Jenny: Imperfection Friday: The Last Lesson

Last class.

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:

Jackalope

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.

Pay Attention

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.

24 thoughts on “Jenny: Imperfection Friday: The Last Lesson

  1. Kieran says:

    I love that you got so much out of the course!

    I just went to real age.com and found out my real age–that’s something to pay attention to. It wasn’t something I wanted to do at all. But I’m glad I did. I’m not as “young” as I’d hoped, but that gives me a lot of motivation to improve. I’m trying to do as you say–notice the small stuff. That includes how many brownies I eat and why I conveniently forgot to exercise today, etc.

    I’m listening to Dr. Oz’s YOU: STAYING YOUNG, and it’s another hefty motivation. We don’t have to resign ourselves to getting Uncle Harold’s heart disease. Genetics plays only 25% of a role in your health–75% is lifestyle choices, how you deal with the stuff outside your body. And we can *reverse* aging. Our bodies are meant to repair themselves. We can also slow down the rate of aging. That’s the key–slowing it down. And it’s possible. What I like is learning about how it actually happens.

    So anyway, I might try this Things app. I need to outline my schedule and stop winging everything and living on adrenaline.

    • Kieran says:

      Downloaded Things trial and immediately ran into issues as simple as not being able to delete a task that I mistakenly included in my inbox. Researched online in support groups looking for a manual, but there’s nothing. Everyone in the support group was lamenting the same thing–no detailed e- or print help guide. The creators ask you to contact them. That’s a pain. But I *do* like Things.

      I’m not sure that I’m going to pay the 50 bucks yet. I’ll keep messing with it, but the more I do, the more I hope that if I *buy* Things, they’ll let me slide all my hard work in the trial over to the permanent app.

      Have you had to email the Cultured Code people with questions, Jenny, and were they responsive?

  2. Theresa says:

    If anyone is interested in an app that just focuses on helping you stay on track with the daily routine stuff, I highly recommend HomeRoutines (just google homeroutines app). It’s specifically designed for what they call “repeaty stuff.”

  3. Not to worry, Jenny–I think we all got something out of going through this with you.

    That “Pay attention” thing is so important. The Buddhists talk a lot about being present in the moment, which is a place where I fall down a lot. I’m much better about not dwelling in the past (most of the time), but a lot of my head is racing around in the future, trying to plot and plan and control things I know I’m not going to be able to control. [HELLO-publishing.] I’m trying to work on being more present.

    And I’m glad I’m not the only one with a to-do list that causes hyperventilation and drinking…

  4. Terrie says:

    I have loved seeing the bits of this course surface. I’m always impressed by people who have both the wisdom and practicals skills themselves to open doors for others to walk freely into their own wisdom. Seeing what you have shared her has really been inspirational for me. And, yeah, I definitely want to take that class. Maybe sometime this coming year? Anyway, thanks for sharing your bits. It’s been lovely!

  5. Maine Betty says:

    I appreciate that you have shared this with us. It’s sparked a lot of reflection on my own life. And I enjoy your visual playfulness in how you’ve put together your book very much.

  6. Micki says:

    I loved seeing this process unfolded and laid out. Thanks for sharing it!

    (I’m sure your vacation slides are lovely to behold, too, especially if you are going to narrate them (-:.)

  7. This has been great, thanks for sharing. It inspired me to take a closer look at what I’ve been doing or not doing in my own life. And I love your jackalopes. One of my favorite restauraunts out here in the desert is The Jackalope Ranch. ; )

    I’m currently reading Deepak Chopra’s book, What are You Hungry For? The Chopra solution to permanent weight loss, well-being, and lightness of soul. If I can make those improvements, even tiny inroads I think that will make me a happier more content person.

  8. I’ve loved your sharing about going through this class. I’d like to take it, maybe after I have a stable income And art supplies DO make everything better! There’s very little I like better than wandering through an art supply store (or an office supply store), unless it’s BUYING supplies.

    I took a Brene Brown class a few years ago based on her second book dealing with shame. It was great, but it didn’t have much art.

    One of the things I’ve noticed with the things you’ve shared with us is that I would say the same or similar things you’ve put in your journal. I, too, tend to be an extension of my laptop or iPad, so lately I’ve taken to doing a little walk through the yard here. My housemate owns a largish house in an upscale neighborhood and has a very large yard on two levels, so there’s some room to walk and lots of plants to look at, most of which are currently in flower. Paying attention is essential to a well-lived life, in my opinion.

    Love your jackalopes!

  9. Ah, pay attention and I do that too – the live in my head to the loss of the whole who I am. Thank you and I am so taking this course right after all of the other things that I have scheduled {wink}. Well, really just one thing that I need to take first that I’ve been meaning to take for the last five years and now’s the time or rather this fall is the time.

    I love reading other peoples stuff because then I think about my own and I learn about me and people. No need to apologize.

  10. pamb says:

    Jenny, the people reading ReFab are *interested* in this kind of stuff or they would not be reading ReFab.

    We *like* your summer slides. 🙂

  11. Add me to the happy to follow along group. I have a friend who is also taking the course and she’s been nagging me to do it. I’m considering it, especially since after June 1 I’ll be off crazy deadline for the first time this year. I can breathe!

    Ironically, it’s the art aspect that sounds daunting to me, but maybe once I dive in I’ll find I’m artsier than I think I am.

  12. Lois says:

    I’m very glad that you have shared this class with us. It makes me think.
    I have missed doing creative things. I took a wax-stencil silk dyeing class. It was very brain exhausting, I had a terrible time with negative and positive space. After the first day I wasn’t sure I could make it through another 4 days but by the end I was disappointed it was ending. I gave myself permission to just learn, play and enjoy. It also included meditation and working in silence which enhanced the creativity.

    You do seem to be choosing joy 🙂

  13. Susanne says:

    Jenny, I think we find you endlessly fascinating, too! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Yesterday I looked into a dumpster (for work). It was kinda cool. I made it cool.

    Good luck with your lists.

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