Month One Update on My Word-of-the-Year

Lily and Larry, basking in the sunlight

Lily and Larry, basking in the sunlight

It’s late January, the temperature is in the low 70s, and the windows are wide open with the curtains blowing. I just noticed Lily and Larry basking in the sun. It made me think of my word-of-the-year, “open”.

So far, me and “open” just aren’t clicking.

I wrote in my first Word-of-the-year post how I was going to be more open at work and try to get to know more of my coworkers. Not a day after I wrote that, we got an e-mail saying that to “conserve agency resources” we were to minimize chatting about things unrelated to work. Now I’m pretty sure this e-mail was not directed at me; however, it raised my anxiety. I can’t believe I’m 50 years old, and I still have this irrational fear of getting into trouble. When I told Greg about it that evening, he challenged me to talk so much that I do get into trouble! So far, that hasn’t happened.

I also wrote that I wanted to be more open to taking risks. I haven’t done too well with this either. Last week, I was asked to give a presentation.  I’ve had a long-standing fear of public speaking, which I have worked hard to overcome. I typically perform quite well in the actual situation, but make myself seriously miserable ahead of time. The last presentation I gave was 2 years ago and I swore I would never do it again. So when this invitation came up, I had an initial sick-to-my stomach reaction. I was proud of myself for being assertive and saying I needed to think about it (I usually just smile and say yes). I was even honest with the person asking me and told her about my anxiety. That was a different response for me. I’m sure I agonized way too much about it: Should I join Toastmasters again? Should I consult with someone who coaches people on their speaking skills?  Was I setting a bad example for people who read my books on shyness and social anxiety if I don’t keep doing things out of my comfort zone?  It was on a topic I knew well, but I realized I would still make myself a neurotic mess over it–-not to mention making my poor husband miserable, as well. Greg asked what it would take for me to want to do the presentation, and I couldn’t think of anything. I ended up saying no. This decision was fairly predictably  followed by days of cycling between feeling awful about myself and struggling to find compassion for myself. And a lot of tears.

Then I got mad. For several days, I wanted to change my word from “open” to “average”. I decided there is too much pressure on people these days to be above average. I get tired of reading that you should dream big (see my Tiny Dreams post). I get tired of reading that anything is possible if you simply put your mind to it. Sometimes I don’t want to have a good attitude. Sometimes I don’t want to think positively. And I’ve had so many fears in my life, I get tired of facing them all. I wonder if I’m up to it anymore.

Today I’m of the mindset that I’ll keep the word “open” as my word-of-the year, but I’m going to give myself some slack. I’m telling myself, “I’m being open to not feeling open.” Doesn’t that count?

Like the warm weather, this too shall pass.


9 thoughts on “Month One Update on My Word-of-the-Year

  1. I’ll try posting my comment again!
    I think the beauty of One Little Word is that you can make it mean whatever you want it to mean. And it has to work for you, not the other way around. So if what you thought it was going to be doesn’t work, or if it’s not clicking, you can just throw the word up in the air again & see where it lands & take it from there. I definitely think it’s not intended to make you anxious or stressed. Maybe push you outside your comfort zone a bit, but not to the extent that you get upset and give up. It’s about exploring things, and getting to know your word.

    This is my first year of doing One Little Word, and I think I know where I want to go with it, but it might be that it takes me in a completely different direction, and that will be fine too.

      • Agh! Now my first comment is appearing again! No, I don’t think you were sounding too negative – just frustrated. And redefining the word as you’ve done is a great way to overcome that 🙂

  2. Hi Barb – this post resonated with me around 2 of your sentences – “I can’t believe I’m 50 years old, and I still have this irrational fear of getting into trouble.” – I will be 60 this year and somehow still have the same fear which is why my word is “unafraid” – I want to see if I can stop pre-empting the trouble and handle it if it appears especially if it is “unreasonble” trouble as opposed to big situations that arise that need resolving. “Greg asked what it would take for me to want to do the presentation, and I couldn’t think of anything. I ended up saying no.” Seems perfectly reasonable to me. You were open to the presentation but chose not to do it as you didn’t really want to (for all your reasons); Anyway, I liked your post and will check in to see how you go. You may also need to be open to changing your word if that is what seems best. Best wishes and hugs to you – Anne

  3. “I’m being open to not feeling open.” Brilliant! I love this line, love your honesty, love your vulnerability…and believe it or not, this inspires me. I too struggle with having to “dream big” and “be positive” all the time. Your courage to “be where you are” (as painful as it can be) and be honest about it is a inspiration to all of us who are struggling to learn what self-compassion is really about. Thank you. Though I’m sorry you are hurting, I have no doubt your heart is “open” and it will find its wings again.

  4. So sorry this got you down. As you well know, public speaking is a huge fear for everyone (my guess is even extroverts too, though they don’t admit it). Let’s face it, you’re standing up in front of a group of strangers and asking them to judge you. It’s really, really hard. I also think our extrovert-centric culture seems to expect that everyone is okay with being on display like that.

    I’m fortunate that a prior job required a lot of presenting in front of groups large and small. It wasn’t easy but I did get desensitized to some of the anxiety over time. It’s always there; now I just know to expect it and that expectation seems to make it a bit easier to manage.

    Hope you are feeling better soon. 🙂

  5. I love this post! So honest, so very OPEN!!! And, yes, it does count that you are open to not feeling open. In my experience with picking an annual focus, I usually pick something I want more of (e.g., this year it’s acceptance) … and then the Universe throws plenty of opportunity at me. In other words, lots of chances to be that thing I’m not. Whether I choose acceptance or not in any given situation isn’t the point … the point is learning about myself and acceptance. In just one month I have learned what a RESISTANCE machine I really am! Wow! Who knew I could be so very creatively resistant?!? But I’ve also taken one or two steps toward acceptance. And by the end of the year … who knows?!?
    And maybe next year you can choose AVERAGE … and find out just how hard that is, too. Keep writing, keep sharing, and don’t let your already amazing openness elude you!

  6. Just found your site (via Lori’s PBL site), and love this post. I think our “one little words” always surprise us—being open to how you are feeling and what you want to do or not do are all good things, just as good as being open to new things.

    I really don’t fear public speaking—because I never think of it as asking them to judge me. Man, that would make me sit down and try to be invisible. I read a quote about William Maxwell that said he decide to start loving everyone instead of waiting for them to love him. Yes, it’s easier to say than do, but I think it is actually easier to offer love to strangers in that presentation setting than to love others (whom we don’t always necessarily like) up close.

    Off to read your tiny dreams post—love the idea:)

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