Rising Strong

 

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I’m often amazed by how a book I’m reading speaks right into what I am living.

In January I shared what I encountered during my first Counselling Course weekend: On Finding Our Unique Voice. During the following three weeks I began to realize that yes, I am strong, but I can also hide behind my strength. And that is not such a good thing!

At this month’s workshop, almost immediately, the returning students were all speaking up and I soon realized that I don’t have to be strong in that room. I can be vulnerable and allow myself to feel things that I haven’t felt in years. During the course of the weekend I experienced sadness (tears rolling down my cheeks), vulnerability and even intense shame. Some of this shame was triggered by everyone laughing (in enjoyment) over my strange vowel sounds: think New Zealand accent in a room full of English ones. I knew in my head they weren’t laughing at me, but my body responded as if they were and it felt like déjà vu. The incredible thing for me was being able to stay in that room in that vulnerable state and then later share my vulnerability with a few of the others and feel totally supported. For the first time. Ever.

After the weekend I continued reading Rising Strong by Brené Brown and I just happened to be in chapter four, The Reckoning.

CURIOSITY is a SHIT-STARTER. BUT THAT’S OKAY. Sometimes we have to RUMBLE WITH A STORY to find the truth. p44

“One of the truisms of wholehearted living is You either walk into your story and own your truth, or you live outside of your story, hustling for your worthiness. Walking into a story about falling down can feel like being swallowed whole by emotion. Our bodies often respond before our conscious minds, and they are hardwired to protect – to run or fight. Even with small every day conflicts and disappointments, physical and emotional intolerance for discomfort is the primary reason we linger on the outskirts of our stories, never truly facing them or integrating them into our lives. We disengage to self-protect.” p46

Brené also writes: The rising strong reckoning has two deceptively simple parts: (1) engaging with our feelings, and (2) getting curious about the story behind the feelings – what emotions we’re experiencing and how they are connected to our thoughts and behaviors.

I realize that on my journey to where I am today I analyzed my painful past in my head and then moved on. Now I understand that it’s time I walk back into my story again, allowing myself to feel my emotions, get curious about them and integrate my past more fully into my present. I know it’s not going to be an easy process but I am rather excited about it.

Would you like to join me? Next time you feel strongly about something how about stopping a moment to get curious about your emotions and ask yourself some questions about what you are feeling and why. It might feel a little daunting but I believe the price of stuffing our emotions is much higher.

One of the big prices we pay for not rumbling with our story can be in our relationships with our children. Our theory for the second workshop was attachment styles and my tears were flowing as I realized how much I have let my children down because of what I haven’t known. If we didn’t receive what we needed emotionally from our parents then we will end up parenting in the same way. UNLESS we choose to go on a journey to find deeper self-understanding. So I’m choosing not to beat myself up for my failings because I know there is hope for me and for my children because I am choosing to invest time in both myself and in them in order to find healing together.

I can really recommend getting a copy of Rising Strong as Brené does a wonderfully gentle job of leading us through this challenging growth process. If you are intrigued as a parent or a future-parent-to-be and want to research further here is a little introduction: How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Parenting. I can also recommend another book I’ve just begun but already feel like raving about and that is: Parenting from the Inside Out – How a Deeper Self-Understanding can help you Raise Children who Thrive. I don’t know about you but that has always been the desire of my heart – to put wind under my children’s ‘wings’ to help them to fly far!

So, have you walked into your story yet? Or are you living outside of it and still hustling to find your worthiness? I am passionate, not only about walking this journey myself but also about supporting others on their journeys. I welcome you to contact me via my Contact Page. Looking forward to meeting you!

Elizabeth

The opposite of recognizing that we’re feeling something is denying our emotions. The opposite of being curious is disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending-to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends. p50

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Rediscovering Balance

FindingBalance

Two nights ago I picked up The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown again, my own copy purchased with Christmas money. Yes, it’s worth buying! As I read I felt my soul climbing out of the slump it’s been in lately. Feeling the lift in my spirit reminded me that to thrive I need to be learning and growing. I’m going to make sure I’m reading a learning book every day.

That night I was reading Guidepost #6 Cultivating Creativity, Letting go of Comparison. Looking back now nothing really stands out as being what inspired me so much. I think it was more the thoughts I was having as I was reading that were really inspiring me. Does that happen to you? I had already been thinking lately about how I want to encourage my children to have balance in their lives.

I recently bought The 7 Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey, recommended by another blogger, to read with my son. The seven habits are simplified for children, but important for us all. I wish my husband and I had been taught things like this when we were children.

Habit 7 is Sharpen the Saw: Balance Feels Best. Sophie Squirrel spends all her time reading (using her mind) and becomes really tired. Her mother tells her it is important to also use her heart, body and soul. “You use your heart when you play with your friends. You use your body when you exercise. You use your soul when you find something quiet to do that makes you feel fresh inside. You need to do all those things to get balance in your life.”

I love that advice. Don’t we all need to ‘feel fresh inside’? I believe that including creativity in our lives is an important part of balance.

“The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity. If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance, decorate, act, sing – it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re creating, we’re cultivating meaning.” p 96, The Gifts of Imperfection

I want to model balance for my children. Children are naturally creative – I want to support mine in the creative outlets they express interest in. I also want to show them what creativity looks like for me as an adult. Taking pictures and writing are the activities I’m most interested in these days. And walking out in nature (exercise!) with my camera is an activity that makes me feel fresh inside.

During a conversation with my Dad yesterday I realized that another part of the imbalance I’ve been feeling (the feeling like I’m under a cloud) has been that due to my illness I’ve not been keeping in touch with friends. Connecting with friends is vital to my sense of well-being.

In summary, I have realized that the following things are necessary for me to feel balanced, happy and at peace:

  • Reading inspiring books = learning and growing
  • Making time to connect with friends
  • Exercising/walking in nature
  • Being creative – with words and photography

It’s amazing the difference a few days can make to one’s outlook on life. I’m feeling so much more positive and at peace with where I’m at.

How about you? What ingredients are important for your sense of balance and peace?

Elizabeth

Creativity

Musings on My Current Read #1

My current ‘learning read’ is Brené Brown’s ‘The Gifts of Imperfection‘. I’ve been reading it for weeks now because I’ve got a little more on my plate than normal, but every time I pick it up I’m encouraged and validated.

I know many of you already know and love Brené’s work. I was first introduced by my Dad who encouraged me to watch her two Ted Talks on Vulnerability and Shame. Back then, almost two years ago now, I was struggling to come to terms with my mother’s betrayal and trying to understand how someone could be so deceptive as to create a false story and live it for so many years.

These talks did help me to answer some of my questions, particularly this comment in her shame talk: We’re pretty sure that the only people who don’t experience shame are people who have no capacity for connection or empathy.” That was huge for me and helped me with finding understanding of my mother’s actions and to accept that it was unlikely that she would change.

This was also great for my personal growth as it meant that I could finally give up the fantasy that Mum would change and my wonky belief that I could or needed to help her with that.  Finally I could move on with my own family and start to really live. Brené’s talk on Vulnerability inspired me to continue being open and vulnerable with others despite the risk of being hurt again.

I recently went looking for Rising Strong in our library system and didn’t find it (it’s still on my wishlist). I found The Gifts of Imperfection instead and am glad I did. It is in this book that Brené goes into more details about her shame and vulnerability research. She writes about 10 guideposts for wholehearted living: about Cultivating Authenticity, Self-Compassion, a Resilient Spirit, Gratitude and Joy, Intuition and Trusting Faith, Creativity, Play and Rest, Calm and Stillness, Meaningful Work, and Laughter, Song and Dance.

With these ten things to cultivate she talks about ten things to let go of: What People Think, Perfectionism, Numbing and Powerlessness, Scarcity and Fear of the Dark, the Need for Certainty, Comparison, Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth, Anxiety as a Lifestyle, Self-Doubt and “Supposed To” and Being Cool and “Always in Control’.

I’m reading Guidepost #3 about Cultivating a Resilient Spirit and I’m intrigued that she writes that spirituality is a necessary component for resilience. In the opening paragraph of the chapter, resilience is ‘the ability to overcome adversity’. We certainly all need a dose of resilience then, don’t we? I’ve encountered plenty of what I would call adversity in my life and I’m sure that the majority of people could say the same.

“Feelings of hopelessness, fear, blame, pain, discomfort, vulnerability, and disconnection sabotage resilience. The only experience that seems broad and fierce enough to combat a list like that is the belief that we’re all in this together and that something greater than us has the capacity to bring love and compassion into our lives.” from Guidepost #3, The Gifts of Imperfection

I can say that my early connection with a loving being has been a very large contributor to my being able to survive the trials I’ve had to date. My faith became personal to me about the age of 14 years and I have often experienced a presence that has helped me to feel that I’m not alone, that Someone greater than me cares about me and loves me. And I’ve seen evidence of this in countless ways.

These days I’m still pondering how this all fits in the larger scheme of things as I have moved away from organized religion. It’s been a process of letting go of the unhelpful pieces and holding on to the essence. But the essence of what? As I’m sure you can tell I’m still mulling over it all and I like to think that this will be a life-time challenge. I don’t think we are ever meant to have it all figured out!

Brené writes that the heart of spirituality is connection and that practicing spirituality is what brings healing and creates resilience. These points resonate with me and are true in my experience. It seems that having some form of spirituality is important for wholehearted living but Brené writes that she didn’t find that any one particular interpretation has a corner on the resilience market.

I just googled the meaning of spirituality and found this interesting article: What is Spirituality? It begins with “Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives.” I really like that as it helps me to better understand why I have moved away from religion but still consider my spirituality a vital part of who I am.

How about you? Is spirituality important in your life?