So, two days ago I wrote about giving up the idea of personal perfection and yesterday I mentioned enjoying how the internet “smallens” the world. One of those smallening experiences is the opportunity to be Facebook friends with authors I admire and one of those authors is Jennifer Louden. She is one of my all-time favorite writers and I have her books—The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book, The Women’s Comfort Book, The Couples’ Comfort Book, The Women’s Retreat Book, and The Life Organizer (new paperbook edition and digital support kit is available now). I’ve read her books for years and return to them often—she has a unique ability to not be a self-help author, while still being helpful and about working with the self. I’m planning to work through The Life Organizer again beginning in January (I did it in 2008 and actually kept it up the entire year). Jen has always seemed real to me. Approachable. Authentic. Not fake or gimmicky at all. I don’t get the “sales” feeling from her, nor do I get a glitzed-up perfection image. And, though she writes about spiritual topics, I detect no touch of what I would semi-meanly call “shaman chic,” which is a surefire way to rub me the wrong way. Anyway, we’re Facebook friends and I comment at various times on her status updates, a recent one being:
“Be willing to look at your own life and want more for yourself without beating yourself up or making it about another self-improvement plan.”
Ooh! Such a good tip and yet one I wasn’t sure I could actually figure out. So, I commented to that effect: “I joke that I’m tired of my life being one long self-improvement project. However, I also want to reach my own potential!” She said she’d write a blog post for me and today, she did. See. World, smallened. So cool. While I perhaps didn’t explain myself in full—what I think I really meant when I used the word “potential” in my comment was that, “I worry about whether ‘self-acceptance’ can be a sort of a screen for hiding behind or an excuse for ‘giving up’ and not fully developing yourself”—I still loved and learned from the insights she offered in this post, especially this:
After I read her post with a couple of tears prickling in my eyes, I shared my done-with-perfection spontaneous woodsvision with her. I didn’t write about it here on the day it happened because I didn’t feel like I had enough time and besides it was kind of…weird.
I saw that this perfection thing was a white worm that was wrapped around my heart and also curved into the grooves of my brain. Sitting there on the rock in the woods, I unwound it. Pulled it out. It was long and ropy and invasive. I held it out in open hands and it floated off down the hill, dissolving into a million sparkles in the sunshine until I couldn’t see it any longer.
I felt lighter after this and like I really was, truly done. I don’t need that wormy thing any more. I had the same sense of certainty about being done with apologizing for things as well. Hope it really lasts!
Today, my woodstask was actually taking new pictures for our updated listings on etsy. See, sometimes there are visions, sometimes there are poems, and sometimes there is business. I love how the same space has born witness to it all over the course of the year. I feel like I both bear witness and am witnessed there in that same space. Earlier in the day I’d been thinking, again, about my dissertation. In shifting my thesis topic to my woodspriestess experiment, I feel more confident that I have something original to offer. It is an offering of myself and my own experiences—and a personal process of spiritual inquiry that I hope can be of some benefit to others. With birth as the focus of my dissertation, while I might have 200+ pages of notes and over ten years worth of reading, writing, and thinking, I’m not sure I have anything new to offer. However, looking at my sculptures, I felt a renewed sense of confidence that this is actually what I have to say that is new. These figures are my language and my lessons, the symbols of what I’ve learned, how I’ve grown, and what matters to me. I’d already decided to “frame” my thesis in the context of my sculptures and I feel somewhat confident that I can draw that over to my dissertation and use a sculptural framework for my narrative as well…