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“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” – Vincent Van Gogh

I have friends, many friends to be precise, who annually choose a word to use as a touchstone or a reminder of how they want to live for the year. Over the years, I’ve marveled at the wonderful words they’ve chosen to guide their lives. I love the simplicity and beauty of having just one word to keep in check and stay on track.

For the past several years, as the year’s end approaches,  I’ve watched as one friend and then another announces their annual word. I too have searched for the perfect word to guide my year. Instead, I struggle and in the end am unable to come up with single word for myself.

So while my friends sashayed into each new years with words like “curiosity” and “freedom” and “purpose” and “wonder” and “fierce” attached to them, I trudged along behind them wordless.

It was disheartening to say the least.

A couple of months ago, I was docenting a group of high school students through the art at the High Museum. They were researching a writing project for school and the information I provided would figure into the final assignment. Concerned that I had covered the topic adequately, I checked with one of the teachers to make sure I had hit all the required points. She reassured me that I had and then added, “I really enjoyed your tour today. You’re so passionate about art.”

I appreciated the compliment, and I really loved that she recognized how much I love sharing art with people. It’s true. I am passionate about art.

Over the next several weeks this word “passion” kept coming up. A friend comment on my “passion” regarding a topic we were discussing. An acquaintance noted my “passion” on a particular subject. People began to say things to me like, “wow, you’re really passionate about that” or “I love your passion.” I found the frequency the word was being attached to me…curious.

I ruminated on the word “passion” for a bit. I turned it over in my mind many times. Finally, I came to this conclusion.

I like feeling excited about the people and things which I surround myself. I want to have an “intense desire and enthusiasm” for my life. When I love open heartedly, when I live my life with intensity, when I throw myself body, mind, and soul into what I’m doing, I find it exhilarating even though this level of intensity can be more than a little intimidating.

I placed the “word” on the back burner because “passion” is kind of a big “word” and I’m not one of those people who has a “word,” and I began making plans for 2015. Without giving it any thought, as I contemplated the projects I would take on this upcoming year, I found myself asking the following questions:

  • Does the idea of doing this really excite me?
  • Will this challenge me?
  • Is it something I care about?
  • Am I truly, deeply passionate about this?

Am I truly, deeply passionate about this?

I had to consider that in spite of my resistance (or because of it) that maybe, just maybe “passion” is a good word for me to use as a touchstone or a reminder of how I want to live in 2015. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided “passion” it is and I immediately felt apprehensive and excited and nervous and more than a little scared.

Then I realized that this is just as it should be. If your touchstone, if your reminder for how you live is with “passion” then being apprehensive and excited and nervous and more than a little scared is probably about right. In any event, it definitely  beats bored.


  1. Welcome to Word-ville! I think Passion is a perfect word for you! You ARE passionate, and I love that about you. I’m still working on my new word for the year. Last year I kind of fizzled out with doing anything with my word. But I do like the idea and I want to try again this year. HAPPY New Year!

    • I know about fizzling out. In the past, I’d choose a word and sit it for a bit with and feel like it just didn’t work for me. This time the word chose me and I hope that will make the difference. Since your an artist, maybe you could adopt a symbol for your year. A visual guide instead of a verbal one.

  2. Love this… and yes… PASSION is a good word for you. We should all strive to live passionately. No holds barred. Full throttle.
    My word for 2014 was COURAGE. I feel like I’ve stepped out more in to the unknown, have pursued some dreams and ideas and have not always succeeded, but I’ve had the courage to try. I’ve resisted the voice of the enemy that says I’m not good enough or I’ll fall on my face, and I’m glad I challenged myself to press on.
    I’m embracing a stronghold of mine for 2015 and wrapping my arms around LISTEN. I spent Christmas dinner at the head of the table next to my FIL {tight quarters with 18 of us around the table} seated on the “quiet” end, and it forced me to be a listener. It was pretty interesting just listening to the various conversations. Of course one of the by-products was me being a hot mess by the end of the meal. I got so emotional that I couldn’t talk at all… and just thinking about that night brings tears. I really couldn’t put my finger on what was troubling me and making me so emotional. Perhaps it is that my FIL is exhibiting more Alzheimer symptoms and it’s finally become apparent to his wife that some changes are in order. The thought of that being our last Christmas in G’burg really did me in. Seeing my kids with their new spouses and realizing that new traditions are on the brink brought more emotions. New traditions will certainly lead to letting go of others… why is change so hard?
    Thanks for a great post {as always} and wondering if this is the year that I re-embrace my blog?

    • You are one of those friends whose “words” I’ve envied in the past. I LOVED that you used “courage” and think that “listen” is wonderful as well. I think “listening” is in and of itself a courageous act and being willing to really hear some one out, to settle into the silent spaces when conversation pauses is quite a brave challenge. Keep me posted.

      Regarding your blog, I think it’s time we both re-embraced our writing. I’m in and I hope to see you posting too.

  3. I love the word passion, Denise, and yes, it suits you. The rebel in me rejected the practice of choosing a word when choosing a word became a trend. Ha, ha, I’ve had spacious for the past three or four years now. I think I’ll keep it. I know you can relate. xxoo

    • If you follow the crowd, you just end up some place crowded…I like spaciousness too. Definitely feel myself pushing at boundaries and constraints as I make room for what I’m passionate about.

  4. Denise, I’m glad you finally found your word — or it found you! I’ve never tried the “one word” motivational approach, but I like the series of questions your word elicited as you considered future projects. I also like ALL of your words. Great writing!

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