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“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to 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.” ― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
A few weeks ago, a lovely woman recommended I watch Brené Brown’s TED talk on Vulnerability. This is powerful stuff and inspired me to purchase the audio version of The Gifts of Imperfection. So, why am I sharing this with you? The two played a significant role in the way I chose to share myself and my art with others this week.
A couple of weeks ago, I was asked by several of my team leaders to share Zentangle with our wider group – 50+ professional colleagues. I was excited to be asked as I feel Zentangle dovetails very well with some of our wider research on wellbeing, mindfulness and brain function. I got all the supplies, packed up my doc camera and a few other things I use for teaching and boarded the plane for Austin – easy, peasy. While on the plane and driving to the resort, I began listening to my audio book. The more I listened and thought about my upcoming classes, the more I realized I would have to expose my imperfections to all my team mates to truly allow them to understand the power of Zentangle and what it does for me. Anything less would be dishonest and completely inauthentic. Up until this week, I’ve held much of the full story closely guarded – especially from my professional network. The more I thought about it, the more certain and terrified I became.
So, on Tuesday of this week, I gathered my courage to tell my story three times to people I admire and respect. I taught them the value of Zentangle and the little bit of Zen that comes from putting pen to paper and making one stroke at a time. As always, there were wonderful surprises along the way for all of us. The best for me was when a team mate came to me to say how much he loved the lesson but the story behind it even more.
Somehow the lesson followed me to Friday. This time I was speaking to high school students about the dangers of distracted driving for the Sudden Impact program. My presentation centers around my experiences as the family member trying to take care of loved ones after they are involved in an accident. This was THE reason I started tangling, got my certification and now teach Zentangle. I’ve been speaking for this program since 2011, a few months after my family’s accident and I’ve learned to distance myself a bit as I tell the story. Even now, the emotions can be very raw. This time, I allowed some of that to show, bringing myself and several others to tears. One of the state troopers told me that was by far my most powerful presentation.
Saturday morning found me in an excellent workshop by Leslie Zann. Leslie is a powerful speaker and my Rodan+Fields team mates brought her to New Orleans to help us in our professional development. Her message was around courage to live your best life. Leslie shared her own story and I was struck by the parallels I saw in my own experiences over the past week. I was now on the receiving side of another person’s willingness to be imperfect and vulnerable. When she talked about courage, attitude, gratitude and overcoming fear, every one of us understood that she had lived it and come out the other side to help us do the same.
Think about it a bit, as will I, and step out of hiding. Even if it’s just a tiny stretch outside your comfort zone. None of us are alone in this life and sometimes we need to share our authentic self to remind ourselves and everyone else we are wonderful and perfect in our imperfection.
“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!”… Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!” ~Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! has always been a favorite of mine. As a child, I would begin scouring the TV Guide in the month of November for the one and only showing of my holiday favorites. Back then, you only got one shot at seeing them and then they were gone for another year.
I’ve always been like the Who’s – loving all things Christmas. I am the head cheerleader for Christmas in my family. Shopping for ornaments all year long, dressing my house in its holiday best and putting up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. But I also had a soft spot for the Grinch with his crabbiness and sour attitude. Even as a young child, I seemed to understand that Christmas could be a lonely, difficult time for some people. Imagine my dismay when I realized that for the first time in my life, I had much more in common with the Grinch than the Who’s.
This year I have struggled to find my Christmas spirit. When October came and I hadn’t bought the first ornament, I began to realize something was amiss. My husband will be working offshore for the holidays this year. Not having him home has always put a little damper on Christmas for me, but we just changed the date to celebrate while he was home and all was well. In order to do that this year, we had to move everything up by 10 days. Ongoing health problems for both daughters and me didn’t help matters. Discussions with my family were met with protests and general disbelief. When Thanksgiving came and went with no tree and no decorations, my family came to the realization that the orchestrator of all things Christmas at Chez Redmond was MIA.
A visit to my rheumatologist (a wonderful guy) resulted in a very strong recommendation to let go of the pressure to create the perfect Christmas. He asked “How can you pare it down to the things you love with the strongest meaning for you and your family and let the rest go for this year? You need to begin the process now because this will be truly unsustainable as you get older. There will come a time when you need to pass the torch.” He had a point. Each year we seem to try to do more, be more and make it perfect for all those we love. Over time, it builds to something that becomes unmanageable and burdensome. Something I know my family doesn’t want for me.
I was a little surprised at who stepped into the void – my husband. He pushed me to either abandon my big tree or come up with an easy, acceptable alternative. He shopped for the entire family and did a great job I might add. He helped with my version of a Christmas tree this year, wrapped gifts and cut and wrapped caramel without complaint. Best of all, he took everyone out to a local restaurant for a great family dinner to celebrate the holiday after we exchanged gifts.
Over the 35 years of our marriage, there have been many times when my husband has surprised me with little gestures that show how much he loves me and others when we found our roles in the marriage reversed. This was one of those times. I became the Grinch and he was the Who showing me the truest meaning of Christmas. Thanks, Babe!
While paging through a new book of inspirational quotes, this one seemed to jump off the page for me today. Ironically, Rick and Maria addressed this same subject in their blog recently. Perfectionism was something I worked hard to attain in my younger days. It sounded so important: “I am a perfectionist.” As I get older, and hopefully wiser, this doesn’t seem so good after all. That road is loaded with potholes, big and small. I’m getting tired of dodging them. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something.
Most of us love those perfectionists we encounter professionally. They are always on top of every little detail and seem to accomplish super-human levels of productivity. My family can tell you, living with a perfectionist is not always wine and roses. My husband will never let me forget the “sofa incident.” We were moving into a new house and buying our first new sofa in over fifteen years. We started looking when we broke ground for the house and were still looking when we moved in – with lawn chairs. I finally settled on one that had to be ordered and there was much rejoicing when it arrived. By everyone but me. There were some “lines” in the upholstery that did not match up. I would stare at the thing for hours and refused to sit on it. After about a week, he loaded it up and returned it. On the way home, he stopped at a furniture store and demanded I choose one. I was not allowed to look at anything with a pattern. We came home with a blue sofa that I never really liked very much. Over the years, I have tried to break this cycle. The problem lies with many years of perfecting the habit of perfectionism. I have made progress and now I mostly procrastinate. One more pothole on that road.
Last week, I got my shipment of the new black Zentangle tiles. I DO love black and white, so these tiles just called to me. What a quandary I was in, I had never worked on black and haven’t had much luck with the white pen when I tried it. Maybe I should wait a bit, think it over. After all, I would hate to mess up one of those lovely black tiles. By the weekend, I was pretty fed up with myself and decided to just dive in and see what happened. It wasn’t so bad, only one total reject in the batch. Riding the ripple in my puddle of success, I pulled out my markers and colored pens. Sue Jacobs shared her process for adding color and I had been thinking about using color for a few months. The first one is a real dud, but the others are not so bad. Just in case the universe is watching, the “learning tiles” are here too.