I love my word of the year, ease. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I make it my intention in yoga classes, I think about it before I go to bed at night. And every time the word crosses my mind, I have an uncomfortable realization that I have a problem with the word. Don’t get me wrong: it’s still my word, and it’s still my goal, and it’s still fundamentally what I want in life. But it also brings up some complicated associations for me.
Perhaps because of my Puritan roots – which are both deep and irrefutable – I have long believed in my marrow that only things that are hard are meaningful. Or maybe not only, but certainly that something being difficult makes it more likely to be valuable. A tough climb makes the view more beautiful and all of that.
The other truth which is hard for me to admit is that I’ve always thought that a lot of people weren’t really trying hard enough. The flip side of that is my deep faith that all problems could be overcome by just putting our mind to things and working hard. This is part of why the deep postpartum depression I experienced after Grace’s birth was so disorienting for me: it was literally the first time in my life when gritting my teeth and just trying harder didn’t make something better.
That was a big, and hard, lesson for me to learn. I’m still grappling with my basic belief that if things are easy they aren’t worth anything. And with the notion that if I feel ease – if things flow – that means that I’m letting myself off the hook somehow.
I suspect part of why this word chose me this year is the creeping sense I have that the correlation between effort and meaning – a central tenet of my life up until now, as uncomfortable as admitting that makes me – doesn’t capture the whole picture. I know that my goal isn’t a struggle- and difficulty-free life; in fact, maybe that’s part of my hesitation with this line of thinking. I will never stop celebrating hard work, and I don’t want to. But I do think that the automatic assignment of value to something hard – and, maybe more importantly, the refusal to grant importance to something that comes easily – is flawed.
Some of the time, things will flow. Some of the time, I’ll have to put my nose to the grindstone and really work at something. Both scenarios can be full of meaning, and value. I just want to welcome both of those scenarios. To invite both into my life. With ease.
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