Introduction and Chapter 1
If you missed last week’s bookclub post, read it here. Basic guidelines, sample questions, and chapter spearheaders are outlined therein as are everyone's introductions in the comment section. Please take a few minutes (if you haven't already) and get to know your fellow bookclubbers!
Here we go!
I, for one, am completely in love with the term badassery. I think every single one of us, even if we don’t feel like it, is displaying our badassery by participating in this bookclub. We are taking a stand for ourselves and for our growth and continued emotional maturation by acknowledging that maybe we don’t always make the best decision or the wisest choice in how we behave or in how we use our words, especially when our feelings are hurt. Henceforth, however, we will no longer act out our hurt, we will no longer inflict pain on others (as unintentional as it sometimes is) or at least, we’re going to try really hard not to. We are taking this time to work on becoming our best selves and for that, we fucking rock. And we should remind each other of our badassery every chance we get.
This is also a good time to say that once in a while we may feel overcome with passion that requires the dropping of an f-bomb or two. I have no problem with this—especially when I’m saying how f-ing awesome we are—but I understand that this type of language can be offensive to some people. Let’s try to roll with the punches in this regard. If you can’t roll, please contact me privately to discuss.
Here are a couple of my big take-aways from the introduction:
First, that the whole point of going through this process, of understanding what it takes to rise strong is predicated on awareness of our thinking and of our reactions. I’ve been writing about mindfulness on this blog for a while now. As Brené says, we have choices in these moments that unfurl before us. Most of the time, it does not feel like we have a choice, but we do. The key is to work on expanding the invisible gap in our mind that exists between thought and action. The gap is where the gold is. Expanding the gap gives us a little bit of breathing room, a few seconds to process, to make a decision. The mechanism to widen the gap is mindfulness. By being aware, we develop a relationship with our thoughts and can then take personal responsibility. I have plenty of examples I can call forth with ease to talk about the less than stellar ways I’ve reacted to people and circumstances in my life, ignoring the gap. I plan to share some of them in the hope that doing so will reinforce the lessons we’re learning about how to make a different choice next time.
Second, that the outcome of doing this work will allow us to write our own brave endings to our stories. Ugh! I LOVE this idea. I LOVE the idea of being the architect of my life, as opposed to feeling like I’m being dragged along by a current that is stronger than I am. I could make plenty more points about the Intro, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll move on.
(I plan to talk about the death of expectations—a HUGE topic—at a later point in our journey.)
The rules of engagement for rising strong. I love them all, but there are two I want to mention in particular.
Rule 3. This journey belongs to no one but you; however, no one successfully goes it alone. For a long time during the journey of my daughter’s illness, I was convinced that no one in the world could possibly understand the pain I was experiencing, so I retreated. I retreated from almost everyone I knew. I can now say, categorically, that my initial thinking was false. Sadly, millions of people understand and all too well. My fascination here is that I wonder if the solitude we experience during these sorts of crises is, in fact, a necessary pre-cursor to being able to navigate the “unchartered regions.” I wonder if this sort of retreat is as fundamental in our body as is our fight or flight response in the face of danger. I’m not sure that if I hadn’t suffered so deeply in my solitude I would have turned to connection as a tool for healing. Courage, Compassion, Connection. I said these three words to myself over and over again and continue to say them still almost every day. I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t think I would appreciate the connections in my life as much as I do today had I not gone through the solitude I did. I would never have slogged my way out of the quagmire of my despair without the dear friends and family I allowed myself, finally, to turn to in my time of greatest need.
Rule 7. Comparative suffering is a function of fear and scarcity. How many times do you think you’ve done this? Told yourself to quit your pissing and moaning because everyone else’s problems are worse than your own. About a million? Maybe two? Yes, there are some really serious problems in the world, but you know what? Our problems are still our problems and they’re hard to deal with. If they’re serious to us, they’re serious, period. They make us sad and frustrated and angry and depressed and any other emotion we feel over them. They are no less valid than other people’s problems. I think this is so important! Don’t you? The opposite of scarcity is enough. I learned from Brené and continue to be reminded by reading her work that empathy and compassion are commodities we should first and foremost lavish upon ourselves and then lavish upon others. There simply can never be too much of either put out into the universe. “…every time we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us.”
Wow…I love that. Empathy and compassion are not my natural go-to reactions in the face of adversity or even discomfort--mine or other people's. To change my prior behavioral inclinations, I have had to pay close attention to my frame of mind and to my self-talk, and I have to continue to actively practice this different point of view all the time. I guess the good news is that life presents me plenty of opportunities to do so!
This is a little bit long, but that’s okay. I had the Intro and a chapter to discuss. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. Feel free to comment on the above or anything else that struck you.
Next week: Chapter 2 spearheaded by Sue Schwartz.