olw · One Little Word (OLW)

Betsy’s OLW for 2017


I’ve heard it many times. Life is often divided by its moments. “Was that before or after?” We try to remember where a lost item might be, or where it may have been. “Is that on the shelf…or was it in the cabinet?” We look at photos and think, “Where is so-and-so? Or was that after…” Our life is divided into moments of loss and moments of insatiable joy. The most memorable of times are often one or the other. Some of these moments we wait for with great strength and anticipation while others occur without mercy when we are at our weakest. However, all these dividing and defining moments have one thing in common. We are never really ready. We can make attempts. We can make every list imaginable, but ultimately life never prepares us. We are set in the moment like an innocent baby in a cradle. Unknowing, completely vulnerable, grabbing at the air to try and catch something tangible and familiar. We might cry, we might laugh, we might just stare blankly in disbelief. We are often unable to replicate these moments of awe and they can leave us in a cloud of wonder.  

As years pass I realize with more certainty that when a moment is swaddled in tears, laughter, and wonder it becomes locked in our memory. It becomes a stepping stone on our path. It helps in defining our decisions as we move forward. It becomes a dividing moment.

Once again, I was perplexed by my choice for my One Little Word of 2017. Words swam around in my head for a bit and then I would forget about them and decide not to worry. I contemplated the word, “ready” I liked it, it felt good and like a take-action kind of word. I thought about my previous words, Pace, Silence, Open, Possible. Each was helpful and meaningful in its own way. I thought about “family” and “people.” I just didn’t have that, “gotcha” feeling about any I had considered.

Then I got up on New Year’s Day, made my coffee, and took the dog outside. As I was standing on the side of the house, I began examining the stepping stones. They had once again revealed themselves after the previous day’s melting. They line one side of the house along a privacy fence that divides it from the next house over. Each stone is a little bit different yet they are all the same. Each is slightly green from age, has jaggedy sides, and little bumps and divots across the surface. Each is a single step. However, each comes with its own unique qualities. As I looked at the steps I realized that all the moments that have divided my life have been a step. Examining this path, I looked at the muddy dirt in between each. I imagined a miniature me trudging through the dirt to reach the next stone ahead and thought about the feeling you get when you reach a new step, a next chapter, a moment of movement and change. That “raise your arms” feeling of accomplishment. I thought about standing there, a centimeter sized me, looking back at the steps I had already crossed and the mud I had already drug through. I thought about looking forward, at the many steps that await. The many challenges ahead. I thought I must remember that feeling, that feeling of standing on a fresh step for the first time.


Gotcha! I had my word. Just like that. I finally realized that my word to live by is a word that will help me remember. A word that moves with me, not just today, but forever. Step. Step with light feet when needed or forge ahead when ready. Step. Know that each new step is a new beginning. Step. All we can ever do is continue to move forward and every once in awhile gaze back to see how far we’ve come.


14 thoughts on “Betsy’s OLW for 2017

  1. Your post is written with such serenity, even after all you have been through. Your OLW is very zen…one step at a time. I find myself saying that a lot more often lately…as in, what’s the rush?
    I was fascinated by your image of your mini-self crossing the landscape, through the muddy places and on to the next step. Very much like a fairy tale…mythical actually.


  2. Every tragedy teaches us something, if we let it. Years ago when I was a senior in high school, our house flooded. A flood is not as bad as a fire because everyone around you is in the same boat and your stuff is soggy but somewhat salvageable. But still today our family talks about before and after. It was a tough defining moment. We learned that taking a step each day brought us through it. Step is just the right word for you. Step into the next phase, the after, with hope and love.


  3. I’ve been thinking about you and the family, Betsy, glad to hear that you are taking the steps, looking back and then ahead. Best wishes in 2017!


  4. Betsy, your rich descriptions helped me visualize everything you talked about. I love hearing how words find us and help us process how they can guide us through the year. Much luck to you as to step through 2017!


  5. This is incredibly beautiful writing, Betsy! I agree with your profound observations about life and the moments carved into our memory. I like the idea of steps carrying us further along on our journey. Love this OLW.


  6. I so appreciated reading this first thing this morning. The mental images you painted how me to refocus my day and the next busy couple of weeks into small steps. May 2017 be a great year for your one step at a time.


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