Last year around this time, I became aware of people using words instead of resolutions to set intentions for the new year. I had already set my New Year’s goals, but I started thinking about what my word would be if I had done that instead.

The word surrender occurred to me, but I pushed it away. For one thing, surrender felt too passive for me. It means giving up, which is not me at all. Other words came to mind, but none really resonated. And it was already almost February, so I dropped the whole idea.

Except clearly I didn’t.

The thing was, ‘surrender’ came up for me over and over in 2022. I heard an amazing podcast that was called something else but ended up being all about surrender. I attended a webinar about sleep that was also all about surrender. I started listening to guided meditations by Sarah Blondin (on the free app Insight Timer) and stumbled upon one called “Learning to Surrender.”

So by the time 2023 rolled around, I had surrendered to the word surrender, and here’s why.

The definition of surrender starts with giving up, but it doesn’t end there. It is giving up to something, and that is the vital part of the definition. For me that something is peace. Think about it for a second…for there to be peace, there is always surrender, right? We think of it in terms of winners and losers but we don’t have to view it that way.

Imagine floating on a tube down a gently flowing river, trusting in the current to move you in the direction of its choosing. That is the kind of surrender I am talking about. It’s faith. And flow. It is presence and acceptance. It is taking action while yielding control.

Sarah Blondin observes that the more we trust the journey itself, the more fluid and joyful our life becomes. The more we constrict, the more worry and burden we pick up along the way.

Surrender does not mean that I give up on goals or stop trying to grow or discontinue healthy striving. It means that I let go of the strain and stress and pressure and fear and shame that I have around whether or not I meet those goals. I am trying to surrender the tension around what it means about me if I don’t accomplish, don’t succeed, am judged, fail. I want to wave the white flag on all that.

So the learning edge for me here is how to try and be healthy and have fun and connect with others and cultivate creativity while also surrendering to the flow of life. Trusting that I will do my part to reach my goals and that I will remain flexible to what comes. Surrender to the beautiful, unpredictable journey of my life.

Here’s how surrender played out for me this past weekend. I was in Sausalito for a combo dog sitting and writing retreat at my brother’s house. My original thought was to spend all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday writing. Focused time to find some flow with my newest book. And then Friday was beautiful, so I wrote a little then went for a gorgeous hike. I walked a labyrinth on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. I sat and listened to Patty Griffin sing “Heavenly Day” while watching waves crash against the rocks. Didn’t rush the moment. Sank into it. Even though there was writing to do. Came home and walked the dog and didn’t get much flow going so watched a new show, “Shrinking” and enjoyed that.

Saturday I woke up and got more writing done but not as much as I’d hoped. Not finding the groove I wanted. So I went to see The Fablemans, an Oscar nominated film I wanted to see (good but not great, in my opinion). Saturday night I started getting some ideas going. Sunday, I woke up in the zone. Not finishing the book, as I’d unrealistically hoped. But gaining clarity around things. Getting closer. Making progress. I also went for another hike in beautiful Marin.

This is surrender for me.

Writing is not my job; I have one of those. Writing is something I enjoy, something I like to do. I don’t want to force myself to do it. I don’t have to hold my feet to the fire. I can surrender to my own creative flow. I just did!