word of the year

photo from rome, taken with an holga lens kit on my canon.

It seems that every year, many bloggers choose a word to reflect their hopes in the coming year. And while I haven't previously participated, this year I joined in.

My word this year is control. I realize that word is loaded. So stick with me.

On January 3rd, I found myself moping on my couch in a pair of sweatpants I wore when I was heavier. Sweatpants I'd saved as a "we're never going back here" reminder.

Turns out, I'd gone halfway back there.

I had been forced into my fat pants due to lost luggage on our return flight from Rome. The flight carrying our suitcases wouldn't arrive for 36 hours and unluckily for me, I'd packed every single thing I own...leaving me with no choice but to don the dusty fat pants and their emotional baggage....for 36 hours straight.

While sitting in my fat-pantsed misery, one foot up on the coffee table due to a stress fracture obtained in Rome, my husband emerged from our study, sarcastically proclaiming, "Well! It looks like the house sale might fall through. AGAIN."

He rather quickly unraveled the details involving a suspiciously low bank appraisal, contrary to the two prior on-track appraisals, which would result in a sale of our house for $35,000 lower than what we'd planned. Thirty five thousand dollars.

So, there I sat on January 3rd. No clothes. Half-broken foot. Getting screwed out of money could get us out of Kuwait as fast as possible. The day before I was a girl in Italy on her second honeymoon, and now I was just a girl in fat pants...being miserably out of control of her life in the desert.

Then in that moment, the word "control" hit me like a ton of bricks and knocked me down the rabbit's hole of exactly WHY the past 225 days...this crazy move to the Middle East...has been so difficult.

Back in my sweet old life, I had total control of what my life looked like and how I filled my days. I could work, go to school, go on little trips, wear what I wanted to, walk around in parks and museums for hours, go on long bike rides, buy flowers at the farmer's market and have parties with friends. You get the picture. But when I left all that behind and boarded a plane bound for Kuwait...almost every piece of what "control" looks like to me felt stripped away. No car of my own. No job. No school. No outdoor places to exercise. None of my favorite clothing stores. Not my style of house. Not my style of furnishings. No family. No friends.

In hindsight, I now realize I felt completely out of control. I spent months wishing I'd wake up in my old life, and discover that this time in a strange country was just one of those weird dreams you have after eating too much fancy cheese. And even now, I realize that in so many ways I've been trying to rebuild a life I loved back in the US, but I can never, ever replicate here.

It's just out of my control.

So, I found myself at the bottom of the rabbit's hole, wondering, "Okay. What CAN I control here?" And then slowly, slowly, slowly I built a rickety control ladder out of that hole.

I can control what I make for dinner.
Or how much money we spend on groceries.
I can control what color I paint my nails or dye my hair.
And whether I worked out today.
I can control who I spend time with.
And what comes out of my mouth.
I can control how clean my house is.
And what I fill my head with.
I can control how I view myself.
And I can choose how to view the world.

And yes. These are all very pathetic, house-wifey things to say...things I'd likely have laughed at four years ago. But it is honestly what I've got here. I can no longer just sit around and wish myself into my cute, cushy life from one year ago....or feel like I'm a victim of the life I'm currently in. I've spent months doing exactly that, and I have nothing to show for it but a larger pants size thanks to emotional eating. My old apartment is gone. My old job is gone. My car is gone. My cute things are gone.

That life is gone. (Not gonna lie, I teared up while typing that.)

But there are perfectly great days to be lived right here, right now with a guy who loves me...in a place that is definitely an adventure. And maybe it involves less thrift sales, craft stores, peonies, parks and museums than it once did...but those things will come again someday. I know they will.

And so, I choose to stop comparing my old life and my new life.

Instead I've given myself this mantra for 2013:

What can you control in this moment? 
If the answer is "nothing", change how you think about it. 
If you can't change how you think, stop thinking so much and go do something selfless.

So, that's that.

Do you have a word for this year?


  1. I love this. This makes me really happy - and I think I need a word for myself. Now to actually choose one...

  2. Very well written, Bethany! I didn't pick a word, but a theme, for the year. It's to live simply and intentionally. Actually pretty similar to control in a way. Here's to a wonderful new year and a fresh start!

    xo eden
    PS. what font did you use in the image above to write "i am in control" ? Thanks!

  3. You are such a great writer. Can you write a book on "life"? I can totally picture the aqua cover w/ a beautiful gold script font. No seriously..do it :)

    I relate to you when it comes to giving up a life you once had. I moved to a different state for my fiancé and felt so lost for a while until I let go and started living my new life in a new place. I have to say..your posts on this are so uplifting and always make me feel better. Thanks Bethany!


  4. What a great reflection!

    I picked two words this year, because I am way too indecisive to pick just one. Haha.

    First, to be bold. This past year I cut off almost all of my hair (past my shoulders to a pixie), and found it to be incredibly freeing. I'd been feeling very "blah" for awhile. It made me want to make more bold choices that are the real me, both with how I look but also how I carry myself. I think this one may involve getting a new tattoo!

    My other word was thrive. I tend to feel like I am more surviving than thriving, and want to reverse that. I want to focus on being happy and healthy and not giving so much of me to other people, to work, and to things that take away from me.

  5. I love it. This was the mindset I finally found for myself while I was unemployed. And as soon as I started thinking that way, I found a new job. You can absolutely change your situation just by changing your mindset!

  6. Love this! Love everything you write really.

    I have to agree with Rosemary, write a book! I'd be the first in line to buy it. I'm serious, I am not a big reader as is evident by my lousy grammer, but I love reading your blog. It's actually the ONLY one I read fully through, and get this, I don't even need pictures to draw me in. You have a great gift!

    Seriously. An American In Kuwait. A bloggers journal.

    My word: Do! I have to stop dreaming and start doing! I'm done sitting around feeling sorry for myself. This year I DO!!


  7. Love this post! Very inspiring. I think the very same word might apply to me - control over my bad habits, control over which friends I spend time with, control over the words that come out of my mouth... all resolutions for this year. Thanks :)

    I hope you're feeling happy and positive still.

  8. I can definitely relate to this post. When I first moved to Kuwait I worked for a US contractor who thought they owned us. It was mission first, employees last, suck it up or leave. I loved Kuwait instantly and made the most of my new, exotic life but felt smothered by ignorant, xenophobic managers at work. They were miserable living in Kuwait and felt like everyone else should be as well. It was like the more I thrived in my new environment the more they tried to beat me down. I took control, lived for my time out of work and eventually found a better job somewhere else. You can do it B! I believe in you. You are such a beautiful girl inside and out. Nobody cares what number you are on the scale but you.

  9. I love your mantra! I might have to write that down and put it up on one of my walls. :]

  10. Thank you for this post, I've found it really helpful. I'm about to go through a month paying 2 lots of rent so I will have no money, and I have been feeling really negative about that - but you're right, there are so many things that I am in control of.

  11. Bethany, I think you have taken such a big step to give up a whole life for a completely new world with the love of your life - so proud of everything you have done, I dont know if I could do it. I have no doubt that this year you will take this new life and make it yours!
    My word is slow - I want to enjoy the moment and not worry so much about the future.

  12. This is sooo right on for what I'm also going through. I am halfway to my fat clothes as well, and feel out of control when it comes to my career, because I have to relocate soon.

    The one thing that I wish I had, is the fact that you are with your significant other. I am going to have to relocate for 3+ years, and be away from my guy. I already had 4 years away during grad school, and the only career opportunity I have now is away from him.

    What I can control is my surroundings, my meals, etc. but it is a little less happy without my friends and family around. I started a blog myself this year, when I realized that I needed another outlet, and to remember what I can do and create. (I actually mentioned you in a post: http://vintagezest.blogspot.com/2013/01/project-inspiration-confessions-of.html)

    While I wish that I could be around my loved ones, I focus on the fact that I have a career opportunity that will be beneficial for my future. I have time to work on myself. I can devote myself to projects and other creative endeavors. And even though I may trade in time to perfect my closet for time with my loved ones, I have to be happy where I am now.

    I love the fact that you're focusing on what you can control. Take it one step further, and be happy for what you have right now!

  13. I have to agree with a few of the other bloggers..write a book! There has been many times I find myself logging off of blogger as fast as I logged in if you haven’t posted anything..I love reading everything you post..you take us on all you adventures and we feel every joy and sad moment you type of.

  14. Bethany - you have encountered how many life changing events in this one year? Marriage or relocation are enough to throw a life out of balance - you've dealt with 2 of life's biggies - at the same time!! Your goals and insight for daily control are neither "house-wifey" nor "pathetic" they simply condense your situation into manageable bits. Good luck with your new resolve.

  15. thank you for this. i have been out of control for nearly two years because of life circumstances and bad choices. this year i finally had the strength to start putting the past behind me and hope for brighter days ahead. "that life is gone. but there are perfectly great days to be lived right here" exactly what i've been trying to accept...and embrace lately. thank you for the reminder! :) good luck to you.

  16. Thr word of my life is balance. I'm always chasing after balance in my life. After 36 years you'd think I would have finally mastered the fine art of balancing it all but I'm still struggling with finding that state of balance where everything comes together just right. Where I'm eating just right and balancing that with working out. Balancing family with me. Balance.

  17. Love this post. Empowering stuff and a solid reminder that we have the power within ourselves to be happy. (though also your spate of bad luck has improved over the past 24 hours or so).

    x Elena @ Randomly Happy

  18. I've been reading through your blog and just wanted to say how much I've related to it. My expat adventure has been a long,complicated journey with a lot of ups and down. I had my "what can I control" moment recently too! I hope you love the new chapter you're starting in California, and thank you for being so honest! It's nice to feel like I'm not the only one :)


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