one word 2017: querencia

i am not the type of woman who does well with new year’s resolutions. i’m great at setting them, sure, but at the first bump in the road, the very inkling of the wheels about to come off, i throw in the towel. i think it’s got something to do with my perfectionism, or perhaps my fear of failure. you know those people who hurt others before others have a chance to hurt them? that’s like me with my resolutions. i give up on them way too easily to avoid the heartache i will feel when i inevitably fail at them.

instead, i’ve spent the last several januarys of my life carefully choosing a word that i hope will shape the coming year. this is perfect for me for a couple different reasons:

a) it doesn’t lock me into anything. selecting a word over a resolution is open-ended. it leaves room for mistakes and loose ends, and it allows the year to unfold on its own, taking on whatever shape and form it wants to.

and b) i love words. i hold them carefully within me, knowing they hold weight and power and beauty and meaning, and that one must always be careful with sacred things“words are pale shadows of forgotten names. as names have power, words have power. words can light fires in the minds of men. words can wring tears from the hardest hearts” (patrick rothfuss, the name of the wind).

words are more than just words, if they’re used correctly.

so for the past few years, it’s been nothing but words for me. 2012: forgive. 2013: grace. 2014: whole. 2015: home. 2016: grow.

my husband asked me a few weeks ago if i knew what my word for the upcoming year would be, and i was surprised to realize i hadn’t given it much thought, if any at all. then again, my words have always made a habit of introducing themselves to me whenever they sense i am ready for them, so it seemed fitting that i came across “querencia” only two days before the year’s end. querencia is one of those beautiful, almost untranslatable words of another language, full of contextual undertones and metaphysical concepts. it’s derived from the Spanish verb querer, which means to want or desire. it denotes a place, a space, where one feels safe at home, where one can find her center and her strength.

In Barry Lopez’s The Rediscovery of North America, ‘Lopez explains that querencia is a place where one feels secure, ‘a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn.’ In Spain, it is the place in the ring where the wounded bull goes to renew his strength and center himself, ready for a fresh charge. What a beautiful concept: ‘A place in which we know exactly who we are. The place from which we speak our deepest beliefs.’

if i have learned anything from a life lived overseas and years spent in constant transition, it is that home can often be a journey, and it is as much a state of mind and heart as it is a physical location. home has always been a yearning of mine, and it has looked differently over the years. with the birth of my son and my shift into being a stay-at-home mama, i find that longing increased. i want my boy to have roots. i want him to know security and warmth and peace, all the things we associate with home. yet how can i give him those things when i’m not even sure i have them myself?

last year was one of so many changes, of beginnings and endings, and i confess: i lost a little piece of myself along the way. of course, this is one of the great mysteries of motherhood, that as you give of yourself fully to a tiny one who depends on you completely, parts of who you once were slip away or change shapes, and you become someone new, someone you’ve never been before. it’s a process that feels beautiful and magical, a bit overwhelming, and at first, the only way i could survive it was to lean into the chaos.

the only problem is that it left me feeling a bit fractured at the year’s end, a little bit like a wanderer despite my feet being planted in what i now call home. 2017, then, is the year i find my querencia, both in physical locale and inner state. it is the year i acknowledge myself as a bull: a tad bit wounded, in desperate need of rest, seeking strength, but also not-yet aware of the power that lies within me. it is the year i learn about the “interesting parallel to the pause as a refuge and renewal” (Brach, T.), the year i understand what it truly means to dwell in the Vine (see John 15), the year i sit down in the in-between and reclaim the woman, the wife, the mama, i am meant to be.

It is believed that in the midst of a fight, a bull can find his own area of safety in the arena. There he can reclaim his strength and power. This place and inner state are called his querencia. As long as the bull remains enraged and reactive, the matador is in charge. Yet when he finds querencia, he gathers his strength and loses his fear. From the matador’s perspective, at this point, the bull is truly dangerous, for he has tapped into his power. (Brach, T.)

rest first, then charge forward.

// image by Paduraria Alexandra, source: Wikipedia

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