Word of 2018. HOPE. When I began this self-imposed writing gig while living in a La Quinta and rebuilding our house that had been flooded by a hurricane named Harvey, I named my blog Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope. My dad gave me a silver bracelet engraved with HOPE for my December 30th 2017 birthday, and I wore it almost every day for the following year as a reminder that HOPE, in all caps, is a choice. Dad taught me years ago that I could choose my attitude. Even amid crisis, I have a choice. HOPE or DESPAIR? I choose HOPE. Even though I’ve retired the word as my focus, I want to say I’m eternally hopeful. I credit Mama, too, for the faith she passed along.

Word of 2019. BELIEVE. Yes, I realize HOPE and BELIEVE are practically synonyms. In my mind Belief removes all doubt and fuels the Hope. Belief reminds me to trust God in the process. In 2019, I was back home and typing my posts on the comfort of my new couch. Then and now, I BELIEVE in a better, healthier future for everyone in my family. I BELIEVE in the progress of medicine and stem cells and cures for paranoid schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s and addiction. I BELIEVE that together we are stronger, and our relationships are important. I BELIEVE my writing is evolving and helping others evolve. I BELIEVE one day I will publish my first book, the first of many more. All through the grace of God. In 2019, my best friend Denise sent me a new bracelet. This one said BELIEVE.

Word of 2020. I broke the rules to the whole one-word idea. I picked two: HONESTY and COURAGE. In 2020 I returned to school to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing. Through this program, I’m finishing my memoir that focuses on my son Drew, the effects of his paranoid schizophrenia on our family, and our search for help. This story cannot be told without HONESTY and COURAGE. It begins in 2010 and spans the course of six years. Our journey begins with the realization that something is wrong. Post-diagnosis, we come to terms with needing help and learn that help is a perfect formula of medicine and counseling, family and community support. I understand now that help is not possible without Drew’s full investment, and the story I’m writing is about me. My reality and my hope. It’s about sharing to help others know they are not alone. At the end of 2020, I felt like I fell short of complete HONESTY and true COURAGE. I considered a 2021 repeat. A second chance.

Word of 2021. PROGRESS. Truth be told, I’m lacking inspiration at the moment. I might even be feeling sorry for myself. I suppose pulling myself out of my slump will be PROGRESS. I suppose giving myself some extra compassion when I struggle with feelings of inadequacy, grief, and anger will be PROGRESS. I will graduate with my MFA in May, and I’ve learned so much in a year. We don’t know what we don’t know, and I know I have more to learn. That’s PROGRESS. I can say I have written a book. More PROGRESS. Now to PROGRESS with revisions—word choice and phrasing, metaphor and humor, insight and transitions. To PROGRESS with courage and honesty. To PROGRESS with living my best life despite circumstances. I wish you PROGRESS, too.

For anyone struggling with “Meh” at the moment, I recently stumbled across Ashley Peterson’s “Action for Happiness” post, a compilation of information from actionforhappiness.org and the eight pillars of joy from The Book of Joy by the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Ashley includes visuals that I continue to contemplate in this year’s PROGRESS. I learned something new and wanted to share.

57 thoughts on “Word

  1. Progress is a good choice for 2021 Crystal. After the events of the last few days, a lot of emotions are out there. We need to get past the rage, fear and loathing into peace, hope and understanding and only gratitude, reflection and positive thoughts will get us to the progress part. Hoping for calming waters. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, let me tell you how awesome you are and hope that my comment helps to ease the blahs and downs just a little. I think it’s incredible that you’re writing a book and that you have an MFA. Look at how much you’ve done. What you say about meh/blah is interesting.
    As if it’s not terrible enough dealing with the pain of life, sometimes we also have to endure monotony and restlessness, usually connected to feeling like we haven’t done enough or we’re just not satisfied with our direction in life. I’m learning to peel back the layers and see what’s really going on there when I say MEH!
    Sometimes it’s as simple as needing a vacation, needing to change your physical environment for a week or two to reboot. Might that help you? Not even a fly-away vacation necessarily but a long drive and a stay somewhere 2-4 hours away from where you live. Hell, if I was in Texas right now I’d do me some camping ;).
    I continue to enjoy a lot of your posts which is interesting because based on your blog I think we could hardly be more different. You’re Christian hard core, I am a budding buddist, you have a family and kids, I do not, you appear stable and very strong much of the time, I am a little psycho constantly dealing with dark impulses and mood swings which I detail often on my own blog. Yet there’s something in your blog that keeps me following and I think it is your continual sense of hope and how hard you fight. I feel its only natural that you should sometimes succumb to what I call “mental health battle fatigue” now and then as a result of constant fighting to retain your optimism and live up to the standard your Dad showed you. I’ve said it before but my biggest lesson is that the most optimistic and hope types of people have to work hard for it. It’s not easy and it’s an honorable fight.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Did I just see Mel in a post? Thank you, Dear, for taking so much time for a pep talk. Your words do ease my meh. I love the fact that we’re so different and showing people that a connection like this is possible.

      As for “MH Battle Fatigue.” You’ve hit the nail on the head, and it’s not all here on the blog. Suffice it to say, December was hard. But progress is about moving forward…not beating myself up when I’m down. I’m back to work today and taking each day as it comes.

      I appreciate your note more than you know.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve caught onto my daughter’s idea! Instead of a list of resolutions, she chooses one word as her motto for the year, and teaches others to do the same. Each member of her family, from her pastor husband down to the littlest child, chooses one word for the new year.

    I do, too. One year, like you, it was two words: grace and dignity. Those attributes still are my personal goals and have become habit forming. This year’s word is FRUGALITY — not just with money but in other areas of my life. Since this is only the first week, I find myself questioning not only unnecessary purchases but also unnecessary thoughts and emotions, food choices, and so on. It’s been an interesting exercise so far.


  4. “Progress” is a good choice. Maybe the USA will progress under Biden. But it won’t be easy, considering all the damage that Trump has done, and considering that large numbers of white supremacists and other extreme bigots are among us.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Writing is intensive and very challenging work. Some of the best encouragement I have received is the simple, “Keep going.” Through the ups and downs, doubts, challenges, and the times when I’m blank upstairs. I think the blank upstairs part happens when my brain has had enough. I go for a climb or hike. It give me joy, your faith and direction. I believe in your journey! Take care of you my friend. (I’m looking forward to reading your book.)


  6. Progress is a good word. I used “forward” for 2020 to remind me that even in difficult times, slow progress is still progress. You mean you only have one semester left of your MFA? That’s awesome! Best of luck finishing up!


  7. Oh, Crystal, you have so much on your plate. And yet you not only contribute much of your time writing words of encouragement and kindness to others through your blog, now it turns out you have also been working on your MFA. You do more than walk the talk. Remember to take time to nurture your soul. And thank you for sharing yourself with your readers. Congratulations on nearing completion of your MFA!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Pity parties are perfectly acceptable!
        Is it less pity party and more a realization and expression of where you are? I wonder if that’s a kinder way to look at it? Be easy to yourself, you’re feeling and expressing your feels.
        Sending all the good vibes! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Progress sounds like a perfect word of choice. Getting my master’s degree a a few years ago was also about progress rather than an endpoint; something that opened up new ways of exploring and understanding.

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  9. Words well chosen, my friend. As suits a writer, someone whose distinction will gain “official” recognition in May. Of course, those who’ve known you longer realize the degree is a formality, merely codifying the talent you’ve shared all along.

    While it is useful to pick a word that sums up each year, choosing one doesn’t diminish its peers. Not only do they relate, but they build on the others’ accomplishments. Indeed, one often leads to another. For example, does not Progress draw from Hope? Which, in turn, requires Courage to feed its roots.

    That said, let me nominate a word that describes your journey, from the start in Oklahoma more years ago, perhaps, than either one of us is willing to admit, and for decades yet – Triumph. Not that what of you’ve achieved has been automatic, let alone easy. In fact, you’ve overcome a daunting array of challenges that would’ve scared off 95% of us.

    Instead, though, you selected your words and you made them so much more that lines in a dictionary. You made them reality. What you overcame to do so would fill a book (which you’re writing, as luck has it). This adds to what defines your life, Crystal – Triumph. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Triumph skipped to the front of the line for 2022. That’s the funny thing about PROGRESS. During my trip with my girlfriends to Telluride this summer, PROGRESS was one of my big takeaways. I’m not sure why it took me a week to choose. PROGRESS was there all along. And I see, Dear Keith, how it’s leading me to Triumph. Thank you for that. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I love your word Crystal “progress” so perfect! Every time I read a post from you I seem to find something else to admire about you! Now I discover you’re working on your MFA! Wow! That’s progress. I look forward to following you this year, cheering you on, holding your book in my hand! Wishing you all the best, warmly, C

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Cheryl. I always admire your quotes. I’ve been saying for awhile: “The only person I have to be better than is the person I was yesterday.” I’m not sure who said it first. And another one I love: “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. / Just keep going. No feeling is final” (Rilke).

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Progress – I like that Crystal. It will keep pushing you to just keep moving forward one step at a time in all that you do. Sometimes we feel like we have not achieved what we want to but progress is looking how many steps ahead you have moved from where you started and that changes our perspective of achievement.
    It is wonderful that you are writing your book. Take care my friend and God is right there with you on your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for sharing!.. congrats with your MFA… with life’s challenges, your Mom’s passing, etc. life can be a bit daunting at the moment “When one suddenly finds oneself in a swamp up to one’s armpits in alligators, it is difficult to remember the objective was to drain the swamp”.. but you are a intelligent, courageous young lady and with a heart filled with dreams and memories, I am sure you witness your finest hour!.. 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May flowers always line your path
    and sunshine light your way,
    May songbirds serenade your
    every step along the way,
    May a rainbow run beside you
    in a sky that’s always blue,
    And may happiness fill your heart
    each day your whole life through.
    May the sun shine all day long
    Everything go right, nothing go wrong
    May those you love bring love back to you
    And may all the wishes you wish come true
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This resonates, especially the graphic. I decided to return to volunteering (in person) this year. Although the way it’s done is different due to COVID, I think it will help me to re-connect to society/humanity.


    1. Thank you, Kathy. Ashley, who blogs at Mental Health @ Home, mentioned wordart.com in a post not too long ago. I like the emphasis it provides. Good luck with the volunteering. I think many of us are missing our connections at the moment.


  14. That’s quite a coincidence I just discovered action for happiness myself by accident. I’ve listened to on two webinars which were pretty interesting. One with Ruby and American living in England who was a comedian and TV presenter now retired and teaches mindfulness meditation. The other wasa psychologist who has some good insights. If those are recorded it would be cool to listen to them.

    But I didn’t know about the book so I will look into that and haven’t really explored their website either,. Thanks for sharing.


  15. That’s also great about your MFA and that you’re also writing memoir as i have. Although your topic is tough, being honest and having courage are admirable. Authenticity is a popular thing now, and I’ve still not seen Brenę Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability, which is related. I’ve developed some good practices like yoga, writing, walking and biking but there’s ways more to do to improve myself. I ways learn something new when I make time to read blogs. So thanks for yours!


  16. Dear Crystal,
    So very, very sorry to hear about your Mom’s passing. It took me two years to get over my Mom’s death. And you have your problematic son to deal with AND you had a bad diagnosis with breast cancer. That is a hell of a lot to deal with. I still pray for you. The book will get done. It will be therapeutic and an inspiration to others. You have much to be proud of. So stop holding a gun to your head and maybe get some temporary help dealing with all these things. You deserve it. I am in awe of you. 🙏🏽🙏🏽❣️❣️ellen


    1. Thank you, Ellen. It’s been two years, but Alzheimer’s had taken her ability to have conversations, so it feels a little longer. I was able to be there when she came home for hospice, and before that she was stuck in a nursing home with no visitors due to COVID. Death is inevitable. It was an honor to be with her at the end.

      As for my hormones, they’re wacked out on the medication I’m taking. I’m definitely running low and ready to be myself again above all. I appreciate your prayers. I have a big appointment on Tuesday.

      Liked by 1 person

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