With each year, I find myself adopting more and more of what you may call "middle-aged" behavior. My bedtime creeps earlier each night, my happy hours have evolved into early bird specials, I dislike loud environments, and I increasingly enjoy my downtime. So, while it fills me with some shame to share this, this year New Year’s Eve found me staying in and working crossword puzzles. Whether or not that’s what I want to be doing on NYE is a different conversation. For now, the fact is, that’s what I was doing.
I’m not ashamed to say that I love working crosswords. I love flexing my brain muscles, accomplishing a short-term task, and, let’s face it, thinking about words. (Hi, my name is Meridee, and I’m a logophile.)
This particular night though, I struggled a bit more than usual to successfully complete a puzzle. Certain words came easily, but I could find nothing to build off of those words. I brainstormed and dug deep to try to make the words I had come up with fit in. I bent the meanings of words to try to get them to belong in the allotted spaces. I tried everything I could to avoid erasing the progress I had already made – even when that progress did not seem to serve the end goal of puzzle completion. Eventually, I had to accept that some of the words I had written down with such certainty were not correct.
And I erased them.
Temporarily that erasure felt so negative, like a massive setback. l almost gave up, saying with frustration, “I’m never going to finish this.”
But I did. In reality, once those imposter words were out of the way, the remaining words practically flew out of my pencil. What initially felt like a monumental setback was actually the biggest step forward I could make.
Funny how life is the same way. In my life I cling tightly to some of the things I perceive as accomplishments, gains, or treasures, even though sometimes, holding to these things means I cannot move forward. I want to feel that I’ve made progress, to believe that I’ve made strong steps toward the completion of this puzzle called life, so I hold on to words like “money”, “success”, “love”, “boyfriend”, and others that, for some reason, I have decided belong in this puzzle. As I said, I’m a logophile, a lover of words, and those words make me feel so good. The thought of erasing any of these from my life, even in small doses, is terrifying. What a setback that would feel like.
However, it's possible that some of these things I'm clinging to are the ones that need to be erased from my life. Maybe the pieces of my life I label "progress" are actually imposter words.
I try to move forward, but I feel stuck. I try to make new ideas or projects fit, but they won’t. Perhaps the issue is not that my new ideas are wrong, but that there is something else in my life that is wrong. Perhaps I’ve started with an imposter word, and if I can remove it – even if it feels painful, like a setback – once it is gone, I will move forward with ease.
As we start a new year, may we be brave enough to erase the imposter words in our lives and to make space for the ideas, people, and activities that will really move us toward our dreams.
What are the imposters you need to erase?