I owe Alison Atlee so much for telling me about these Brene Brown Gifts of Imperfection classes. I took them because I was intrigued by what she was writing about her journal assignments and because I’d get to mess with art stuff, but they’ve had a tremendous impact on my life. I still have one lesson from the first course to finish and a few more miscellaneous Frumpy Bunnies and butterflies to put in, but my journal is mostly finished, with some blank pages at the end to fill in with new things as I think of them. I really love this journal, not just as a record of where I’ve been in the twelve classes but as a reminder to stay awake and alive. This is where I’ve been for the past four months, now where do I want to go?
The last lesson was a summing up: “My story matters because I matter.” This wasn’t a huge revelation to me–I’ve always thought I mattered–but the summing up gave me one final insight. The first part of the journal assignments was to write “My Wholehearted Life” at the top of a page and then list three commitments I’d discovered in the course that I would keep. Mine were “I will choose joy” (that’s been a big one for me all through the course), “I will pay attention,” “I will be the woman I’ve always wanted to be.” Those last two were new; they popped up as I was trying to think of the things that were most important to me.
The “I will pay attention” is a product of both the course and the to-do application Things. I think any To-Do app would have shown me the same things, but there’s something about the Things interface that really works for me. Basically, you make a list of the projects you have to do, break those down into small steps, give each step a date, and then work through your list each day. Except I have so much to do that when I finished listing everything, I saw that no person on earth could do all of that, hell, TWO people couldn’t finish my daily lists. So the first thing that Things taught me was to set rational goals. I’ve revised my lists at least three times and I’m still over-scheduled, but it doesn’t stress me out any more because I KNOW I’m over-scheduled. I’m working on understanding my life, and that’s taken all the stress out of it.
But the most important thing the app did for me was show me how to set up repeating daily tasks. “Take morning meds,” “Take evening meds,” “Get mail,” “Eat an apple,” “Move outside for fifteen minutes,” and more, the daily minutiae of life that because I live in my head so much, I forget, all of that shows up on my list daily, reminding me that I am not just a power source for a lap top. I spend so much time thinking and typing that I’m not present in my own life. I get distracted by the stress, overwhelmed by the work, I retreat into my head, and I miss how fantastic my life is: the beauty that surrounds me, the people I love, the simple things like taking a minute to watch the sun on the lake. My daily lists are a reminder that I’m not just a mind, I’m a body, too (take those meds, eat that apple, move that butt). Attention must be paid.
The last commitment was a little harder to think through after I wrote it down. It started with one of the pictures I’d taken for the self-portrait exercise. It’s still my mother’s tightlipped smile, but it’s funny and happy and I’d put rose-colored glasses on it and when I was looking for pictures for the lesson, I saw that and thought, “I’d like to be her.” She looked confident and happy and balanced. I’ve always wanted to be all of that. And then I thought, “Well, I can be if I stop flailing around and just BE her.” Then I found a Cory Loftis drawing of a jackalope with wings standing over a skull, and I stuck that on the facing page with some roses as a reminder that I have don’t have to be the person my parents wanted me to be, that woman who doesn’t laugh loudly and embarrass people, that in fact I can’t fit in and still be who I want to be. If you’re a jackalope with wings, you can’t feel like an outcast because you’re not a bunny. Some people are born bunnies and some people get the antlers and the skull, and I want to be the bunny with the antlers and the skull. So here are my commitment pages:
The second part of the journal assignment I changed. We were supposed to list three things to Watch Out For, things to give extra attention to. There was something about “Watch Out” that I didn’t like. I want to relax and accept life, not keep watch. They were also phrased as negatives, and I like positives. So I found a cats-eye glass frame image and wrote “Keep An Eye On” underneath that and then listed my three things to remember: “living in the now,” “breathing through the mania,” and “ignoring the dead voices in my head.” I stuck a jackalope on there, too, to remind myself that that’s how jackalopes do it.
The last Dig Deep was the most enlightening. The assignment was to pick out the one thing from this class that I really wanted to focus on. My first thought was “Choose joy,” because that’s been so important all the way through. But when I really thought about it, the thing I need to hold onto is “Pay attention.” This is my life. It’s not a practice run, I’m not gathering skills for later, my life is RIGHT NOW. Choosing joy, breathing through the mania, picturing normal before I lose it, all of that comes from living in the now, living in the moment. So I glued a line of alert jackalopes along the bottom of the page and wrote “I will pay attention” over them. If that’s the only thing these courses have given me, that alone is a life-changer.
So this is my last Imperfection Friday. Lani and Krissie are doing the course, too, so they may post here later, and Alison may come back once she gets out from under the workload that’s taken her away, and I hope they all do because I think everybody takes away different things from these lessons. Thank you for putting up with me for twelve weeks while I babbled on about myself; I find me endlessly fascinating but I realize that for a lot of you this was right up there with slides from my summer vacation. I really do recommend both courses, if only because you get to play with art supplies while you think about your life in different ways. Art supplies make everything better.