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?
Readying for school this morning is proving stressful. Miss Bookworm (10 years) says she is going to move back to New Zealand as soon as she’s old enough. She’s struggling to settle into school, mostly because she hasn’t found any special friends to connect with yet. She tells me she is behind all her classmates in her learning, particularly in maths. She keeps sending me accusatory looks while making her breakfast and lunch, like I am to blame for all her troubles. I know she doesn’t really mean that, but either way it’s hard to see her struggling.
After seeing the children off to school I decide that, rather than doing housework, I will take my camera and go for a walk for the hour I have free. I head towards my favourite lookout point which is just 3 minutes from our house. I snap a few photos of the sunlight on the bay and some nearby birds before heading down to the beach.
I pause often, taking more photographs of the sea, birds and waves crashing on the landing as the tide comes in. All the while I can feel my soul being refreshed, the stress of the morning draining away. Eventually I head up some steps to the cliff top and stand for a moment to catch my breath. I look out over the bay reflecting…and feeling completely blessed.
I listen to the waves on the beach, feel the wind blowing my hair, and observe the silvery light of the sun on the bay. I think about how far removed my little corner of the world is from the wars, killing and hatred that seem to abound in other places all around our planet. I think about how it would be so good if collectively we could focus on what really matters: we are all inter-connected, all human.
It’s not about race, religion, the roles we play or our outward appearance. We are all souls and we all want connection, love, and to belong. But isn’t it so easy to get caught up in our own little worlds: the stresses and dramas of raising children, working to make ends meet, etc? Sometimes we forget to take a step back to look at the bigger picture, to really get an understanding of ourselves and why we are here.
When I think of all the pain and suffering being experienced around the world I wonder what I can do in my little corner of it. It’s easy to feel really helpless. But perhaps in our day to day interactions with those around us we can spread a message by the way we live. A message of respect for our fellow man, even if we think differently or believe different things. This pulling down of others, exclusion of others, and this us vs them mentality – it only causes more conflict and hostility.
It boggles the mind that after all these millennia we still don’t get it, we still haven’t figured out how to live in peace and harmony TOGETHER. But let’s not stop trying. Let’s see if perhaps we can make a difference in our little corners. And I think to be able to do that, we need to find ways to refresh our own souls, to find contentment and peace in who we are. Not looking outwardly for validation or love, but learning to love ourselves first. As we take care of ourselves first we will have what we need to love others better.
I’ve discovered recently that taking walks and photographs in the fresh air nourishes and revives my soul. It helps me to stay grounded and peaceful in the midst of my busy life. I am learning to make it a priority and I’m so glad that I did today.
What nourishes you? What are you going to do today to take care of you?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.