My Word for New Year 2023

As many of you know, I follow these instructions to let a word for each year find me:

In ancient times, wise men and women fled out into the desert to find a place where they could be fully present to the divine and to their own inner struggles at work within them. The desert became a place to enter into the refiner’s fire and be stripped down to one’s holy essence. The desert was a threshold place where you emerged different than when you entered.

Many people followed these ammas and abbas, seeking their wisdom and guidance for a meaningful life. One tradition was to ask for a word – this word or phrase would be something on which to ponder for many days, weeks, months, sometimes a whole lifetime. This practice is connected to lectio divina, where we approach the sacred texts with the same request – “give me a word” we ask – something to nourish me, challenge me, a word I can wrestle with and grow into. The word which chooses us has the potential to transform us.

What is your word for the year ahead? A word which contains within it a seed of invitation to cross a new threshold in your life?

Abbey of the Arts

Some years my word comes unbidden. Some years I find it in a meditation time. Some years it comes before the New Year. Some years it comes on New Year’s Day. A time or two it came later.

This year it came unbidden on December 30th while I was in my bedroom tending to laundry.

I was a little resistant.

Why did it appear while I was doing chores? Shouldn’t it be sought and come during a time of quiet meditation?

So I thought, “Let’s see if it comes again.”

It did.

Over and over. When I’d think of it and when I didn’t. When I was quiet and when I was active. When I was wide awake and when I was sleepy.

So I said, “Okay, you’re my Word for 2023.”

That unbidden word is support.

Once again it’s a word that can function as more than one part of speech. It can be a verb or a noun or even an adjective.

This is its etymology:

support (v.)

late 14c., “to aid,” also “to hold up, prop up, put up with, tolerate,” from Old French suporter “to bear, endure, sustain, support” (14c.), from Latin supportare “convey, carry, bring up, bring forward,” from assimilated form of sub “up from under” (see sub-) + portare “to carry,” from PIE root *per- (2) “to lead, pass over.” Related: Supportedsupporting.

support (n.)

late 14c., “act of assistance, backing, help, aid,” from support (v.). Meaning “that which supports, one who provides assistance, protection, backing, etc.” is early 15c. Sense of “bearing of expense” is mid-15c. Physical sense of “that which supports” is from 1560s. Meaning “services which enable something to fulfil its function and remain in operation” (as in tech support) is from 1953.

This past year was one in which I needed a lot of support as I navigated another round of breast cancer and a double mastectomy. My sister provided the bulk of that, and my gratitude for her support is more than I can put into words.

I’m curious to see how this word manifests in 2023. I could be the recipient or giver of support. I could witness it in other people and situations. It could refer to my body or emotions or spirit—or those of someone else.

There’s so much that can be connected to this word.

I’m sure there will be many more ways it will manifest than I can predict right now. The year-long journey with the word is what makes it so interesting, so valuable. So much a part of my growth.

So I’ll go into this New Year 2023 trying to be open to support—however it appears.

Is the sculpture’s support the feet? The block under the feet? The ground? The earth? The body’s balance? The connections of all of the pieces of metal? The undergirding beneath the pieces?

Location: Sculpture Fields, Chattanooga, TN, USA

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