Today is my final post in this series on the book The Gifts of Imperfection. Three short sections to work through and then a wrap up /book review.
Calm and Stillness: Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle. Calmness is perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity. Stillness is time for meditation, prayer, quiet reflection, and alone time. Both of these are practices that give us an emotionally clutter free space.
Calmness — I am an “under-function-er” when it comes to stress, particularly emotional stress. Some people might take the bull by the horns, get all up in your business, and generally take charge. Sometimes whether or not you want all that help–in fact, usually without even thinking you might not want that.
I, on the other hand, I under-function: I get less competent under stress; I withdraw; I sleep; I hide. Meditation is very good for me. When I feel that first tingle of emotional stress, I take 3 deep breaths and if possible sit my butt down on blanket and breath some more. I’ve learned to say things like, “I need some time to think about that.” Email and texting are super awesome for someone like me. Nobody knows for sure when you see an email or text and so if it is an emotional land mine for me, I take a step away from my phone, sit down and breath, and then come back to it.
Stillness — There are two things that give structure to my day and also allow me time to be still. I start each day with a morning routine that includes the morning devotion and Bible reading from the Book of Common Prayer and then straight onto the floor for yoga and meditation (I use Headspace). Each day ends the same way, only in reverse–yoga, meditation, and then Compline (again from the Book of Common Prayer).
Meaningful Work: Meaningful work is sharing your gifts and talents with the world in whatever way you can. It doesn’t have to be sexy, it doesn’t have to be full of hustle, it just has to be something lifegiving for you and for others. For me, right now, meaningful work is helping my son through a difficult time; answering text after text from moms with kids recently diagnosed with ASD; writing this blog (that reaches all 4 of you 😉 ); and working with my parish on a grant project. None of these things brings a single penny to our family budget, but they are all lifegiving to me and I hope to others.
Laughter, Song & Dance: Letting go of being cool and always in control. Laughter, song and dance are three ancient forms of self-expression. Everyone does them and not everyone does them gracefully. They remind us we are not alone. I have my polite public laugh and then I have my “Oh my God, I’m snorting water through my nose and holding my sides, trying not to pee in my pants” laugh. Occasionally the signals get crossed and the public gets to witness me in full on laughter.
I can sing with the best of them. Unfortunately the best of them don’t want me singing out loud. I somehow missed the memo on how to make your voice do notes that are similar to the notes those around you are singing. So I mostly keep my singing to times when I am alone (although Kelly, Michael and Hannah have to listen — it’s in our family contract). There is nothing that lifts my spirits more than belting out a boy band song (or some classic Donny Osmond) while hoofing it up a hill on my walk or when scrubbing toilets or when cleaning the fridge (my two least favorite household tasks).
Church presents a unique form of torture for me . . . . Have you ever attended an Episcopal church service (or Anglican for my Brit readers)? Good Lord, they can sing. I think it must be something they put in the baptismal font, which would explain how I missed it, I was baptized Methodist. Dang! My heart wants to belt it out, but my brain says “hey man, step back, be cool, don’t kill Kathy (she sits in front of me) with that awfulness.”
I know, I know . . . The gifts of imperfection. Embrace your vulnerabilities. I’m trying, really I am. This book came to me at the perfect time. I’ve done a lot of soul work over the past 20 months and was ready to step beyond it. This book reaffirmed what my counselor from 30 years ago and my counselor from 20 months ago told me. The skill sets are the same. You are enough and your gifts of imperfection are those things that help you embrace your story.
Courage, Compassion, Connection:: My story matters because I matter.
**edited to add: Since I wrote this post in September, I’ve tried moving seats in church. This way nobody, especially Kathy, sits in front of me and I feel free to attempt a more vocal participation in the singing.**