Stories that Matter



My one word. My 2015 word.

I’ve thought about it for a few weeks now. Thought about it’s various meanings. Thought about what I want it to mean, what it could mean, and why. Thought about how to make it work.

And yet I’ve resisted. Already.

While my Facebook feed has been blowing up with various posts from well-meaning friends proclaiming their one word in glowing prose, I’ve remained silent. Even now I stare at that word and wonder why on earth it came to me. I’ve always said God has a sense of humor, sometimes quite intentional.




As a self-professed logophile, (Lover of words), of course I had to look it up. I liked it even less.

Actually, I loathe the word and what it means.

1. make or become different.
“a proposal to change the law”
alter in terms of.
“the ferns began to change shape”
synonyms: alter, make/become different, adjust, adapt, amend, modify, revise, refine; More
(of traffic lights) move from one color of signal to another.
(of the moon) arrive at a fresh phase; become new.

So I sat on it awhile. Hoping it might just go away.

It didn’t. I’ve harrumphed into resolute acceptance, I suppose, secretly saying it’s just a stupid word, it doesn’t really mean anything, things don’t need to change. I don’t need to change.

I can be quite the little con-artist with myself.

But I  know better. Because it’s not about the word. The whole concept is silly really. Pick a word for the year and live it out and tell the world how wonderful it was. Then we can all feel good about ourselves, because come on, who doesn’t need a little self-adulation every now and then? Even better when a bunch of friends hop on board and help you out.

I’ve never been much of a joiner. Not one to go along with the crowd, whatever. I’ve been more of a curl up in a chair with a book in the library and try not to look out the window too often, kind of girl. But secretly, I looked out the window a lot, because part of me always wanted to be out there with the group of giggling girls. Accepted. One of them. God only knows why.

Maybe that’s why I resist these kinds of group effort sort of things. If everyone else is doing it, why should I? But this year, for whatever reason, I feel differently. And I’m not doing it because everyone else is. I’m doing it for me.

Because I need this.

It’s been too easy to coast along on smug satisfaction, I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay…until the day you slam face first into the wall and realize you’re not. You’re not okay at all. And things need to change.

Been there, done that more times than I care to share. Ripped apart my soul and tried to put it back together again. And I get good at maneuvering the little bits and pieces that don’t quite fit. But eventually I realize I can’t hide the missing pieces.


And there are quite a few.

Pieces I’ve strategically removed over the years. Pieces I’ve dropped and failed to put back into place each time I’m faced with some life crises that brings me to my knees.

Harsh words. Broken friendships. Fractured relationships. Failure. Rejection. Fear. Opposition…

My list is long. Too long. I’ve allowed these circumstances to remain in play you see. To still affect me, when in reality, I should have moved on so long ago. Moved past that hurt.

Not my circus, not my monkeys.

I do love that saying. It’s quirky and it makes me laugh and lately I’ve said it a lot. But it’s not entirely true. Because sometimes it is my circus. My monkeys. And sometimes those monkeys behave very badly.


I’m working it out. This word. On the outset, I know what it means. This year my life will change quite drastically, I expect. And this is a good change. One long in the making. I’ll be working harder. More will be expected of me and I’ll place ridiculously high expectations on myself because I always do. And maybe that part of me will need to change. So I’ll deal with that. But more importantly, I think what I’m seeking is a radical change.

From the inside out.

And oh, yes, I’ve already failed. 12 days in to this new year and I’ve failed. Haven’t met goals. Let myself down. Said things I didn’t mean and done things I probably shouldn’t have.

Change is hard. I am resistant to it. I have a tough outer shell that I’ve been carting around for some time now. It wards off the flying arrows and shields me from getting hurt again, and it covers up all those missing pieces I’m too afraid to snap back into place.

But it’s getting old. And heavy as hell.


I can’t change the world around me. I can’t change attitudes, perceived notions, prejudices, or the price of oil. I can only change me. How I view you. How I react to circumstances beyond my control. How I speak, live, love, forgive. I can embrace the challenge to change, knowing that it won’t be easy. Knowing that some days I will fail. We all do. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t start picking up the pieces.

Puzzle Piece Between Woman's Fingers --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

One at a time.

Puzzles are great fun, but try to do one alone, and they can be frustrating. So perhaps this picking up the pieces thing can be a group effort. Perhaps I’ll learn to reach out more, trust more, ask for more, hope for more and believe I’m deserving of the good that comes my way.

Maybe this change is possible.

With God…

And maybe, with a little help from my friends, we’ll all get there.




  1. gene on January 12, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Change sounds like such a simple concept, but it’s difficult when we’ve been so accustomed to “doing things” the way we used to. I’ve played bass guitar for years and had always held the wrong hand position on the neck. When I decided to correct my hand positioning I found it difficult to play with the same ease I always had. Getting frustrated I’d switch back to what I knew best. Holding on to that crutch limited my ability to grow as a player. Truly changing is an ongoing commitment that requires that there be no turning back, even when we feel we’re failing. We know we’ve actually changed when it’s no longer is a commitment, it’s just the way we are. God bless.

    • Cathy West on January 12, 2015 at 4:03 pm

      Good thoughts, Gene, thanks for sharing! I don’t expect to make drastic changes overnight, that’s for sure, but it’ll be a slow process, and worth it in the end.

  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on January 12, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    I love the way you describe this, Cathy – the hope and the pathos work together to make your essay a paean of longing, and faith.

    I have to confess, though, that when I hear “Not my circus, not my monkeys” I immediately think of John Donne, and “Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”.

    It’s our circus, and we all go home together…or no one does.

    • Cathy West on January 12, 2015 at 4:04 pm

      A comfort indeed, knowing we are all in this together. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. stephseclecticinterests on January 12, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Before I knew people chose a word for the year, I felt there was to be a theme. A few years back, the first year I was conscious of a theme, it was The Year of Encouragement. This year *deep breath* is The Year of Taking Responsibility. I believe God is challenging me to live up to the truth I know, especially in spiritual matters. Please feel free to check in with me and see how I’m doing. I would be glad to do the same for you. So glad there’s you!

    • Cathy West on January 12, 2015 at 4:05 pm

      That’s a good one, Steph. A tough one too, but I trust God to give you exactly what you need, when you need it. And same for me. Thanks!

  4. bethkvogt on January 12, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    You know I have to say this before I say anything else, right?
    I love the way you write, my friend. Be it blog post or books … you are talented beyond measure.
    Okay, to the blog post:
    I am all for change … but even as I say that (go, girl, embrace the change!), I will play devil’s advocate and whisper: Decide what won’t change. There are parts of you that are you because they are intrinsically woven into your heart and mind by God. And He said “It’s good.”
    You are good.
    So hold fast to what is you … because I like all that about you.

    • Cathy West on January 12, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      Thank you. 🙂 I know. I love that we talked about it. And yes, there are things that won’t change and don’t need to. My convictions, my passions. Perhaps some things just need a little refining. But then there are those areas that WILL change, because they need to, and it’ll be a healthy change, and hopefully I’ll be a better person at the end of it. But you know, I’m sure I’ll maintain a little snark for a rainy day…

  5. Jeanne Takenaka on January 12, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Cathy, I loved, LOVED your post. The honesty and the frankness. I don’t like change. I’ll be honest. But I find that God has ways of bringing it about in my life anyway. And I’m learning not to resist. Don’t always succeed though. 🙂 I guess I’d like staying the same (or an unchanging life) even less over time. It would (I would) become stale.

    And I love your idea of friends holding each other up when it’s hard to make the changes (or learning to breathe better, as that’s my one word for the year). I’ll be praying for you friend.

    • Cathy West on January 12, 2015 at 4:51 pm

      Nice! That was probably mine last year – don’t forget to breathe! I ALWAYS need that one. It’s too easy to get caught up in it all. Yes, I love helping each other on this journey, and so glad to travel it with you! 🙂

  6. Jennifer Zarifeh Major on January 12, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    As always, you SLAY me with your words.

    “Perhaps I’ll learn to reach out more, trust more, ask for more, hope for more and believe I’m deserving of the good that comes my way.”

    The chorus of voices that urge you to believe in yourself never quits, does it? A person may drop out of the choir, but God replaces that voice, a fool who willingly failed you, with another fresh voice that is behind you 100%. When things get busier, Oh Author, the choir will keep singing, because you ARE deserving, of everything good that comes your way.

    Every single good thing.

    • Cathy West on January 12, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      You’re just the bomb diggity, Ms. Major. 🙂 Thanks for being one of my constant cheerleaders. Right back atcha, friend.

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