. . . and it has only taken me a week to complete it! People ask me how I have time to blog. Now you know. It's 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there. And sometimes those 10 minute and 15 minute pockets of time are several days apart. This final list has taken me two days to complete! Oh well. Without further ado. . . I'm taking what I learned from Brene Brown's book The Gifts of Imperfection, about wholehearted living. She says there are ten steps to living a wholehearted life. Although you really just need to read the book :), I will tell you the basics and what I learned:
25) Cultivating Authenticity; Letting Go of What People Think.
"Authenticity is a collection of choices we make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen."
Make authenticity the goal, not acceptance or approval.
Authenticity, in my dress, my words, my actions, and my priorities, has become an overarching goal for my life. I want to be the same person no matter who I am with, where I am, in whatever circumstances I find myself. This is requiring a lot of courage for me lately because I have realized that in person, in a conversation, I tend to just say what the other person wants to hear. I agree a lot. Nod my head. And usually at the time, it doesn't feel like deceit. I do want the person to feel comfortable and the truth is, I haven't really digested what they've said. Later, I always go back over conversations in my head, and that is when I realize either I agree or disagree with what they have said. At that point I could write a book on how I feel, so usually in writing I am 100% authentic whereas in person I just agree and nod. I plan to change this about myself, but after spending 35 years like that, it's not going to happen overnight. Blogging has helped me a lot. In the beginning, I was editing what I was writing based on who I thought was reading. It has become my goal to say what is on my heart, regardless of who may or may not be reading.
26) Cultivating Self-Compassion; Letting Go of Perfectionism
In the struggle with body image, for instance, that most women deal with, there is a difference between perfectionism and healthy striving. For example, perfectionism self-talk: "Ugh. Nothing fits. I am fat and ugly. I'm ashamed of how I look. I need to be different than I am right now to be worthy of love and acceptance." Healthy striving self-talk: "I want to feel better and be healthier. The scale doesn't dictate whether I am worthy of love and acceptance. Because I am worthy, I can make healthier choices." While reading this book, I developed a declaration in this area: The choices I make regarding my diet and fitness will be choices that lead to a healthier, stronger, more capable me, because I am worth it. I will not make choices in these areas based on fear or a desire to win approval and admiration. I am so much more than my body. Healthy > Skinny.
27) Cultivating a Resilient Spirit; Letting Go of Numbness and Powerlessness
This has to do with cultivating hope in the midst of any circumstance, and with dealing with what truly is, not avoiding it or numbing it. With feeling all of life and all it's emotions, in a hopeful way. With choosing NOT to run away.
Hope is not a feeling; it is a way of thinking or a cognitive process. It says, This is hard, but I can do it. The way I cultivate hope is to fill my mind with God's promises, like "I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me." -Philippians 4:13 and by asking the God of all hope to fill me with hope. I avoid the powerless feeling that Martin Luther King Jr described as "the feeling that we cannot affect change" by reminding myself that God has indeed EMPOWERED me by His Spirit to affect change and renewal and growth in my life.
The other part of this, about numbing emotions, really spoke to me. Most of us engage in some type of numbing behavior, whether consciously or subconsciously. Eating. Watching hours of TV. Caffeine. Alcohol. Pills to help us sleep. Pills to make us feel better. Avoiding people, avoiding difficult conversations. These things take the edge off vulnerability, pain, and discomfort. But the thing is, we cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the negative emotions, we also numb the positive emotions. We end up being like zombies. If we want to truly feel the ecstasy of joy, we have to let ourselves feel the pain and sadness too. We cannot avoid emotion if we want to live a wholehearted life. I like this quote from Terri St. Cloud, "She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful."
28) Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
Before our feet even hit the floor, most of us start our days with feelings of scarcity. I didn't get enough sleep. I have so much to do. I slept too late, now I'm out of time. We constantly feel behind. We have to change that self talk to, I got enough, I have enough, I am enough for this day. My sufficiency is in Christ, the All Sufficient One. I like the verse in 1 Timothy that talks about the "living God, who gives us all things richly to enjoy." One way I remind myself of the things I am thankful for is by taking pictures. It's easy to let images of beauty and joy pass by in our peripheral. When I stop to take a picture of something I find beautiful in my day, time seems to stop for a moment and I only focus on that. This gives me a joyful spirit. It's a consciousness, an internal choosing of the way we think about our circumstances. I like this quote from the book: "The Greek word for joy is chairo. Chairo was described by the ancient Greeks as 'the good mood of the soul'. Chairo is something, the ancient Greeks tell us, that is found only in God and comes with virtue and wisdom. It isn't a beginner's virtue; it comes as a culmination. They say its opposite is not sadness, but FEAR."
29) Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith; Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
This one seemed like one I had "down pat" when I first read it, because I've always been gifted with faith. Childlike faith. I am the opposite of those scientifically-minded people who have to figure out the how of God. If He says it, I believe it. I also have no problem trusting other people. This can get me into trouble sometimes. I trust people and believe the absolute best of them until proven otherwise; sometimes proven otherwise time and time again. :) The most trouble I have with this one is usually in trusting myself. I've grown the most in this area with my parenting. With my first child, I did exactly verbatim whatever the pediatrician or the parenting book said to do. I never asked myself what I thought about it, because I assumed that "the experts" knew how to parent better than I did. Over the years I have come to believe that when God gives you a child, He gives you instinctively everything you need to know how to parent that child. His Word says that He gives us "everything we need for LIFE and godliness". Part of life is parenting. I have come to trust my own parenting advice. And 99.9% of the time, it's right on. For me and my children anyway.
30) Cultivating Creativity; Letting Go of Comparison
Time for art and music and free expression has become as important in our home as reading, writing, and arithmetic. I see the fruits of it and I love it.
31) Cultivating Play and Rest; Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
We all probably know by now that research shows, if you don't take time to rest, your brain eventually can't function and your body suffers greatly. Play is also essential to our mental health. I read a study once done in I think it was Sweden, where students really excel academically. Researchers found that it is because for every 45 minutes of schoolwork, the students played outside for 15. We do it like this: we go outside in the mornings and play, then come in for 2 hours of school. We go back out in the middle of the day and play again, then come in for the other 2 hours of school. We go back out in the afternoon when we are done. So three times a day, we take a mental play break. And I have found that when we are doing school, their attention is way better.
32) Cultivating Calm and Stillness; Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
This has also become a "big one" for our family. We decided a few years ago that we would commit to being involved with very little as a family. Because we realized there are very few things that are worth the time and energy involved. Bob Goff (author of Love Does), said that he quits something every Thursday. :) For awhile, we were doing that. We quit AWANA. Then AHG meetings. Then Wednesday night activities. The last one to go was orchestra. All very good things, but all things that were leading to stress and just weren't working for our family and the way we wanted to live. Now, unless we have something come up that we decide works for us, we don't have to be anywhere at any certain time, all week long, except for Fridays. We end up having a lot more time for the things that do matter. Breastfeeding goes better when I'm not rushing from place to place. I can stop and talk about that character issue that needs work instead of just shouting, "Stop that!" on our way to a rehearsal or practice. In the evenings, our family is together instead of divided two or three different places. It's the way we have chosen to live, even though at times it means we miss out on something. I think ultimately there is nothing we're "missing out" on. I heard once that you have to learn to say no, unapologetically. And the way to do that is to have a bigger "yes" burning on the inside. Our "bigger yes" is lots of quality time as a family.
33) Cultivating Meaningful Work; Letting Go of Self-Doubt and "Supposed To"
I liked this one because Ms. Brown talked about giving yourself a "slash title". Accountant/Writer/Jewelry Maker/Wife. Or, Engineer/Musician/Lover of Books. We realize that we are more than just what we do 9-5. If we make great fajitas or can juggle or enjoy hiking, we can make that part of our title as well as what we "officially" do or what we are "supposed" to do. I am thinking on my slash title. It will probably go something like Woman/Wife/Mother/Daughter/Sister/Friend/Teacher/Goatherdress/Gardener/Blogger/Music Lover/One Who Laughs. :)
34) Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance; Letting Go of Being Cool and "Always in Control"
This one is pretty self-explanatory. One interesting thing I read about this was, "Until we teach our children that they need to be concerned with how they look or what other people think, they dance. They even dance naked. Not always gracefully or with the beat, but always with joy and pleasure. And what one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever." And another quote, "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." -from the film Almost Famous. The challenge from Brene Brown was to make themed playlists for your ipod, and spend 5 minutes every day dancing. I'm taking the challenge!
35) I'm pretty thrilled that my almost-thirteen-year-old Allie Grace has recently chosen, completely voluntarily, to match her mother. :) When we were getting ready for the beach, I went to Target and found this swimsuit. A few days later, we realized Allie also needed a new swimsuit, so I let her go find one she liked while I shopped in a different section with the littles. She came back with a swimsuit identical to mine. "You do realize that's the same one I have, don't you?" I asked. "Yeah. Oh wait, you don't want to match me? Is that okay?" she replied. Yes, baby girl, that is O.KAY. :)
A few weeks later, we had a Mother-Daughter Tea Party (her idea!), and ahead of time she and Brian secretly ordered us matching dresses for the event. And not just any matching dresses, either. Two years ago, around Christmastime, I was again, in Target, and found this amazing dress that I just LOVED but could not afford (it was nearly $100. I wasn't asking for it at Christmastime.) I told them about this beautiful "watercolor dress" that was all poofy in the hips just like the 1950's and how I would love to have it. Well, they remembered! And they found matching ones at some thrift store online for like $5 each. I actually didn't get a picture of us matching that day, but here is the dress and she has one identical to it. :)