Felicity

I think I'll frame this year with one word. I've seen other, more gifted bloggers do it, and I want to know if it can shape my 2014 the way it seemed to shape their 2011, 2012, etc. I've also seen some bloggers resist the choosing, arguing that it doesn't make sense to peg 365 days into 6 or 7 letters. They're absolutely right. Thus lies the problem (and the opportunity!) with all our word musings. Words color and shape and swaddle our lives, but they could never be called upon to sum a life up.

I'm not about to claim a word that will be vast enough to contain the peaks and canyons of the coming year. Instead, I'm seeking something to guide it, to companion it; a sort of word-sherpa that can offer good advice and a bag of granola while I'm breathing hard and walking fast on the trail.

And besides, this word chose me.

If I'd gone looking for one, I'd probably have something very spiritual and symbolic to offer, because I'm a meaning-maker and because I love turning over dead leaves in order to find God. I get a thrill from the hunt for allegory and metaphor and symbol in everyday life. If I had been doing the choosing, I'd probably choose resilient or shadow or annunciation or soulful or mystery,

But I didn't.

I was just going along my merry way, savoring a wonderful book that my best friend bought me, because she is the kind of friend who can't keep a good book to herself, and stumbled upon Felicity. (No, not the soap opera, featuring a corkscrewed, collegiate Keri Russell and her dueling suitors. Though, who knows-maybe there's a parallel in there somewhere?)

Felicity, the word. And more importantly, the description.

It's from the Latin, felix.

If you attend a Latin mass, you'll hear this phrase: "O Felix culpa..."

(which, coincidentally, is the title of a song from one of my favorite worship albums of 2013)

"Oh happy fault, Oh happy fault, that made for us so great a Redeemer..."

Felix-a happiness inextricably linked with disaster.

"Like the old rabbi in a traditional Hasidic tale who responded to tales of triumph with "How do you know it's not a disaster?" and to tales of misfortune with "How do you know it's not a blessing?" the person who understands felicity understands that happiness changes as it ripens and that the unripe fruit is often bitter."

Oh boy. I am the leading expert in the taste of unripe fruit. If 2013 had a flavor, it would be the firm flesh of a green apple that got plucked from the tallest branch just for the heck of it. I was always biting my happiness too soon, before it could yield its full flavor. So eager and so determined to turn my disasters into blessings that I missed the harvest.

In 2014, I could use the patient and subtle pleasure of Felicity.

Finding this word, at this time in my life, was-for lack of a better word-felicitous.

It was akin to a handful of conversations I've had in my life that felt more like recognition then an exchange of information- ones where my eyes widened with the knowledge that even if nothing more was said, we would understand each other perfectly. Like the one I had with my husband on the night we made dinner in Pete and Cherri's apartment-the night we realized that no matter what path we chose, our future would be bound up together.

 

And so, through some happy fault, I am marking this the year of felicity.

A year of sustainable happiness.

"Felicity comes in lively sustained conversation; in long walks on which one notices small changes in the landscape; in the silent companionship of an old friend or partner; in serving a good dinner to a family one loves. Felicity seeks happiness actively, but its actions are quiet and measured rather than flamboyant and impulsive. It deepens by having reflected enough on one's own good to realize that one's own good consists in appreciation and service of others."

I wouldn't mind if that paragraph was my eulogy, much less my word for the year.

 

*All quotes from Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, a beautiful invitation into redemption via the power of words by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre