I Believe in the Power of Words

January 4, 2009 by Ellen Stimson in Living With Intention

Peace was just too big a word. It asks lots of questions all at once, personal, political, metaphorical, and physical. And I get a fair bit of it with my dogs and books in front of the fire with a slow snow falling outside. It is just not my word.
I thought about forgiveness for a while. I have a couple of people I probably need to forgive. But I don’t really want to forgive the one, and the other is dead so there is no real sense of urgency there either.
I liked the idea of choosing a word or phrase to accompany my new year’s resolutions. This would be an idea that I needed more of in my life. I would read and write and think about it and hopefully over the course of a year grow in my understanding of its meaning and figure out how to find or make more of it.
But choosing the word turned out to be hard. What one word or simple phrase did I want to live with all year long? It was a bigger commitment than the regular resolutions. They are at least diluted by the others on the list. Sure, I’d like to lose weight. But I also want to help Benjamin find an interesting and meaningful first real job. I want to help Hannah make a conscious choice about her major so that she picks something with intention and meaning, as opposed to what she needs the least number of credits for, as at least one of her parents did. And if those two happen and my ample backside doesn’t change much, well the kids lives are surely more important.
But this whole word thing stands alone. And even if I do it again, even if I do it every year for the rest of my life, I am already forty six, I might only get forty more words total. Fifty at the way outside. That is a small amount of words for a woman who uses so many almost carelessly in any given day.
This idea will reflect and challenge simultaneously. It aims to reveal a weakness and force a consciousness that I don’t always feel or even aspire to feel.
So I caught myself considering words that I already possess. After all how much easier to choose humor or gratitude where I feel strong and safe. I could read articles and essays that would reinforce my life. How lovely to be so validated. Also, of course, pretty far removed from the whole point of the exercise.
I also discarded for one or another reasons change, attention, slow…(this one I actually wrote in my book next to the list of resolutions and now I have to amend it), settle down, (..this is something I have been doing now for the whole of my 21 years with John. I would be lying if I said that I am no longer excitable..I come form a long line of over reactors…but I no longer need to buy a new refrigerator rather than clean the old one, and neither do I scream when I am pouring the hot fudge and cause everyone to grab pot holders and open the freezer, and get out of the way and, and, and….so I am way better), choose, simple, marriage…(although I was way tempted to pick this one so I could charge off sex with my husband in the bathroom at a restaurant or behind the movie theater to paying attention to my marriage and following my new year’s plans…okay so I told you I am still not quite settled down), and faith. Faith might be next year’s word. This one begs for some attention. But not right now, not this year.
But I did actually manage to choose a word. The word is security.
I often have feelings of insecurity. Our finances like everyone’s have been in the market freefall. This makes some people worry and behave with more practicality and greater restraint. It makes others run faster to make up for it. I figure you can always make more money. I have made and lost a fair bit of it. Now I want to make another big pile and live in Italy with all of our kids for a year. But does this lead to greater security or less? And does the running around starting new businesses make me feel more or less secure? Why do I always have something on the front burner and a couple more pots on the back burners just in case? I am surely not risk averse, but maybe worse and certainly more confusing, I seem almost to court risk. Is that by definition an inherently insecure act?
Security with my mate has led to years of good decisions piled atop more good decisions. Out of that history stands a strong and satisfying union with it own quirks and language and humor. My security in my ability to mother these kids has built a happy house and a family that we all want to come home to. It is my proudest accomplishment and so I know the benefits of decisions that lead to security.
Now how can I find enough of it to build a secure financial foundation that allows us to make the wild outlandish choices and still have a soft place to land? I don’t know. Or I don’t know anyway how to do that without becoming bored and risking it all in another silly Monopoly move sure to make me lose all my hotels. Boredom has often been my nemesis. And so that is why my word is security.
I have always claimed not to need it. I think that is probably an old lie leftover from a childhood that didn’t have any. So now I am going looking for it. I’ll let you know what I find…


  • Abigail Mae Hudson

    You certainly don’t sound insecure from here.
    I like this word play. I must say from my vantage point having forty or fifty left sounds like an abundance.
    That will be my word, abundance. I will think on it.
    I have had plenty of it and I still want more.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll take faith then. I need some.

  • Trannyhead

    I like this exercise. And I choose “adventure.”

    Also – the bookstore I referenced was an eccentric little place in Washington, DC called Kramer’s bookstore cafe. It’s open really late at night and has lots of eccentric books, frequent live music, and a dessert cafe and bar! What more can you want? A glass of wine with an unusual read? Check! A beer while browsing a photography book and listening to some guy play the accordion? Check! It’s a fantastic place.

  • Kellan

    Once again – I loved this poast about “words”! I hope you find your place – your security and in your search for it I hope you find excitement and joy. I don’t doubt that you will!!

    Happy New Year to you, my friend – to you and your wonderful family!


  • Casdok

    My word would have to be for C. Will have to give it some thought as to which word though.

    Thank you for your comment. My latest anon is actually much nicer to ones i have had in the past!

  • starrlife

    I’ve been reading about this word thing everywhere and I can’t think up one for the life of me! Sanity maybe, peace of mind (that’s three). I too would never have pegged you as insecure. You have such a wonderful family life it gets buried in there I guess.

  • library lady

    Your saying that you feel insecure reminds me of the reaction I get from people when I say that I’m shy…but you cover it up better than I do. Material insecurity is one thing, but you never have to worry about emotional insecurity again. You are one of the best-and-most-loved people I know. I am still shy, and I don’t think that will ever change. I think I’ll stick with endurance as my word.

  • Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge

    First off, I have to say “thanks” for the wonderful comment you left on my blog. You have this amazing ability to really make me feel cared-for, nurtured, and loved!

    Now, first off, I would have to disagree that your kids’ lives are more important [than your own]. While we as parents are charged with the responsibility to rear them properly and in a moral way, the taks becomes quite a challenge if we look at others’ needs as superceding our own. I would say, whatever you do, find a balance. Maybe today your kids are the most important priority, but tomorrow you will need your own needs met first. This sounds kinda like advice YOU would be giving ME! 🙂

    And lastly, I think “security” fits because you may have risky ambitions (lots of new jobs, new adventures, etc) but you know that your family is your safety net. You can count on the security of your marriage. Your home is a safe haven for you and you can take pride in that because a warm, safe, loving home does not happen by accident – you created it.

    Kudos to you.

  • laurwilk

    I might pick growth. Which really, I’ve learned in the first three years of my twenties, I have no control over. I keep being forced into growth. All in all, it’s a good thing. And I have an inkling that this year is going to force a lot of growth into my life. So I suppose I should embrace it and accept it.

  • Kate

    I let my words come to me. About March of last year, my motto forh 2008 became, “Do the uncomfortable. Do the unfamiliar.” It has not failed me. When the new phrase to live by comes, I’ll let you know!

  • Jamie

    That’s a great word. I like it. I’m sticking with honest I think. My being needs a little more honesty from my head. Hopefully the next year plays out that way!

  • TheCynicalOptimist

    Security. That sounds like a great choice. ALthough I still think forgiveness is always a great choice.

    PS- I just tagged you with the “Honest Scrap” award over at my blog .This is my first “tagging” experience so I hope I am doing it right! 🙂

  • painted maypole

    I’ve read other posts where people have written about a WORD for the year, and as I was reading yours I realized what MY word needs to be:


    (by the way… as far as forgiveness goes… it’s WAY more for YOU than for the other person, so even if they are dead, YOU will benefit GREATLY from forgiving sooner rather than later. It’s a process I still struggle with, surely, but that much I KNOW to be true. It’s not an easy choice, but it’s a far cry better than choosing to hold on to the bitterness.)

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