I got a tattoo last weekend. Two little letters. One little word. The thing is, this one word has become a foundation for me, something I build my goals on. A mantra that I lean on when I’m feeling off-kilter. Looking back at my life, it’s probably a word that’s always meant something more than one would think on the surface. It’s a big-deal kind of word.
It’s now written beautifully and simply on my wrist. For me to see. To anchor me when I need it. To inspire me when I need it. It is my goal in life to…be.
The realization of how big this little word is began five and a half years ago when I used it as the theme for my 2011. I wasn’t one for coming up with New Year’s resolutions and I heard about some people who were, instead, identifying a theme for their upcoming year. I couldn’t decide between wanting to be more intentional and wanting to be more present. It occurred to me that the common link between those two themes was wanting to be. So I went with that!
And for that year I frequently reminded myself that I am made of energy and only so much of it. I was putting that energy into being a wife, a mother, a homeschool teacher, a friend, a volunteer, and probably more. I wasn’t willing to give up any of those roles, but knew I needed balance in my life. And wanting balance was not enough. (Reminds me how my dad used to ask us, “So, how’s it feel to want?” Good one, Dad!) I didn’t know how to create it, but I figured out that being intentional with where I put my energy and being present in the task I was currently focusing that energy on was a good start. It helped.
It also helped me to occasionally realize at the end of a long day that I could take a few minutes and just appreciate me…and simply be. If you look back at the last paragraph, you’ll see that I wrote, “I was putting that energy into being a wife, a mother, a homeschool teacher, a friend, a volunteer, and probably more.” (Okay, you don’t have to look back. I copied and pasted for you. You’re welcome.) Unless being Annie, the girl, the woman, whomever I am on my own…unless that role is included in ‘probably more’ I’m not in there so much. I promise you I didn’t even plan that when I typed it. But as I kept typing I realized (again) how much this little word has truly helped center me. And let me just be.
Truth be told, it’s helped me put me first, not selfishly, but because of that very true yet old cliché about taking care of number one. If Annie doesn’t come before all the other roles, then there’s truly nothing left for myself and that becomes damaging. It also leaves me with less and less helpful and loving energy to give to the other roles. It’s a downward spiral that can be kept at bay by loving me first. Filling my cup allows me to realign my earlier sentence to something more like this: “I now put my energy into me, my roles as wife and mother, homeschooling our children, working part time, and seeing friends when I can.” Hopefully the realigned priorities are clear in the differences in wording. I feel like they’re clear to me, and it all started with ‘be.’
Another piece of the meaning that came back to me was a meditation I was introduced to in college. It’s based off a bible verse and Fr. Dan Riley would have us close our eyes as he slowly spoke these words:
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
It still gets me. Being still and believing in something…that’s huge. And not all that common, at least it wasn’t in the busy life I was living daily at that point. But what a glorious concept. Believe and know and quiet and still and be. All that. All of it.
See? Are you loving this theme, this mantra as much as I do?
And that’s how it started for me. But it’s continued to grow. The meaning is deeper and it fills me with even more hope too.
When I was getting the tattoo, Lenny and I chatted about it’s importance to me. He asked me what it meant and I answered, “Everything.” He paused and looked at me, shrugged and said, “Okay,” and went back to tattooing. (Totally cool guy!) I managed to put together more words for him, though. An explanation something like, “It means that sometimes I need to be heard and other times I need to be silent. Sometimes I’m meant to be inspirational and other times I’m meant to be mentored. Maybe I could be honest or strong or still or spontaneous. But always, I’m enough if I’m being me.” He nodded and we kept talking.
And it means all that.
As I thought about what I wanted to write for this post I realized, I’m not the only one who finds incredible umph in these two little letters.
“To be or not to be.” ~ William Shakespeare
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” ~ various adults to various kids
“Be-you-tiful” ~ a wall hanging I saw
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi
“Don’t worry, be happy.” ~ Bobby McFerrin who got it from Meheh Baba
“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” ~ Oscar Wilde
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” ~ Lao Tzu
So many great, thoughtful quotes and questions. So much punch packed into this itty, bitty word.
And that’s certainly part of why I like it. I like thinking, growing, learning, and loving. And in being me, in all that encompasses, I can do all those things. In pondering how I can be the best me, I’m coming closer to her every day. In focusing my energies intentionally I can be balanced, present, and content in the little and big moments of my life. I can be.
So, that’s my story. You might think I’m a bit off my rocker, and you wouldn’t be alone. Maybe some other anchor works for you in your life. And that’s cool. If, however, you feel a bit adrift, maybe finding a theme that makes sense to you will help you…um…well, will help you, “be all you can be.”*
(*Did you know the Army used that slogan for 21 years? Probably because “be” is a pretty darned incredible little word!)