2023 was a hard year. Due to circumstances beyond our control, I not only had 6 manuscripts to turn in and 9 rounds of edits on those manuscripts, but my husband spent quite a big chunk of the second half of the year traveling to Baltimore to help his stepfather after he had a massive stroke, so I did my best to pick up the slack in his usual work too. I did this willingly and freely…but by the time December rolled around, I was exhausted. Mentally, physically, emotionally. Exhausted.
This happened last year too as I struggled through the symptoms of my pituitary tumor, so I guess it shouldn’t have come as a big surprise…but it kinda did. I’d been feeling great this year, even given the circumstances. More creative than I have felt in a decade. Capable of anything. Then came that end of the year crash, which was intense enough that I literally wanted to do nothing, think about nothing, and plan nothing.
One thing about me, though–my disposition just won’t stay “down” for long. 😉 When Stephanie (best friend/critique partner) mentioned talking about our 2024 goals whenever I felt up to it, my spirit perked up. As if that mere mention was enough to remind me that the future was still stretching before me, and that dreaming up ways to fill it was one of my favorite things. The exhaustion began edging back. Joy crept back in. And my thoughts turned to something else I’d been putting off in my tired wreck: choosing my Word of the Year for 2024.
As in the past few years, I decided to do a prayerful consideration and even look at my list of words in my “How to Choose an Intentional Word of the Year” post from 2022. I wasn’t just waiting for something to strike me, I was exploring my own mind and heart and soul…and needs.
This year, I was considering the year to come while still under the shadow of exhaustion from the year closing out, and I knew that I wanted to go a different direction with my Word choice than I have recently. My previous three Words were Intentional, Devotion, and Linger. Each of those choices were meant to guide me in how I approached different aspects of my life and determined to what I gave my time and attention. They were all meant to cut out filler and frill and distractions and center my focus on what mattered most: God, relationships, and my writing.
They did that.
But in 2023, do you know what brought me the most joy in the moments of greatest trial? Exploring new facets of those old loves. Reading new books I wouldn’t usually have picked up; writing stories outside my genre. Trying new things. And even sending Xoe off on her new adventure of college life.
So as I considered a Word to lead me into 2024, I wanted something that captured that. Maybe EXPLORE? Or DISCOVER? Those were my main two contenders, and nothing else felt even remotely right.
I debated for about two weeks which of those two words I wanted to go with, and I decided on Discover largely because of the prefix I could affix to it…because I know well I don’t just want to discover new things. I want to REdiscover old loves too. I want to revitalize relationships I’ve let flag. I want to rediscover the Roseanna who was slowly worn down this last decade by pituitary issues.
Because you know what phrase I said countless times in 2023, as I wrote more than I’ve ever written and did more than I’ve ever done? “I feel more like myself than I have in years.” And I didn’t realize, before, that I wasn’t feeling like me. Not until “I” returned in a flood. So one of the things I hope for in 2024 is to lean into that. To rediscover the things that once brought me joy but which I’ve set aside in the face of responsibilities and distractions and exhaustion.
First on the list: READING.
I know this sounds strange coming from a person whose whole world is books, but I haven’t been reading for fun as much as I’d like in recent years–so much else to get done first in the day, and then I’m usually so tired in the evenings that the thought of opening a book just made my eyes hurt. Audiobooks have helped quite a lot, and in fact, 29 of the 52 books I’ve read in 2023 were on audio. (!! I hadn’t realized it was such a high percentage until just now!) I don’t intend to give up the audio, but I DO intend to take more time with physical books in my hand this year.
One thing I noticed in this last holiday week, though, was that I’ve gotten out of the habit of just sitting with a book. I had to seriously squelch the instinct to get up and check on this or that or see if someone needed something and just give myself permission to BE THERE, with that bound paper in hand. To enjoy it. To relax into it. I never would have guessed that I’d get so out of practice with something I’ve done for so long! But there you have it. “Getting lost in a book for hours on end” is something I need to rediscover.
Next on the list: EXTENDED FAMILY
I’m a homebody and an introvert, so I’ll be honest: family gatherings cost me. One-on-one is better, but it’s still not without a price to me. I need a day at home to recharge from days that I go out, and if I don’t get them, the strain shows. In recent years with my energy and brain struggles, that cost was higher than I think I even realized. But as 2023 drew to a close, I spent a lot of time thinking about family.
About the grandmothers who won’t be with me forever.
About the sister I’ve drifted away from.
About the cousins I never see.
About the parents who don’t always fit in my schedule.
In the year to come, I don’t just want to say “I’ll spend more time with them.” I’ve said that before. What I instead want to do is reDISCOVER the real joy of those relationships. I’m in some ways the oddball of my family (or as Xoe asked last week, upon returning to our very-rural hometown after months in the urbane Annapolis, “Where did you guys even come from?” LOL), but I want to rediscover how our differences complement each other.
Next up: CREATIVITY
I want to try new things. I want to master the sprayed edges of books. I want to write more fantasy. I want to write novellas and shorts. I want to try my hand at suspense. I want to find new artistic outlets. I want to learn how to do TikTok videos. I want to find ways to redesign my space (preferably for free, ha ha). I want to play the piano more. I want to learn new things.
In this difficult year of 2023, creativity proved a lifeline; in my driest season financially, I found wellsprings of life-giving creative water. I want to cling to that, and to find new wells of it, to rediscover old ones, and to explore new ways to engage with that creative side.
Maybe that seems like a strange one to put on the list, but seriously. Sometimes it’s SO easy to resent our responsibilities, and that’s where I was a couple of weeks ago, exhausted and burned out and fed up with everything, even the things I love best. But it helped to realize that we CHOSE those responsibilities, in most cases. That God gave us others, yes, but the ones that come from my dreams–the ones tied to our publishing company and my contracts and my design clients–those are all choices I made. And I made them for a reason. I decided to pursue those things because they seemed good and desirable and in keeping with the calling of Christ.
They’re hard sometimes, especially when worldly success doesn’t follow them. And honestly, I don’t always know when God’s calling us away from one and to something new. But I do know that embracing what we don’t feel called to leave behind instead of resenting the time and effort and blood and tears is crucial. I don’t want the things on my checklist to FEEL like things on a checklist, just to be gotten through. I want to remember why I love each and every thing I do. I want to know I’m doing it for God’s glory. I want to cut only what He wants me to cut, and to embrace what He wants me to embrace. I don’t want to be the son in the parable who sighs and complains but does it anyway. I want to be the one He didn’t even include in that story, who agrees right away and does it with joy. (I always found it amusing that Jesus doesn’t even address such a possibility in that parable, LOL.)
What will 2024 bring? I have no idea. But as I walk through the months to come, I intend to do it with a heart of discovery. With eyes open to things old and new. With a creative mind and eager hands and a fearless heart ready to explore and discover whatever God shows me this year.
Have you chosen a word for 2024? I’d love to hear it!