Featured Member of the Month: January 2019
Judy Keenan (center in picture) is the Deputy Director of a federal government civil rights agency and a former litigator who has been a member of Women of Culture for almost three years. I wanted to kick off 2019 by chatting with her because of her practice of choosing a word to focus on each new year.
Back in 2016, Judy had been recently widowed and was feeling generally stuck in her life. She didn’t know how to navigate her usual roles and responsibilities without her spouse and best friend by her side, and she was experiencing a social anxiety which had never plagued her in the past.
Instead of giving up, she decided it was time to shake things up and start moving forward in the new year. While a new year’s resolution felt like just another thing to add to her to-do list, choosing a word to focus on for the year felt like an easier and more inspiring way to make a shift.
Taking a cue from an improv class she had attended, she decided her word for 2017 was yes, and she spent the year saying “yes, and” to life. A self-proclaimed non-creative person, she did things she had not only never done before but which she had also never dreamt of doing. She began to say yes to new friends, relationships and experiences, and her attitude and experience of life completely shifted as a result. “I went from wishing I wasn’t alive to finding joy in many different parts of life,” she said.
Most notably, she said yes to going on a trip to the Iditarod in Alaska with a distant acquaintance and to attending a very artsy, no-alcohol sacred dance party at a yoga studio to celebrate the New Year — something so uncharacteristic that it shocked many of her oldest friends. But that New Year’s Eve party actually led her to a new relationship and even more new experiences, including making puppets for the NYC Halloween Parade and attending a Daybreaker dance party before work.
Her word for 2018, explore, inspired her to attend two silent retreats and to plan a trip to Italy, a country she had long dreamt of visiting. She said these intentions have helped her in her professional life as well. “Creativity is not my strong-suit,” she said, “but being more open to new possibilities and exploration has helped me think more creatively and become a better leader.”
“We can’t control life or those around us, we can only control how we respond and react,” she stated, noting that her word for 2019 is open. “If you’re open, there’s so much more you can learn.”
Even though the relationship she started during her year of yes has since ended, she is remaining open to new possibilities and reminds herself that, “when one door closes, another one opens — sometimes you just have to go find the opening.”
She said that being a part of Women of Culture has also helped her to say yes, explore and be more open over the past two years. “[This community] has helped me discover new art forms, such as dance, which I had never thought I would enjoy.”
“I love that the group is so diverse in age and race, and that the women come from many different walks of life,” which, she said, makes for more interesting conversation and helps deepen the experience. She also noted how welcoming the community is. “You are just as welcome the first time you attend an event as the ninth time you attend.”
We are certainly glad to have welcomed her to the community and are grateful for her constant enthusiasm, openness, willingness to explore — and to say yes!