Over the weekend I completed my yearly ritual of reflection and journaling through this great free resource Year Compass. I do this every year, usually with myself, on the first of the year.
This year was different — I invited other people into my home in community to do it with me. It made a huge difference — I felt seen, heard, and held.
Years ago I ditched the idea of creating new years resolutions and instead opted for my word of the year. This is the one word that grounds and re-centers me as I navigate the year ahead.
So, this is my word: Beloved. And as I wrote it in my journal: Be…Loved.
It has many meanings:
1: Quite simply: It’s the meaning of my name
Aimee means “beloved” in French, which is where my name Amy is comes from. I have no connection to France nor anyone in my family is named this.
Curious about the origin of my name, I called my mom. She said this:
- My mother’s middle name is “Luba” which means love in Ukrainian.
- Amy is an Americanized version for love.
- My name was on the list for my two older sisters, but didn’t make the cut.
And then she said: “there’s a reason why we called you that, because we love you.” Cue the tears.
2. I don’t feel “beloved.”
Ironically, I wouldn’t say that I’ve felt loved in my life. My natural inclination is to not let people in and push them away so that I might keep things surface level. For as long as I can remember I’ve had this habit of isolating myself because it’s safer. First, it was physically in my room (as a teenager and young adult). Then, it was mentally out of my inner world (I’ve had this mental image of a grey garage door shutting and locking others out.
I can think of a handful of times when I felt love. Love seemed out of reach and unfamiliar, whether it was myself or others. When someone told me that they loved me I treated it like they were telling me the weather — I didn’t attach a feeling or emotion to it, and continued with the conversation. It was that foreign to me.
This year, I’m changing that. I’m learning to love myself just a bit more every day and taking down the blinders that keep me from feeling love.
3: I want to give and receive more love.
I’ll say it right now, so that it’s out in the universe: I want to give an receive love like I’ve never felt it before. I’ve re-read the incredible book All About Love by bell hooks, which opens my heart and helps me see love in all its forms.
Accepting more love in my life begins with me stepping out of isolation — out of the shadows and into the light. This is literally written in “The Solution” in Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families, or ACA. It’s a 12-Step program I’ve been in for nearly seven years.
ACA is a group of people who come from childhood dysfunction and carried it into our adult lives, and are learning to heal as adults. “The Solution” is part of our readings to remind ourselves that there is a way out of the darkness. This is what its says about isolation and love:
“The healing begins when we risk moving out of isolation.
Feelings and buried memories will return. By gradually releasing the burden of unexpressed grief, we slowly move out of the past. We learn to re-parent ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect.”
Gentleness, humor, love, and respect. Easier said than done, I think.
Another part of the readings is called “The Promises,” and it’s a reminder that if we keep loving ourselves and healing that our lives can and will be different. Here’s a few that speak towards love:
- We will discover our real identities by loving and accepting ourselves.
- Our ability to share intimacy will grow inside us.
- We will choose to love people who can love and be responsible for themselves.
Moving out of isolation is a risk I’m willing to take.
I’m a functional depressed person. If you engage with me, you’re likely not going to pick up that I’m depressed because I mask it well. I will still get up in the morning and go through the motions. I’m likely thinking about all the reasons or ways I want to die in between moments of joy. This is the hardest kind of depressed to be.
Over the holidays I really leaned into my chosen family, people whom I’m not biologically related to who provide ongoing social support and love.
The holiday shuffling from event to event and the required cheery outlook during the holidays didn’t make it easy to reflect and catch my feelings with my given family. So I leaned in hard with my chosen one. For the record, I’m working through my thoughts with a therapist and my trusted friends.
So, I started 2023 in this well worn groove and pulling myself back into the light. I’m choosing to feel the love, and give love to those who matter most to me — in my chosen and given family alike.
4: I want to build and feel Beloved Community
Ever since I learned of “Beloved Community” years ago, I wanted to know what it feels like to be surrounded by and willingly give love. Not just a sentimental kind of love, but a deep, caring love.
What is Beloved Community you ask? “We envision the Beloved Community where injustice ceases and love prevails,” says The King Center in Atlanta, named for and spreading the learnings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They say that Beloved Community can be achieved through an unshakable commitment to and training in nonviolence.
This is not some utopian view of the world. Dr. King believed that we can achieve it if we surrender to nonviolence. Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unselfish, and creative. We can reconcile with each other, learn to lean into love instead of hate and division. Dr. King said:
It is this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”
I realize I may never know what this type of Beloved Community can feel or be like, yet I can start from where I am. This involves stepping into my deeper commitment to understanding nonviolence and what Dr. King means by Beloved Community, and living its principles every day.
5: Giving myself love begins now
I don’t want to wait to reach this love epiphany.
This week I’m gifting myself Embodied Transformation at the Strozzi Institute. It’s a Somatic Healing Retreat in the hills of lovely Petaluma, California that envisions a life-affirming future for all. They support transformative leaders, coaches, and organizations that can meet the challenges of our time — delivering sustainability, interconnectedness, and social equity.
The folks at the Strozzi Institute exist to produce leaders, coaches, and organizations that embody pragmatic wisdom, skillful action, and grounded compassion; who use conflict as a generative force.
It’s a big step in the direction of taking the blinders off and starting to see the spectrum of color emerging through the prism of love. I’m excited to be stepping further into my inner journey and emerging as a stronger and more grounded person working towards collective empathy in action.
I’ll keep you posted on the journey ahead!