I shared my word of the year yesterday. Trust. What I wrote about it follows down below if you didn’t read it on Stacey Curnow’s Midwife For Your Life blog.
The James Baldwin quotation that I close with is my favorite, and comes the closest to capturing what it is I mean when I say trust … for me it’s about trusting life, and the universe, trusting that something will catch me, and that there is something of value deep inside me and in my story. Trusting, also, that the rhythms beat on, that pain will give way to radiance, and again and again, tidal, circular, eternal, folding in on itself and somehow opening at the same time.
I spent a happy couple of hours yesterday looking through my old quote books for some of my favorite words about trust, as I understand it at this point in my life.
Trust life, and it will teach you, in joy and sorrow, all you need to know. – James Baldwin
To trust is to let go. – Margaret Atwood (Surfacing)
It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between. – Diane Ackerman
She felt as if a mist had been lifted from her eyes, enabling her to look upon and comprehend the significance of life, that monster made up of beauty and brutality. – Kate Chopin (The Awakening)
Have patience with everything that remains unresolved in your heart. – Rilke
May we all grow in grace and peace, and not neglect the silence that is printed in the center of our being. It will not fail us. – Thomas Merton
I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be. – Douglas Adams
Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and the pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness. – Frederick Buechner
I’ve never chosen a word of the year before. Not because I don’t like words. In fact, I adore words. I live on them, in fact. I have a file on my computer titled, simply, “Words.” It contains pages of words I love. I have a notepad by my bed that I scribble words on in the night, in the dark, when I wake up from a dream with them running through my head. I’m accompanied every day by a steady stream of words – lyrics, poems, quotations – that rise up unbidden, often unexpectedly, into my head.
So it’s always been really difficult for me to consider picking one word. That’s like choosing a favorite child. I can’t do it.
But this year, much the way lines from William Wordsworth poems or the refrain of certain Christmas carols insist that I hear them, a single word keeps pushing to the front of my consciousness. Over and over again. Maybe it’s my word, I found myself thinking last week. Maybe it is.
Trust. I’ve been talking, and writing, for years, it seems, about letting go, and opening myself up to what comes. About trusting. And this is authentically what has been on my mind. But somehow, it feels like the stakes are ever higher, and like I need to actually do what it is that I’ve been talking about. Maybe I need to stop talking about it and start doing it. Start trusting.
The essential thing that I need to trust is that I can release my white-knuckled grip on how I wanted my life to be. I need to acknowledge that certain things are lost to me, and that other things will never be. But what is left in the lacuna between those poles is still rich, teeming with meaning and love. It is my life. And I need to trust that it is enough.
I need to accept, with a deep internal settling, the passage of time against which I rail so often and so furiously, and to trust that I won’t be swept away in the fast-moving currents of life. I need to trust that if I let go of my frantic effort to control the universe, all will be well. I need to trust that I have something to say and that my story will unfold, in life and on the page, as it should. I need to trust that my best is good enough, for my children, for my husband, for my friends, for my job, for myself. I have this recurring image of letting go of a high trapeze bar and free-falling, which is terrifying. But sometimes I imagine myself bouncing into a pillowy bed, which envelops me with safety and comfort. That, I think, is trust. To believe that I will be caught.
One theme I’ve become aware of in my life in recent years is the way things cycle, around in circles, back and forth like tides, waxing and waning like the moon. For me, this takes the form of returning again and again to things. Certain stories, people, words, thoughts recur, at intervals whose rhythm I don’t always understand until much later. As I burrow into my word of 2011, trust, I remember the quotation I included on our family Christmas card in 2002. 2002 was, I realize now, a seminal year for me when many things ruptured and changed and when the seeds of who I am now really began to take root. And these are the lines I chose then, which come back to me now, whispering their powerful wisdom:
“Trust life, and it will teach you, in joy and sorrow, all you need to know.” – James Baldwin