2015 was the hardest year of my life.

So many things shattered this year.

So much shattering.

When you’ve lived 51 years, that’s saying something, as there’s some good competition for the title of “hardest year.” Was 2015 harder than the year that straddled the nearly-constant misery of 7th and 8th grade? Harder than the year I got divorced (the first time)? How about the year I became an instant, full-time parent to my step-children when their mother suddenly died? The year IVF failed 3 times, including one miscarriage? Or the one when pregnancy finally stuck but was swiftly followed by bedrest, life-threatening birth, NICU, and caring for preemie twins? How about the year of calamities (school strike, surgery, terminal illness, break-in, death), in which we discovered our home was riddled with mold that was making us all sick, and I came to realize it was a metaphor for my marriage? Closely followed by the year in which my husband and I lived together while negotiating divorce because he threatened to sue for full custody of our children, and then I adjusted to living half my life without them.

Yes, 2015 was harder than all of those years, in spite of my best efforts to manage and make it not-as-hard. I did all the things I know to do:

  • Stay in the day, hour, moment I was in
  • Surrender to the truth/pain and find the lessons within it
  • See a therapist
  • Exercise and eat right
  • Practice self-care
  • Set clear boundaries
  • Practice gratitude
  • Reach out to friends and accept help
  • Be gentle with myself and others
  • Breathe
Focusing on small moments of pleasure.

Grateful to breathe with the bee in this single lovely moment. More grateful he didn’t sting me.

Although there were days of light and ease and comfort and hope, most days of the last year mostly sucked, pretty much from the first one up until the very last. And some were just knock-me-to-the-ground devastating. 2015 followed a really hard 2014, which had followed a fairly crappy 2013, years I’d ended with a firm belief that the next one must surely be better than the last because they couldn’t be worse–so the whole idea of joining in with all of those choosing a word or setting an intention for 2016 seemed laughable to me, something for innocents who don’t understand how truly uncontrollable life is and how, sometimes, it is nearly unbearable despite all the things our culture tells us we can do to be OK with whatever it throws at us.

And then–for reasons I don’t clearly understand–I decided to do it anyway.

I signed up for Susannah Conway’s mini-course on choosing a word for the year, despite my skepticism and my feeling that such things are, in the words of my good friend Kate, “silly and twee and a bit woo-woo.” At least, a bit too much of all those things for me.

But, I had a notebook, and I thought, What the hell? Can’t hurt, right? (And, because of one of those hard 2015 things, I now have time on my hands that I look to fill in positive ways.)


I was working pretty hard in the last days of this year on surrender and practicing gratitude and staying in the moment, and I thought writing in my journal to explore words would be fun, if nothing else. And you know what? It was.

I love words, and I loved exploring words. I liked the questions Susannah posed. By the end of Day 3, I was down to three possible words:  Flow, Power, and Voice. By Day 4, I knew my word:


As I wrote on Day 5:

My word is Voice. If I use my voice, I will have power. When I make time for flow experiences, I find and express my voice. After a year of allowing myself to be silenced, I need to claim my voice. I need to speak for myself and for others I care about. I want to use it to speak truth, to connect, to heal, to do good work.

The truth is, I’ve allowed myself to be silenced in many ways for many, many years. Perhaps I needed the pain of 365 hard days–in which I became literally silenced in my own home–to wake me up to this. I wish it could be a year for me to focus on the kinds of words I found myself writing over and over again on Day 1, when describing an ideal day:  light, warm, soft, ease. These are things I want in my life. But I think I am only going to find them when I find my voice and use it.

And, I think that finding and using a strong, true voice is going to help me get through whatever 2016 wants to throw at me in much better shape than I got through 2015.

So:  bring it on, 2016. Give me whatever you’re going to give. But if it’s more crap, don’t expect me to put up with it quietly or dress it up with pretty words.

I’m done with that shit.


Photo Credit: Voice image modified from original by bek15 via Compfight cc

27 thoughts on “Word

  1. Lisa says:

    Oh, Rita! I read this and cheered. GO YOU! You have power! Don’t fuck with Rita!

    I think we as women are just so conditioned to go along to get along and not make other people uncomfortable that we make our own selves pretty uncomfortable before deciding, no, this is not acceptable. And I know that for myself, I am generally unwilling to speak up unless it involves the welfare of my kids. Isn’t that silly? Bring my kids into it and I will throw down, but I will put up with BS for years if its just me.

    Put on your shitkickers and kick some shit, as they say. Use your voice. Loudly.

    Many warm hugs to you. Happy 2016–may it be good to you and yours.
    Lisa recently posted…foyer, with a different dresser and paintingMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Oh, this made me smile and feel good–and remember that scene in Adventures in Babysitting when sweet Elisabeth Shue stands up to the gang members and declares: “Don’t fuck with the babysitter!” Yes, I will speak up for my kids in a heartbeat, no questions. The Mama Bear roars easily in me. (Although, I’ve even been biting my tongue on some things in that arena in the last year.) I think it’s about more than not wanting to make others uncomfortable (powerful as that urge is and necessary as it sometimes is to our safety). I think it’s also about being conditioned to think that being liked is important. Yes, we all need to have others. But we need to be much more discerning about whose opinions of us matter.

      Hugs right back at you.

  2. Marian says:

    The sheer volume of absolutely heart-wrenching and unequivocally crappy situations you have found yourself in, Rita …. leaves me utterly speechless, my friend.

    May you find your voice and be prepared to use it — LOUDLY, and without apology, exactly as Lisa said — but may there be no need; may 2016 be a kinder, gentler year for you.

    xoxo Marian
    Marian recently posted…A New YearMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      And I even left a few things out. 🙂 The thing is, so many of us experience unequivocally crappy situations. So many people in this world have experienced so much more hardship than I have. I don’t know exactly yet what using my voice even means, or might mean, but I’m seeing (the world being what it is) that our voices are something we all need to use, no matter our personal circumstances. Loudly and without apology. (Hmmm, maybe that should be my new tagline?)

  3. Hillary Hyde says:

    Ah Rita:
    I am glad for both you and us that voice is your word for 2016. I know you have lots to say, and your voice is darn powerful. I am hoping you get to use it as a way to articulate, but not have to defend. I hope you get to use your voice to explain and expand but not have to protect. That is my selfish wish for you, not knowing too many details. However, I will also wish for you that you find your voice, however it needs to be used, in whatever circumstances 2016 brings your way. I just hope you get some breathing space:)

    My word is Reclaim. There are two other words in close relationship with reclaim – release and rediscover. I plan on turning them all over and over and over until I know them quite well.

    I am also planning on a kickass good year for us all –


    • Rita says:

      Thank you, Hillary. I love your word, and in fact think it has much to do with mine. I used my voice without fear as a girl, but as I became a woman I let fear (of all kinds) silence me. I want to reclaim and rediscover it, and release old beliefs and voices that no longer serve me. What I have learned from the last 3 years is that hard, terrible things happen and there is nothing we can do about that. The thing to do is not to try to protect ourselves from them or hide from them–because we can’t control them or avoid our way to safety. In 2016, I think I am going to focus on how to respond to them. The things will still be hard–and I really believe we need to stop all the talk that says that if we somehow, personally respond in some correct way, it will all be good, because if we don’t acknowledge that some things are just straight-up shitty no matter what we do there will be no will to make them better–but perhaps it will be a little bit easier to tolerate and accept them.

      I don’t know if I’m planning on a kickass good year, but I’m planning on a kickass one. I hope yours is everything you want and need it to be. And that I get to see you IRL in the coming 12 months.

  4. Sarah says:

    I hate to think of what you have been through but I love what you have made of it, or in spite of it; I am clumsy here but in the end I felt like cheering when I read your post. I feel certain that what the world needs is more of your voice, Rita. I can’t wait to see how you find it and use it this year. I hope you kick the shit out of 2016. Much love to you.
    Sarah recently posted…Because what is a perfect Christmas, anyway?My Profile

    • Rita says:

      Thank you, Sarah. Clumsy is much appreciated. Sometimes I think fear of being clumsy with my words is a thing that keeps me quiet, that has kept me from reaching out to someone or speaking out about something. I’m grateful for yours here (which don’t seem clumsy at all). Much love right back to you.

  5. Stephenie says:

    Rita, I wonder if my words for 2016 could just be “I’m done with that shit”? ‘Cause that really speaks to me. I know what you mean about always finishing a year thinking that the new year can’t possibly be worse. We live in hope because sometimes it is literally the only thing to do, the only choice other than to just curl up in a dark room and stay there. And those with kids just can’t do that, no matter what. We have to get up and keep on going on. Forward is the only way. I truly hope that your voice sings out loud and strong.
    I am also doing the mini-course but still have not found my word!

    • Rita says:

      Getting back to your blog was just the biggest treat of my morning! I can’t wait to see what you write.

      I think where I am with hope and new years and all that is here: The last 3 years have shattered any magical thinking I held onto about how things happen and why. I’m entering this year knowing that it could easily be worse than the last, no matter how crappy the last one was. If I wanted, I could go down a deep rabbit hole imagining all the more-terrible things that could happen to us. (I don’t go down there because that serves no purpose at all.) This doesn’t mean I’m without hope for all manner of good things, but it also means (I hope!) that I won’t be as rocked by whatever bad things do land on us. Or at least, that I won’t be rocked in the same ways. I want to not feel gob-smacked by them, you know?

      And, yes: My kids keep me from curling up in dark rooms (literal and figurative), one of the many reasons I am so, so grateful for them. Forward is the only way, and through. Looking forward to walking through this coming year with you.

    • Rita says:

      I think storms are just part of the human condition. Sometimes I think I have had, perhaps, more than my fair share of them. But then I tell myself that I’ve had a very interesting life, with experiences (and their attendant knowledge) that lots of people don’t get to have–and I’d rather have a rich, interesting life than a safe, boring one. This works best when I’m not in the throes of some misery, of course. 🙂

  6. Jen says:

    I am sorry that it has been so difficult for you. I know the feeling of powerlessness and silence, and I know how crushing it can be. I hope that this year brings ease and that you find peace and joy in the use of your voice.
    Jen recently posted…Photo Friday – 2015My Profile

  7. Kate says:

    I read this post thinking what a fierce and tenacious woman you are to have travelled through that harsh terrain and rocky road and yet still maintained a spirit of fun and of play. I’m really looking forward to reading your blog this year as you use your voice here (and elsewhere in the world.)

    Basically, you kick ass and I admire you.
    Kate recently posted…2016My Profile

  8. Gretchen says:

    That’s a fabulous word. I always love reading other people’s words for the year, but I’ve never done it myself. Maybe someday….I like to think that I’m fairly intentional about life and all that, but it’s a pretty casual kind of intentionality, if that’s a thing. Some preplanned intentionality might be do me good. At any rate, I always enjoy your voice and am very glad that you intend to put it to full use this year…..and I’m hoping for a year of goodthings to talk about for you.

    • Rita says:

      I’m a big fan of casual intentionality. (And think that if you can think it, it’s a thing.) For me, it’s not so much about setting an intention as a filter. When I need to make some kind of decision about how or whether to express something, passing it through the question “How do I want to use my voice?” might be really helpful.

      Hope you have a year full of goodthings, too.

  9. Dusa says:

    Hi Rita – I’ve been out of the blogging loop for a few months, so I was saddened to read that the crap continues to roll on for you! However, I am more than a wee bit excited to see how your word influences your life in 2016. I believe that vocalizing our thoughts, desires, concerns, and beliefs to those who matter in our life is the first step of enabling us to act on those very things. So yay! for using your voice. I look forward to reading the accounts of ass-kicking.

    • Rita says:

      Gosh, I hope you won’t be disappointed. I’m not really much of an ass-kicker. I just like to talk big. 🙂 But I am serious about wanting to use my voice. Not just for myself (although I need to start there). Glad to see you back. I’ve been in and out of the loop in a very sporadic way for the past year myself.

  10. Deborah says:

    So sorry to hear abut the very painful time you’ve been through. Kind of guessed it might be something like this when your other blog came to an end.
    You strike me from afar as someone with vision and strength to keep you going, and courage to know that you will come out the other side.
    All my good wishes for you in this so tough journey.

  11. Beth says:

    I’m sorry to hear the last several years have been rough for you. Sending many good vibes your way, as pathetically inadequate as that sounds.

    Thank you for posting the link to Susannah Conway course. I’ve been on the fence about choosing words, mostly because I haven’t been sure how to do it in a way that I could actually incorporate into my life. But I went through the course and came up with a great word. One I never would have gotten to on my own. I’ve got some big things (for me) planned this year and having that word has so far helped reframe and realize what I need to let go of and how I need to approach things.

    Wishing you the best with Voice.

    P.S. My word is Soar.

    • Rita says:

      Ah, that’s a rich word. I like it. I found the exercises both fun/interesting and helpful for thinking about what matters to me. I’m not sure how much my word will guide me, but it’s definitely getting me to think about some things. It sounds like your word is doing that for you, too. Wishing you the best with your endeavors.

  12. May says:

    Three cheers! I have wanted to say to you for months now that I think you and Cain are worth the fight that goes into preserving a relationship admist chaos and dissension in the ranks. The goodness of the relationship comes through the words and the photos. You deserve happiness. Before that you deserve for things to not be so hard.Trust your voice. It is not a voice of harm or abuse of power. It is a voice of strength though, so it may be met with resistance at times. Just keep using it. When times get hard, that voice may be the only thing that makes any real sense!
    May recently posted…TToT: Garden GateMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Thank you so much. Our relationship is worth the fight–but dang, it’s been a hard one for quite a while now. Things are better than they once were, though. I think it’s because we just keep working at it, and we’re learning as we go. Your encouraging words mean more to me than you know.

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