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Archive for October, 2013

Gifts of Imperfection

Yesterday I began an e-course with Brené Brown, “The Gifts of Imperfection,” and the first reading shined a light into a dark corner of my life. When I was a kid, I suffered horribly from homesickness. I rarely made it through a neighborhood sleepover. As my friends fell asleep, I would grow increasingly nauseated until I’d scoop up my pillow, sprint across two or three back yards, and burst through my own front door, breathless but safe. I would crawl shamefully into my bed and fall sleep without ever waking my parents.

As I grew older and my friends lived blocks away instead of one or two doors down, I usually gutted it out. But as the nausea set in, I would cease having fun and go to bed early. After they thought I was asleep, my friends discussed what was wrong with me.

Memories of visits to Grandma’s house include the coffee can by my bed for when I got sick in the night. I never went to overnight camps nor on vacation with my friends. In high school I passed up a French Club trip to Paris and worried constantly about going away to college. I was apprehensive about marriage, sure that I wouldn’t survive that first night away from home without throwing up.

I never did go away to college. I somehow averted disaster by redefining “home” when I got married. I continued to suffer from “travel anxiety” (my grown up term for homesickness) well into my 40s and still experience significant twinges of discomfort the week before any travel that involves an overnight stay.

As an adult, I’ve done a good job of overcoming the problem, but this morning I realized I still have the lingering belief that “there’s something wrong with me.” I still find myself feeling the shame of the 10-year-old who pretended to be asleep as her playmates attempted to diagnose her malady.

As my “Year of Acceptance” moves into its final quarter, I find myself wondering if I can develop some understanding and compassion for my Homesick Self. I think I may be ready to release half a century of judgment, disgust, and impatience. Instead of berating the trait, I wonder if I can find The Gift in this particular Imperfection.

I’ll be carrying that intention with me during the next six weeks as I work my way through Brené Brown’s e-course.

If you’d like to join me, there’s still time to sign up for the class. Registration ends Wednesday, October 23. The cost is $79.99. Click this link for more information: http://www.oprah.com/brenebrown

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White Kitty

As I closed the cottage door behind me this morning, I heard a noise inside. When I looked, I was stunned. Oh, no! White Kitty on the floor in a hundred pieces!

A very young part of me began to cry. The three-year-old who had received it as a gift from her Daddy, was in shock and overwhelmed with raw grief.

As I swept the floor, I remembered the many shelves upon which White Kitty had been displayed over the decades. Never packed away for safe keeping, she went from my childhood dresser, to my teenage desk, to my newlywed hutch. She watched over Baby Britain from the changing table, spent several years on the living room fireplace mantle, and did a stint in Mom’s sick room.

After Mom passed, I took White Kitty to the cottage to join several other memory-filled treasures. The grown-up part of me knows nothing lasts forever. She is sad but ready to move on. The three-year-old, though, is really struggling.

So I allowed that part of me to dig through the trash and put White Kitty’s head and the tip of her tail back on the shelf. Later, I got the urge to retrieve the rest of the big pieces and put them in a box. It just didn’t seem right to throw Kitty away like that. She needed to be honored, to be acknowledged for the 56 years of faithful service. A nice box, a few words, and a friend or two to help say goodbye.

Good grief! The three-year-old wants a funeral! I want to say, “Get real, girl! It’s just a ceramic figure!” But I would never say that to an actual three-year-old in pain. So, I am choosing not to say it to myself either. The fragile part of me deserves compassion, understanding, and most of all, some time to let go of a lifelong treasure.

So, I’ll leave the head on the shelf for a while and the rest of the pieces in the box. Showing compassion, tenderness, and love toward myself is a new practice for me. I’m not sure how this will unfold, but I do know, there’s no hurry. I will trust my heart to lead the way.

White Kitty's Head

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manuscropt pages

This blog was composed the old-fashioned way … handwritten on a legal pad.

Yesterday I read an article that claimed one in three Americans hadn’t used a pen in six months for anything but a signature. Could that be true? Have keyboards, tablets, and smart phones caused us to stop writing? Could be. I heard recently that schools are seriously considering no longer teaching “cursive” writing. It seems inconceivable that my multitude of handwritten journals will one day be totally illegible to most people. Like hieroglyphs.

The article went on to say that “handwriting switches on a cluster of brain cells, the reticular activating system, that engages the brain more deeply than typing.” It cited several studies that found handwriting stimulated creative ideas and improved memory. Seems we have a lot to lose by not writing.

I’ll admit, most of my composition (blogs, correspondence, emails, and even to-do lists) happens at the keyboard. Texting has replaced written notes. Facebook and emails have replaced letter writing. Nonetheless, I use my pens every single day. I own over a hundred writing instruments. My favorite for journaling is the Uniball Vision Elite (.5 mm, extra fine, blue, black, red, green, or purple). In the office, I prefer a .7 mm Uniball Vision (fine, in pink, blue or purple). And for my signature, I always use a Pentel Signature Pen: Bold and Blue.

I can attest to the therapeutic benefits of journaling. It causes me to focus my thoughts and drill down to the most important ideas, feelings, and concerns. I enjoy written conversation with myself, posing questions and providing thoughtful answers.

Around ten years ago I was engaged in that sort of exercise when I found myself admitting, “I don’t trust you! You say nasty things to me. You treat me like scum. Why should I cooperate with you? Why should I answer even one of your stupid questions?”

What emerged was a dialog of apology, accusation, and an intense exchange that ended in forgiveness and a written promise to myself that I have never broken. Sometimes I’ve considered breaking it, but I never have. I always remember the written promise, serious proof of my commitment to myself.

If there are things you need to tell yourself–promises, apologies, or thank you’s–consider putting it in writing and see if it makes a difference. Better yet, mail yourself a handwritten letter. When’s the last time you received one of those?!?

Signature

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