How To Pick Your Word Of The Year (when you have MS)

How to pick your 2020 word of the year when you have MS.

New Year’s haters, I see you. You know this meaningless milestone is too expensive, too overrated, too loud, too shiny, too tipsy. I’m not gonna fight you on this, but I happen to love New Year’s (check the receipts here, here, and here). And not just because I’m also too loud, too shiny, too tipsy. I love New Year’s because there’s something magical about the energy of a room full of people counting in unison, under the champagne-fuelled suspension of disbelief that allows us to imagine, if only for 10 seconds a year, that life could change for the better at the stroke of midnight.

This is how we do it.

When you have a chronic progressive illness like MS, it’s hard not to think about the future without fear and foreboding. How drunk do you have to be to believe the best is yet to come when you have a disease that, by definition, is supposed to get worse? 

Exactly this drunk

While I have mixed feelings about the merits of hope, I’m sliding into the decade feeling like maybe it’s time to press pause on my realism, and wondering if it’s possible to bring some of the intoxicating NYE vibe into my year without actually having to be intoxicated all the time. 

Enter word of the year

The good news is, resolutions are canceled. It’s 2020, and the new trend is to choose a word of the year: one word; a bespoke mantra to help set your intentions for the future. 

Par exemple, if I wanted more exercise in 2020, instead of making a resolution to hit the gym 5 days a week, I might make my word of the year “move”. If I wanted to get ahead at work, or finally get rid of those pesky dragons, I might choose “slay”. 

A word of the year is more chill than a bossy resolution. Your word doesn’t have to be about climbing mountains or corporate ladders either. You don’t even have to pick a verb. Your word could be “peace”. Or “pizzazz”. Or “dry-shampoo”. You could pick two. You don’t have to pay for them.

How to pick your word of the year

Think about what you want out of the months to come. It’s easy to say “fuck 2019; die already. But what is it about last year that you want to leave behind? One of the biggest challenges for anyone with MS is learning how to adapt and coexist with your disease. Picking a word likebreathe won’t cure your MS, but it might help manage your anxiety and help you override your annoying, internal negative thoughts. 

Your word of the year should resonate with you. Your word should move you and empower you. There’s no wrong choice. Fine, “murder probably isn’t an awesome pick. But I don’t know. Maybe you’re a crow, and you just wanna spend more time with your homies. #family

Think about your goals for the year. Is there a person, place, or thing that inspires you? What word describes them? Brainstorm a list of words that you associate with who you want to be, or what you want to do.

Okay, I have my word of the year, now what?

Put your word where you can see it. I mean, maybe sit with it for a few days before you get it tattooed on your face; but when you’re sure it’s your word and you’re ready to commit, put it on your vision board, share it on social, get in touch with Etsy and put it on a mug. Make yourself a visual reminder of your word. 

Even more important than the word you choose is the time and thought you put into selecting it. Whether or not we reach our goals or drop the ball, fresh starts, new beginnings, and New Year’s traditions allow us to self-reflect and clarify for ourselves what we want our lives to look like, and who we want to be.   

So, what’s my word?

Though I was tempted to pick “shop or “cocktail, I don’t need help with those priorities. My 2020 word of the year is “anyway”.

As in, I have MS, but Imma do it anyway.

Doing it anyway doesn’t mean pretending that MS can’t stop me from every little thing I want to do in this life. Or that I won’t experience the frustration, anger, and fear that come with living in this body.

Doing it anyway means I’m not going to let my limitations drive my year. Doing it anyway might mean doing it differently; and yeah, sometimes doing it differently means doing it shittier, but most of the time, shittier is still better than not at all. 

Doing it anyway means I will make room for possibilities, and even the possibility that all of my best days aren’t behind me—that there might be some good surprises ahead, too. I have MS, but I’ve decided to expect great things out of 2020 anyway.

Happy New Year, Trippers.

What’s your word of the year?

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48 thoughts on “How To Pick Your Word Of The Year (when you have MS)

  1. Lemonade.

    I’ve been getting more than my fair share of lemons. In my professional life, in my personal life, in a number of other lives including my life as a MS patient.

    I have a feeling that this year I’m going to turn the lemons into lemonade. And drink them perhaps with vodka.

      1. What a wonderful idea! My word is “live”. Since my diagnosis in 2012 I have spent too much time merely existing, I need to stop using MS as a reason not to do things and I need to stop being afraid. Thanks Ardra, truly inspiring!

    1. I always lived my life with mission and purpose. Hence “ the mission statement “ along with a list of very specific goals and ways to achieve them. After battling my cognitive crap for years now along with fatigue, the very thought of all that is exhausting and actually brings to a place I don’t want to be . I think I like your word . I’m gonna steal it . Or maybe I’ll create some version of it for me . Great job Ardra , as always .

    2. Hi my word for 2020 is “Positivity. Having only received my MS Diagnosis in the last week l have spent the past week trying to learn as much about Multiple sclerosis as l can. I have chosen to do this not by looking up Dr. Google and terrifying myself with what might be in store for me in the years ahead as l live with MS. No, instead I have gone straight to the source and l have read countless blogs like yours whereby real people who are living with MS can give me their advice and tips about how to live with multiple sclerosis. I have found great comfort from reading your blog and it really has been such a blessing to me this past week when l have tried to get my head around this diagnosis. Thank you so much for writing this blog and helping others with MS to feel that it isn’t going to be the end of the world now that they have been diagnosed with Ms. Rather it is the start of another journey in the game of life. Therefore as l stated at the beginning my word for 2020 is “Positivity!” I plan to live every day of 2020 with positivity and l know that together with the love of my beloved family and friends that l will have a wonderful 2020!

      1. Hi Audrey,
        This is the first thing I read this morning, so thanks for getting my day to a positive start. I’m so sorry to hear of your diagnosis but glad you found this community and that you’ve got a team of family and friends around.
        A lot has happened medically since I was diagnosed, and there’s a lot to be hopeful about.
        We are all here for you!

    1. There’s some decent research that says that listening to music and visualizing yourself walking can improve walking speed in people with MS. Good choice.

      1. Great read… empowering.

        I have been struggling to manage my MS so after process mapping / life planning I’ve decided that my word for 2020 will be Warrior. To keep focused on ME!! Flesh out crap in life & get on with it.. try to find what I used to enjoy doing & do it ? take the power back!!

  2. Ardra, love your choice of word! And now you have me noodling for one. It will be a funky year, starting my pension and starting Medicare. But those things are driven by calendar, not by me making some sort of purposeful choice. Still noodling…

  3. Courage

    The courage to get on my horse even though I’ve got so many fearful “what if’s” hanging on my shoulders like a black cloud.
    The courage to not hide my cane in photos, & to use it in front of colleagues instead of staggering & tripping like a middle aged lady who lunches.
    The courage to not explain to everyone that I’m perfectly normal, I’m just acting, well, not normal.
    The courage to only say nice things about myself.


    1. Are you on Insta? Check out hashtag #babeswithmobilityaids for some real-life inspo of people rocking canes and rollators and all kinds of mobility aids. It really does help to see ourselves represented.

  4. I have wanted to have the words “nevertheless, she persisted” tattooed on my forearm ever since Mitch McConnell said it trying to silence Elizabeth Warren in the US Senate. It resonated with me because, have I have had to persist in so many things in my life. Surviving an alcoholic family, finding my birth family, and learning to live with MS. Not one word, but three.

  5. After reading this one work jumps out at me and it is a name. I’ve never had a word for the year and I don’t do resolutions. My word/name reflects where I am in life. Jesus is my word for the year because without him I would not be where I am now. I don’t try to be all religiousey it’s just who I am in life now and it has to take more of a center stage for me this point in my life.
    Thank-you for this article! I love reading your posts!
    Happy New Year!

  6. Vision-

    As in physically and literally. I have recently gone blind in my left eye. MS got the best of my optic nerve unfortunately. Not sure if I will regain sight, but visualizing my future with one eye and going with it! Grateful it’s not both, so to keep working and watching my 4 year old grow up, I have a lot to look forward to. Sight is something I think many people take for granted and until you cannot see, you realize that you would do anything to have that back! So this year I have vision and can see the light! At least a little. Thanks Ardra for this great post and idea! Happy New Year

  7. Good posting, Ardra. I can’t think of a word yet, but I will. Dealing with MS fatigue big time after a couple of weeks of doing too much visiting friends and going to concerts.


  8. You know, I’ve been doing this for several years. I don’t remember why but, one year I just kept having the word “more” impressed on me. As in “expect more.”

    I couldn’t stop thinking about it and, because it was always on my mind, I started expecting and RECEIVING more.

    I’ve gotten a word every year since.

    This year’s word is “true.” As on “be true.”

    In the latter part of this year, I determined to start recording my journey. I know there are a million bloggers/vloggers but, my voice is a part of this community. I know that, like you inspire and encourage me, my story may do the same for someone else.

    Acknowledging thhat is a part of being true to myself.

    Scary AF.

    So, for the last several weeks I’ve meditated on it and tested it out and jumped on the anxiety that kept rising in me. I even did like a countdown this week, knowing it was gonna happen and knowing that I love doing it if I can just “Breathe, and remember who the fuck I am.”


    I slept until 5pm today.

    You read it right.

    I was relieced because then I could skip it and write about being “true” tomorrow while explaining how thinhs don’t always go as planned but that you have to be true to your body…I could make it work.

    Then you. Dear friend who will pretend being called a friend by some girl you’ve never met in Delaware…you write an entry about words and made yours fucking “anyway.” As in, “I have MS but, I’ll do it anyway.”

    I guess the Universe just TOLD ME.

    Thank you, as always, for being TRUE to yourself and doing life ANYWAY. I’m always encouraged and challendged and inspired by the authenticity in which you live life and share it with us.

    Happy Holidays! I guess I have a blog to write.

  9. Inspire. I’m trying to think of something that inspires me about tomorrow when I go to sleep. It has been helping me jump out of bed with pep and ambition. And it helps me to not just focus on the drudgery they can take up the whole day if I let it. Using my useful hours for one inspiring thing makes every day seem brighter. 🙂

  10. My word is “kind”. “Always be kind…no matter what…always be kind”…I can still hear my mothers words. I try to live my life that way and trust me it is not always easy but I think I do a pretty good job! Except when it comes to me…I treat myself rather badly….ok really badly. So this year I want to be kind to ME! Show myself the kindness I extend to others… I want to be my own best friend again. I guess the only problem with that is then I have to accept this whole pesky MS thing. That’s going to take a whole lot of kindness.
    K I N D

  11. I love this Idea and my word for the year just popped right into my head….. My word is “OK”. i’m going to be “ok” “ok” I have MS deal with it. I feel “ok”. my MS is getting worse “OK”. I like it and i;m passing this idea on!! Thanks

  12. “Acceptance”
    To accept the things I can’t change and accept the help that my family always tries to give it is hard letting people help me. I was always a person who would help you no matter what but that has changed since my MS. I feel guilty constantly or maybe I’m just controlling. Shit I’ve been taking care of myself since I was a kid and now I need to accept this monster living inside of me I have no control of…. sooo my word is “acceptance” to accept the help and accept me we shall see …..

  13. I’m going with your example, “move.” Since my MS diagnosis is January 2019, I’ve made significant lifestyle changes – healthy diet, ample sleep, and stress reduction are the most important – but I haven’t added exercise. I recently had a cognitive evaluation, and as part if the follow-up, I was encouraged to exercise to increase blood flow to the brain, to encourage neurogenesis. That (and my too-tight clothes) makes exercise a top priority for 2020.

  14. Stephanie VanAlstyne

    I really like this concept. The first thing that comes to mind, is it’s a word to serve as an anchor when we are getting swept up in the hustle and bussle of life.

    Anchor: is a device used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the craft from drifting due to wind or current.

    That’s my word of the year, anchor. I will focus on my anchors; my husband, the next concert, a nap. Anything that will hold me accountable to my most authentic self and speak to my soul on the days the water is the most rocky.

    Thank you for this. Your words are inspiring, comforting and create the best belly laughs!

  15. Awww, Shitfuckdammitall! That’s all I’ve got, we’ll see if I managed to do this right THIS time! If not, Shi…

  16. Try…

    That’s my word for 2020. I will try to accept this life that is mine now. I will try to ask for help more. I will try to not beat myself up when I can’t do what I used to be able to. I will try to walk more and more each day. I will try to be the best person I can be, for myself and for my family and friends. I’m trying…but damn, it’s not easy.

  17. Reading your blog for the first time (being a MSer since 2009) I have to say it has been very uplifting to read your story and others comments. My word would have to be “persevere”

  18. My word should probably be educate as in educate myself about MS. But it probably will be more like KICK ASS. I’ll soon be 70 and am just now getting the MS diagnosis. Wonder how long I’ve had it? Oh well, shoulda, woulda, could. I can’t decide if I should cry or stand like the warrior, that I am ……maybe both is appropriate then go have a vodka tonic.

  19. My word id “embrace”. I need to embrace what I have, what I have made it through and how I am now and the things I can do now.

  20. As I am reading this for the first time in 11/20 (I commented yesterday that after a self-imposed social media, I’m catching up on the things I actually WANT to read), I kind of missed the boat on the word of the year thing…. Maybe I’ll still pick one. Kind of like a Retrospective Fresh Start?

    Speaking of, aren’t you happy you didn’t decide on “Fuck 2019; die already?!” as your word(s) for this year? Because what in unholy hell would you POSSIBLY choose to close the book on 2020?!

    I shudder to think.

    1. I am honoured that you are re-toxing with my blog, though I would caution you to pace yourself, or you’ll be turned off of social media again!

      I suspect a lot of people will be saying fuck2020 at the end of this year, and I don’t want to sound like a deluded ignorant, but I’m trying to focus on what’s been good about this year (there are some things!) while allowing myself the odd meltdown of course. Because what if by this time next year we’re looking back at 2020 as the good ol’ days? Anything is possible!

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