December 31, 2007 at 12:15 am 3 comments

As part of a winter solstice/new year ritual, my Unitarian Universalist fellowship passes around a basket of words that we each select to serve as our theme, personal and collective, for the year ahead.

So, today at Sunday services it was time to draw our words. The word chosen for the fellowship was “expectancy.” Words individuals chose were “education,” “exploring,” “patience,” “risk.” Doing this other times I’ve drawn “humor” and “willingness.” So, you get the idea of the kind of words we’re talking about.

It was a rare treat to have my DH sitting next to me at the service today, our DD playing happily in the nursery. DH and I closed our eyes and drew our words together. By instinct (or many years of doing this together with fortune cookies), we each held ours upside down until we’d both picked. Then, he turned his over. “Power,” it said. And I turned mine over. “Obedience,” it read.

We burst out laughing. Obedience?! Not a word either of us would choose to describe what I would strive for this year (or any year since, uh, birth). Nor would the concept of a power/obedience relationship ever be used to describe our partnership. “We might as well just switch,” DH joked. Then he made a guy-like crack about posting them on the refrigerator or bedpost.

The minister had us all say our words aloud, all together, and DH nudged me jokingly as I sheepishly mumbled, “Obedience.” After the service, I went up to her and told her of our words. She gasped and laughed. A fellow feminist who knows of our egalitarian marriage, she understood the oddness of the words for us. “As a feminist, you can just reclaim it, right?” she joked.

Then she told me that the first time she had participated in this tradition years ago, the first word she drew was the same as mine, “Obedience.” Unhappy with that word, she put it back, danced around the winter solstice bonfire again, and selected another word. “Trust,” was what she got.

All afternoon I’ve been thinking about this. While I’m not one to take a newspaper horoscope too seriously, I do have some faith in these kinds of intention-driven rituals, in the universe giving us signs in subtle ways about ways we can grow. I’m a fan of drawing runes and paying attention to patterns or signs we notice in our lives.

So, how on Earth could “obedience” be a theme for me to focus on this year? Obedience to what? To whom? I, of course, went to the dictionary and found “submissive to the restraint or command of authority” as the definition. OK, submissive, ick. Can’t really embrace that.

However, I was all right with the definition of a synonym, “amenable”: “a willingness to yield or to cooperate either because of a desire to be agreeable or because of a natural open-mindedness.”

A willingness to yield or cooperate. Perhaps this is something I could learn from. (Reclaim, right?) I do sometimes resist things at first, particularly the unexpected or an idea that’s not immediately exciting to me. I like to create my own way of doing things, which sometimes can make tasks more difficult than they need be. It’s something I work on. And could surely continue to work on. Finding a balance between being a creative individual with strong ideas about the world and being a pleasant person to work and live with.

One of the things I love about these kinds of rituals — and participating in them as a person who wants to grow — is that they often don’t deliver us what we think they will. They don’t tell us what we want to hear.

So my word for the year isn’t “humor” or “leadership,” it is “obedience.” I will accept it, with my own caveats, of course. And see it as a call to work on my willingness to yield or cooperate. To stop and breathe before I respond or react in opposition. To think of the desires of others before I think of my own. To find a healthy balance between the two. (This will be especially helpful with a two-year-old!)

This concept will also surely apply in ways I haven’t yet thought of. I remember the obedience I had to adopt when diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my pregnancy. Unexpected, but necessary. The obedience to study for my grad school comp exams. A drag, but so satisfying when completed. I’ll pay attention now, to what shapes this word takes on for me this year. I’m game. I’m willing. I’m cooperating.

Of course, my DH can find his own nuanced meaning in “power” as his word for the year. And I have faith that he will. We needn’t get stuck in the traditional definitions. We never have before. It makes a funny story, our words, for those who know us, and an interesting lesson for me.

Happy New Year.


Entry filed under: Life, Marriage, Spirituality.

Plans, Schmans New Year’s Reso-Link-tions

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Naomi  |  December 31, 2007 at 12:28 am

    I had to laugh while reading this… I think hubby and I would have had very similar reactions. I hope you find positive ways to apply this principle in your life this year. Cheers 🙂

  • 2. lifeinthegravy  |  January 1, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Megan.. the fact that you didn’t totally reject the notion of obedience just solidifies what I’ve suspected about you all along: you have an open mind and heart. You are willing to learn and ponder ways for obedience.. and what that implies.. to play a role in your life. You continue to inspire me! Happy, happy new year..

  • 3. Elrena  |  January 1, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Megan, this is a fabulous post — and I also have to say, personally, so very helpful for me! My next column is going to be partially about the whole obedience/submission thing, and reading your post was just what I needed to kickstart my writing. 🙂

    So, thanks! And good luck reclaiming and redefining your word this year. 🙂

    (And now I have to laugh, as I have to click a button that says “Submit” to post this!!)


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To spark conversation about redefining success (as individuals, families and institutions) and to counter "never enough" messages currently circulating in our culture.

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Megan Pincus Kajitani: Writer, Editor, Former Academic Overachiever and Career Counselor, Mom, Wife, Feminist, Gen Xer, Californian who believes that change is possible View Megan Pincus Kajitani's profile on LinkedIn

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