A Break From Authenticity

Last night I picked up my copy of Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. This book has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for almost three years.  My mandate to begin “Living Authentically” started shortly after I read Brené’s earlier published book, The Gifts of Imperfection. Since moving, starting residency, and having another baby, my goal to read Daring Greatly kept getting pushed to the bottom of my list.  Within the midst of my current existential life crisis, I decided it was time to pick up the book and stare Wholeheartedness right in the face.

I didn’t even get through the prologue before realizing that I no longer live, or even embody, the qualities of wholeheartedness and authenticity.  Maybe I used to, but in the struggle to keep up and keep going, I’ve let these important aspects of my life fall to the side.

Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection

~Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

The one thing I know for sure is that right now, I have no clarity of my purpose.  I am filled with fear and disconnection from my life and my purpose.  I feel confused and I lack direction because my viewpoint on life is clouded by outside expectations, judgement, and comparison.  My internal dialogue is lost and disguised by everything that defines fear and vulnerability.  These definitions were very well delineated by Brené Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection and I know that reading that book changed my life.  I blogged about that change on the old blog and I will find that post to re-post here in the coming days.

Ironically, The introduction to Daring Greatly literally reminded me of these imperfections and what needs to be shed from my life:
1. Letting go of what people think
2. Letting go of perfectionism
3. Letting go of numbing and powerlessness
4. Letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark
5. Letting go of the need for certainty
6. Letting go of comparison
7. Letting go of exhaustion of a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
8. Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle
9. Letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
10. Letting go of being cool and “always in control”

Each of these ten imperfections, every single one of them, comprise the mental roadblocks that I am struggling with right now.  These imperfections are preventing me from committing to the decisions I am faced with in my life today.  I need to lean-in to my fears and rediscover my vulnerabilities.  I need to embrace them and re-discover my own authenticity

 

Ready For Christmas

December has been a whirlwind month. I feel bad for not blogging in almost a whole month. However, it’s been tough keeping my head up over the past few weeks. Today we are on our way out of town in preparation for Christmas. It is going to be another crazy 5 days, but at least I’m off work and spending time with my family. I’m hoping to get a few more blog posts in over the next few days. But here is a quick summary of the last few weeks:
I had a week of vacation where I managed to get a significant amount of baking and reading done. Hopefully in the next few days I will get a chance to post about my reading adventures. I managed to read 3 books in December, thanks to my week of vacation, which means I accomplished my goal of reading 12 books in 2015!
I went back to work and, again, struggled with the challenge of feeling like I’m not quite in the right place in life. Work is so busy, demanding, and tiring, and it makes me really question if I’m doing the right things with my life. 
Pregnancy has continued to be exhausting. I am almost 20 weeks pregnant now, which means that I am getting bigger, gaining more weight, and feeling more uncomfortable. The first few days back after my vacation I was feeling a lot of cramping and that was stressful. Thankfully it was only that – no bleeding, no contractions, no broken water. I think that the worst part of my job these days is seeing all the bad and unfortunate pregnancy outcomes. This week alone I think I dealt with at least 4 or 5 peri-viable (22-23 week) broken waters or deliveries. It’s been hard to see that happening. 
After all those difficult outcomes at work, the worst thing an anxious, pregnant mom of two boys could do is plan an anatomy ultrasound for the morning that her Christmas Vacation starts. After a tense hour of having a stranger smear gel over my swollen belly and take hundreds of pictures of my unborn baby without saying a single word, it turnes out that everything looks okay! Normal anatomy (including heart, spine, and palate), high anterior placenta, long, closed cervix… And, it’s a Girl! 

 

Vulnerability Struggle

Today I am leaving for a conference and I have a 4 hour plane ride.  I am bringing Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly with me, as it is the one book of her’s that I have yet to finish reading.

I have found this path of living authentically and with vulnerability has become increasingly challenging.  Lately, I feel like it has been getting me more into “trouble” than benefitting me in any way.  As I’ve opened myself up to vulnerability and allowed myself to appear more “human” and “real” in my everyday life, I have really just opened myself up to more criticism.  I really feel like the world (at least my world) is not ready for this style of living.

I know that the biggest challenge I have with this way of living is that I am currently in limbo between a “real life job” as a physician and the “dependence and judgment” of being a student.  I have chosen this lifestyle for myself for the next 4ish years (I am already 1.5 years into it).  I have allowed myself to be open and honest in certain forums and settings about the struggles I have as a parent, as a hard working mom, and as a physician.  Unfortunately, that has mostly led me to receive comments or criticism about “not appearing happy,” or “being to open.”  I find this makes me feel bad about myself and the decisions I have made.

I feel like instead of standing out as an authentic person, I am struggling to defend myself against criticism. I am hoping that revisiting the origin of my authenticity movement will give me renewed strength and perserverence. Or perhaps it might even guide me back in the gout direction, if it turns out that maybe I have strayed from the right course. 

On To Book 10

  
This weekend I am off on a quick “all expenses paid” trip to an Oceanside side city for a conference planning meeting. I’m not as keen on going as I was two months ago when I agreed to the trip; I am tired and nauseous and I just want to lay low and sleep. 

Regardless, I am committed and I’m going to make the best of it. The hotel is right next to the ocean, so hopefully I’ll get in a beach walk. But even more exciting, is probably the opportunity for some time to myself: to do anything I want!

This book has been burning a hole in my bookshelf for a long, long time. I’m excited to get into it and see how much I can read over this weekend!  

Here’s to 2015’s Book #10!

“This is Happy” – Book Review

It has been a long time since I’ve started and completed a book in less than 4 days.  This is Happy by Camilla Gibb is one book that had me captivated from the first few pages right until the acknowledgements at the end of the book.

I don’t know where to start with my review of this book, except to say that it is simple yet profound all at the same time.  In 270 odd pages she manages to tell the story of her entire life, from her early childhood to her current life. It seems like a short amount of space to dedicate to almost 40 years of a person’s life.  However, she manages to capture everything that is meaningful, powerful, emotional, and human while succinctly conveying the struggles and triumphs of her life.

I feel like the biggest reason I was so captivated by the simple and straightforward writing in this book was because sometimes I felt like she was describing the exact same emotional and mental struggles that I, myself have had throughout my life.  Camilla Gibb shamelessly recounts her multiple struggles with depression, including her hospitalizations.  She discusses the mental health struggles of her family members, the rise and fall of her relationship and marriage to her wife, her sudden and unpredictable desire to have a child, her failed pregnancy, and then her successful pregnancy… all that and more.

What I found most profound was her struggles with pregnancy and parenthood; specifically, how she felt so drawn towards having a child and then spent her entire pregnancy wondering how she was going to love and care for her child.  After the birth of her daughter, she continues this emotional journey and expresses her fear of having to “be alone” with her daughter – like she doesn’t know if her version of parenthood and the emotions she feels towards to role are proper and acceptable.  Yet, she feels compelled to try again for another child.

For the first time I feel I have finally read an expression of parenthood that is similar to how I can feel at various moments in my life.  Instead of the overwhelming “Mommy Wars” that I see happening everywhere around me, I have found someone who expresses their fears, uncertainties, and truths associated with parenting: Am I doing this right?  Am I doing it for the right reasons? And, is it okay to feel like I’m not doing it right?

Camilla Gibb’s recollection of her struggles with parenthood is only one of the moments that seemed to parallel my life.  It seems most pronounced now, given my recently new pregnancy and all the uncertainty I feel around a decision that I thought I was happy to make.  Some other important parallels I found including the sudden and somewhat unexplained loss of an important relationship in her life.  While she desribes the rise and fall of her relationship with her wife, I can claim a similar emotional experience in the rise and fall of my relationship with my old friend and mentor, Kay.  Another area that is overwhelmingly familiar: the constant struggle from an early age with the dark and unpredictable tendrils of depression.  Camilla’s rendition of her multiple struggles with depression throughout her life seemed to echo strongly inside of me.

And yet, with all of this difficult times written out on paper and shared with the harsh and unforgiving world, she made the decision to title her book, “This is Happy.”  This is Happy: struggles with depression, anxieties and uncertainties around parenthood, loss of relationships, mental illness… But there is also the beauty of her life that shines though: Her Daughter.  Those unexpected relationships that she formed in her life and became the most meaningful and influential.  Her success in life, academically and as a writer.  She is someone who made her life what she wanted it to be, despite everything that she struggled to overcome.

This book resonated with me in ways that I am still discovering, even as I write this review.  Life is messy, unforgiving, full of struggle and heartache.  Despite all of that, however, life is beautiful, meaningful, rewarding… and Happy.

The 9th Book

I am sitting in the children’s section of my local bookstore, watching my boys play with the Thomas train set and drinking a new fall specialty drink – a cinnamon chai tea latte. I came here to buy a new book. 

I really don’t need a new book, seeing as how I currently have two unfinished books on my night table and a pile of unread books in my closet, patiently waiting for me to delve into them. However, I saw this book show up on my Facebook feed yesterday, and I knew I needed t read it.

 I read “Sweetness in the Belly” many years ago and I remember the beauty of it today. I still recommend it to people when asked if I have any good book recommendations. I came here to the bookstore to look at the book, read its cover flaps and it’s praise and then make a decision. 

To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul

~Simone Weil

This quote, which serves as a sort of prologue to this book, spoke to me and expressed the necessity of this book in my life – right now. 

In January I made a goal for myself to read 12 books in 2015, one per month. I was doing extremely well and The purpose of my goal was being fulfilled: I was rediscovering my love of reading and the literary arts. When life got busy, and complicated, and stressful in July, I had abandoned all the goals I had set for myself. Immediately prior to that, though, I commented on my old blog that I was ahead of my reading goal having read 8 books in the first 6 months of the year. I postulated that, perhaps, I could read 14 or 15 books this year instead of just 12.  Alas, I have not completed any books in the past two months. But since I was two books ahead, I am still on track to complete my original goal of 12 books in 12 months. 

It is time to pick up the pieces of my shattered goals and move forward. 

“This is Happy,” by Camilla Gibb will be my book #9. 

Decluttering Life

A few weeks ago I started reading this book about Tiding and Decluttering.  It’s amazing how reading a book about cleaning and throwing out “junk” could make you itch to start cleaning.  For weeks I was getting more and more irritated by the clutter in my house and all I could think about was finding time to actually get started on the decluttering.

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At the Beginning

Last weekend I actually had some time to get my decluttering project started.  Marie Kondo recommends starting with all the clothes in your house.  Ans when she says “all,” she means ALL.  So, I got together all my clothing, including the clothes in my closet and drawers, my clothing in my husband’s closet, and all my winter clothes down in our basement storage closet.  I spread all of these clothes on the floor in our living room and I just looked.  I knew I had a lot of clothing, but I had no idea it was that much.  I took a moment to reflect on he rules and suggestions about paring down my wardrobe that I had read in the book.  My preliminary guidelines were as follows: 1.  If I haven’t worn it in the last year,  2. if at any time I thought about wearing it and then didn’t because I didn’t like it for some reason, and 3. If it didn’t “inspire Joy” when I held it in my hands.

Clothes for Donation

Clothes for Donation

After going through the pile of clothing twice, and then a third time as I placed what I decided to keep into my closet and drawers, I realized that decluttering my clothing was just the beginning of an amazing journey.  I was amazed at how much lighter I felt just knowing that I had removed so much unwanted-ness from my closet.  I longed to do more – She was right: once you start declutttering, you don’t want to stop.  Unfortunately, the weekend was over and the next task will have to wait until I have another free block of time.  While I still feel disturbed by the clutter and disorganization in the rest of my house, I at least had something done and the decluttering itch was satisfied for a brief moment.