Saturday, January 22, 2011



Happy Saturday! I had kind of an aha moment this morning I thought I'd like to share here. I've been thoroughly enjoying the Winter Dream Lab's exploration of Brene Brown's amazing work around shame, especially focusing on her book The Gifts of Imperfection. I love the subtitle: "Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are." There's a challenge!

So our activity a couple of weeks ago was to write ourselves a letter from the "oldest, wisest and most kind" version of ourself as an exercise in developing self-compassion. As part of this letter we were asked to list three things we gave ourselves permission to do this winter. Suprisingly I had no problem coming up with three things I'd like to give myself permission to do forever, no expiration date. They are:

1. Be lazy

2. Make mistakes

3. Let people down

This list hits every shame button for me. How in the world could I be giving myself permission to do these three totally forbidden things? What kind of loser do I want to become? But, come on, don't we all do these things all the time, even with our best intentions? Or at least the last two? How about giving ourselves permission that these things will happen, so we don't have to beat ourselves up on top of having things go wrong.

There's a great Buddhist quotation that I love about life being one continuous mistake. That's how we learn. We try something and if that doesn't work, then we try something else. To think that won't happen is to set oneself up for a lot of frustration. I mean, seriously, this is even how scientists do their research. So I'm ready to acknowledge this and embrace it, despite my hard-wired perfectionism. (Love Jon Bernie's discussion of this in a recent talk.)

The third permission is another big one for me. I tend to be a people-pleaser. I'm an enneagram 9 - I want everyone to be happy. And I will do that at the risk of my own happiness. But really, how useful is this? And how in the world can we please everyone? That's crazy. So I'm officially giving myself permission to let this go, as much as I can. (Cheryl Richardson is a great role model for me on this.)

Lazy. Lazy is a really deep one for me. Growing up I received some shaming feedback about being lazy. I think there was a fear on the part of some very well-meaning adults in my life about my introversion and natural interest in quiet things, like drawing, reading, dreaming, listening to music. They wanted me to get out of my room, to go do something that would make them more comfortable about my social skills. There was a lot of emphasis on getting me out of my shell. Or at least that's how it felt.

But the truth of the matter is that I'm a naturally quiet person. I feel deeply and life can be overwhelming. I need time and space to take it all in. Going to school 5 days a week was enough of other people. I'm still this way, although I think most people would say I'm a fairly well-adjusted person. I can't tell you how affirming it was to read these lines in author Kris Carr's interview on Susannah Conway's wonderful blog this week about what nourishes her soul:

My dog Lola and my husband and my privacy. I really love being with people, but I really, really love being alone with Kris. If I don’t give myself time to think and dream and talk in the mirror, then I get lonely and blue. I need me.

Yes! So, this morning I found myself curled up in bed with Brene's book and I looked over at the ficus tree in our bedroom and I totally flashed to my teenage bedroom and the hours I spent about 25 years ago, reading and dreaming, looking at a different ficus tree. You know those time warp moments where you're both here and there? And I was able to totally be that teenage self and my middle-age self and to know that I am alright. To see the misunderstood bits as my strengths. To celebrate the journey I've been on. And to see the love, even in the misunderstanding. We truly are all doing our best. The concern was an expression of love, but I can let it go. I can let myself be lazy. (Thich Nhat Hanh's lazy days are great inspiration for me.)