the beginning, I was open to the possibilities of what this word might mean for me in the months to follow.
Next week I’ll write my annual year end review — highlights on what I experienced throughout the year. I want to keep these two posts separate but I have a feeling there may be some overlap. We’ll see.
With this word at the forefront of my mind and heart throughout the year, I felt a different posture toward my life. I felt like I was in one long heart opening pose… maybe cobra or camel. I stayed open to people and places one word at a time.
Ways I’ve been open this year
Because I was willing to open a different avenue with my social media in July, I had the opportunity to engage with new people in the world of infertility. This openness led to a private conversation on Instagram with a woman about infertility doctors in my hometown. Because I stayed open to conversing with her, she eventually shared that she remembered me from high school (her profile is anonymous). With this new connection, I opened myself a bit more and gave her my number. Just last week we met for dinner and had a beautiful two hour conversation about infertility, family, work, dogs and high school. I think we’ve started a new friendship all because we were willing to be open.
Being open isn’t always a passive stance, as my friend suggested. Used differently, I can open the door to new opportunities. Using a grant I received through work, I opened up a new offering for alumni of our courses. I designed, planned and facilitated a one-day retreat. I was a little nervous, but I rocked it because it was a door I chose to open. I knew what I had to offer would be well-received. I knew my skill set would create new and much needed opportunities for the people we serve. I trusted myself enough to open the door and walk right through with confidence.
This year I’ve also chosen to be open with my words in a more personal way. Instead of worrying (as much) about how someone might respond, I took a few different opportunities to be open about how I felt. In one situation this kind of backfired on me and I immediately regretted being open. However, with the comfort and wise words from people I trust, I realized the harsh response to my openness might not have been as harsh as I initially thought. I did learn through this that there is a risk to being open — to being misunderstood, to being blamed, to being ridiculed. These experiences help me learn when it’s okay to be open and when it’s better to just move along.
Being open leads to healing
One of the most profound experiences of being open came unexpectedly and has unfolded slowly with grace and compassion. Several months ago a friend and I were talking on the phone and after an hour or so she finally got around to what she really wanted to tell me. Earlier this year she had a miscarriage. Because our friendship is new and because of my infertility, she had kept this from me not wanting to hurt me or our friendship. However, she shared that though the experience is different, she had received a lot of comfort from my writing and social media posts. I was heartbroken for her.
And then she went on to say that she is pregnant again. I was happy for her. I really was. But the emotions of hearing about her miscarriage and then her new pregnancy combined with all that brings up for me… I was brought to tears. And she stayed on the phone. She let me cry. She was open to my story, just as I had been open to hers.
I was torn — how would I move forward? My husband suggested this might be an opportunity for the two of us to heal together. I was open to that possibility. So my friend and I talked about it. We created some boundaries. We established our desire to walk through life together. We honored each other.
The beauty of being open
She was open. I was open. And a beautiful friendship continues to grow. She asks if it’s okay to share a new development. I have the choice to say yes or no and she respects whatever my answer is. She sees me — really sees me. I see her and encourage her. We are two women who have faced loss in a variety of ways. We are two women who are on paths of new life. We are two women choosing authentic, vulnerable friendship with each other.
Being open has taught me so much this year. Just like gratitude and explore, I’m not letting open go. I’m just adding it to my list of words that guide me through life, one word at a time.