Two years ago Becky sent me a little pewter badger necklace after I described my sudden affinity for the critter.
Notes I’d collected across the internet had me using the term “totem” for the badger. Not totem in the mystical sense, but in the classifying sense:
Totems are chosen arbitrarily for the sole purpose of making the physical world a comprehensive and coherent classificatory system.
Lévi-Strauss argues that the use of physical analogies is not an indication of a more primitive mental capacity. It is rather, a more efficient way to cope with this particular new mode of life in which abstractions are rare, and in which the physical environment is in direct friction with the society.
Firth and Fortes argued that totemism was based on physical or psychological similarities between the clan and the totemic animal. Totems are a symbolic representation of the group.
[All the applicable bits from Wikipedia]
The point? I was in a hunker-down and endure mode, and honestly, for me, thinking about a badger (and how they, too, are created by God along with the more-photogenic or likable puppies and kittens and ponies of the world) and their rather singular focus on food and defending self and home…
I could really identify with that for a while.
That’s why 2012’s shift into hope was so delightful to me.
The depression wasn’t lifted (yet) in the beginning of 2012, but the weight was lifted enough that I could begin to see out from under it, that there was life in sight.
I think of it now, this word-and-verse-for-the-year stuff, because this year is ending, and a new word has come to me.
Two words, actually, like a progression. My brain has split them, one for 2013, and one for 2014.
I have a new (old) necklace that means something with this year’s word.
For months I hardly took off the badger necklace from Becky, and had all the awkwardness of trying to explain an abstract thought to people who just thought it odd or noteworthy I had this random animal on me.
“Looks like there’s a story, there!” more than one person said. And they were right, but it wasn’t a short one.
I don’t know if I’ll wear this one as long, but I have proven to myself that tangible, tactile reminders are very effective for me, and help me stay focused.
I really like looking back and seeing what the symbols of the last few years have been.
They seem like cards. Playing cards.
They’re not dealt at regular intervals, or at least the intervals don’t look regular to me, but now they’re in my hand, and somehow I’m accumulating these skills or lessons.
Endurance, the act of endurance, was part of my hope. The almost-surprised I’m-still-here that seemed to make hope possible.
And part of Hope is anticipation. I’m not waiting for nothing. The coming years’ “cards” (two words that I see splitting between two years) are founded on a hope that does not disappoint and on what comes before.
I love reviewing that pattern (from Romans 5) because without trying I see the pattern reproduced in my life.
And that is why the “year’s verse” from Psalm 119:74 is so delightful to me. Without trying. I used to irritate some women in various young-mom groups with my reflexive gratitude for not being alone in ‘this parenting thing.’ I don’t have to try really hard; I just love my husband.
And that’s the way I see this image of bringing joy to others: that somehow it’s who I am or what I’m already doing that has this impact.
At least, that’s the way I want it to be.
I am such a do-er that when I feel threatened I react and defend myself by not-doing.
And then I’m usually miserable, because I’ve not been designed to enjoy “nothing.”
What I am trying to learn (when it’s on my mind– I have scads of stuff I’m trying to learn) is how and when not to be my own defender. To do what I’m supposed to do in a given situation without tying it to what has come before, or the way people do or don’t treat me.
I have spent years trying to adapt and be better at understanding people, and I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. But what’s come out more and more is that even understanding people doesn’t give you power over them.
It may provide influence, or give you a (longer) chance to be heard, but in the end they’re still going to make their choices for themselves, and influence only goes so far.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem called The Village Blacksmith. It is a character sketch of a good man, and there’s this bit I think of every time I think of being debt-free– in any sense.
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.
When I think of giving, when I think of delight in giving, that anticipation comes out of a full heart.
“To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart and a free mind.”
Pearl S. Buck
It doesn’t come out of a sense of obligation, or keeping up, or earning what “they” deem to sell me, such as grudging acceptance, or tolerating my existence.
My word this year is Courage.