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Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Imperfection

 

Does this happen to you? Books seem to appear just when you need them? And they all tie together?

A co-worker dropped this off at my cubicle with the caveat: “My friend loved this book and gave it to me…it didn’t do anything for me, but I thought you might like it…if you don’t, pass it on.”

I will admit that my co-worker and I have had book discussions, so she has some idea about what books I like to read, but…I REALLY needed to read this book…NOW.

I have been struggling to embrace and accept my imperfections for a while (including the blurry photo at the left, which I took several times. I figured as long as you can see it and read it…it doesn’t have to be PERFECT). It fulfills its purpose as is.

I recently had a get-together with some wonderful supportive friends who love me and see me as gifted, talented and creative. I read some poems for them, including one I had recently, with trepidation, brought to a workshop. I was sharing with them some of the comments (which actually were mostly good and quite helpful). I told them “when it was finished” I was going to submit it. They thought it was fine the way it was. We laughed about how nothing was ever “finished” for me. I now know why: I believe that there is ONE thing I will create that will be THE thing that will prove my worthiness…if I keep working at it and never finish it…then the magical piece of work might still exist (like believing in Santa Claus…or the Elusive Comic Book!) I guess it is my way of believing life can change overnight. Though this appears to happen to some people, it is for the most part, not true. It certainly is not something I can will or force to happen. Life happens when you live it.

This book helped me understand why I can’t create a body of work. Perfectionism is a big, bad monster for me. I am “hustling” for my worthiness as Brene Brown says in her book. (I LOVE this phrase…I picture myself walking the streets, begging people to appreciate me.)

The book is broken into ten guideposts that represent ways of thinking you need to let go of in order to embrace your imperfection and believe in your own worthiness. Guidepost #2 is “Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism”.

And my favorite (V8…knock in the head) moment while I was reading the book was when the author wrote, “I think everyone should read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist — I try to read it at least once a year. It’s a powerful way of seeing the connections between our gifts, our spirituality, and our work…and how they come together to create meaning in our lives.” WHAT?! I recently wrote a blog about that book!

I just love when the dots connect!

BTW…I submitted the poem last week…with some of the workshop suggestions. 😀



{December 27, 2013}   The Best Book I’ve Ever Read

The wording of the title seems to imply I have a definitive answer. Yet on any given day my answer might be different. My lack of conviction on this and other “favorite” questions has often felt like a problem to me: one that indicated that I had no core, no strength of conviction, or no knowledge of myself. I either assumed my lack of an answer was because I am too wishy-washy (when I was feeling bad about myself) or because I am too intellectually curious (when I’m feeling good about myself).

Many books have vied to be the answer to that question for me over the course of my life: Leaves of Grass, Wuthering Heights, Tuesdays with Morrie, A Gift from the Sea, Simple Abundance, The Artist’s Way…the list could go on and on because reading has always been a staple in my life. And I have always had this crazy concept of commitment when it comes to reading that if I start a book, I have to finish it. This creed results in my slogging through books at times (I have done this lately, making me think that I no longer liked to read).

Book cover for The Alchemist

Then the other day when I started reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. TODAY, this is my answer to the question/statement of this blog’s title. I know I’m arriving late to this party: the book was published in 1988, and the number of translations and books sold is staggering…but it is brand new TO ME. It came to me on a free table at work, and it appeared for me exactly when it needed to appear.

I have recently been in a dark place…a very scary place. For someone who has LOVED Christmas her whole life to want to turn her back on it forever, sleep through it (or skip it as John Grisham wrote — the comedy movie version of his book is what I watched yesterday trying to get out of my bad mood) is not a good sign for holding onto a joy of living. I was also finally considering giving up on this blog, one of the few things that has brought me joy and kept me going the last couple of years. But during this time I was also reading Paulo Coelho’s book.

This morning I read this:

“Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him,” his heart said. “We, people’s hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them…few follow the path laid out for them — the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed to be a threatening place.

“So, we, their hearts speak more and more softly. We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won’t be heard: we don’t want people to suffer because they don’t follow their hearts.”

“Why don’t people’s hearts tell them to continue to follow their dreams?” the boy asked the alchemist.

“Because that’s what makes a heart suffer most, and hearts don’t like to suffer.”

The alchemist then told the boy…”What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.’

“Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”

When I read this, I recognized the place where I am; I could hear my heart again (which had become quiet) and I came back to the keyboard and back to the blog. I have read a lot of inspiring and positive blogs and books recently trying to light my way out of the black hole, but for some reason, this spoke to me in a way that nothing else I read did. I believe it is because it was what I needed to read and it was put there to help me on this part of my life’s journey.

Now I feel that it is fitting that the answer to the question, “What is the best book you ever read?” can change throughout your life. Because the best book you ever read is the one that touches you and communicates to you when you need it. Today I give a hearty “Thank You,” to the person who put this book on the free table to share it, to Paulo Coelho for writing it, and to the Soul of the World for communicating it to him.

P.S. As I sat down to write this, I realized this was also the topic of the Daily Post prompt today. It was my moment of clarity for what has been bothering me…if that isn’t a message from the Universe, I don’t know what is. 🙂



{July 31, 2013}   The Garden of Books…

Garden at Flower Show

This morning I read Colline’s blog about curling up on the couch with a book and tea…Oh, I could so relate!

It inspired me to pull out a poem I wrote several years ago about reading and share it.  My reading time has always been the highlight of my day (except for going for a walk outside on a beautiful day). Reading is going for a virtual walk. 🙂

Reading in the Morning

 The story grabs me

like a childhood friend;

Together we tumble

through a garden gate,

where the words are blooms,

some delicate, some loud,

vying for my raptured gaze.

In this garden of a book,

there are places to pause and sit

and soak it in,

and places to roll,

smell the soft grass.

I watch the sun

scamper squirrel-like

around the garden,

teasing the leaves

and branches.

I watch them brush each other

hesitant, yet tender

as new lovers,

my vicarious pleasure,

becomes longing and then…

I come to the end.

There is reality,

solid as a wall my fingers can touch;

away from the sun,

the stones are cold.

Duty time has come

too soon.

The world calls,

harsh as a crow’s caw.

Time to leave this place;

place my closed book

aside

and get to work.



{March 6, 2013}   A Writer’s Sense of Service

Julia Cameron's booksI have recently been rereading Julia Cameron‘s books to give my creativity a boost, but it’s also been making me think about being a writer with a “sense of service” or an “attitude of gratitude.” I decided that what I really like about Julia’s books is her teacher’s sensibility and her nurturing attitude. I’m not naive enough not to recognize that she’s trying to sell books, but I see some sincerity there. I think she truly believes in writing as the salvation and glorious gift it can be and wants others to experience that feeling. It lead me to thinking about being “of service” as a writer and what that means.

One of my coworkers writes poems for her church in her spare time. Her church publishes them in their program and sometimes they read them as a congregation. I think this is a wonderful use of her gift. This is her third Easter performing this service and if you think it is easy to keep seeing a topic in a new way and creating fresh material, then you haven’t tried to do it.

For myself, it has been most gratifying to me when I have been able to write a poem for a friend going through some kind of worry or difficulty: a death in the family or a sibling serving overseas. This is one way I can be “of service” as a writer.

How else can we be of service as writers? The most important way is to encourage and nurture other writers; this is what I feel Julia does very successfully. This type of service could be as small and simple as “liking” someone’s work on Facebook or a blog, or attending a poetry reading. If you feel confident and can take an interest, critique their work in a positive and constructive way. If you have extra money, you could purchase their book. Give them the kudos they need and deserve for completing such an undertaking.

Funny thing, though, I think a lot of writers, once they start to have a following forget what it was like to need that support. They forget what it was like to be someone struggling to find their voice, struggling to feel that what they have to say is relevant. Many writers write because they have a need to be heard. If they don’t feel heard, they give up, and I believe the world loses something important. We let jealousy stand in the way of being of service as writers. (See the video where Julia addresses this topic.)

I believe every writer, famous or not, has a duty to encourage other writers; they are performing a very important service if they do. So…you bloggers reading this…go out and like someone’s blog, comment on someone’s poem…do your part to keep the world writing!



{February 23, 2013}   Book “Stories”

After reading a comment by Annina on my last blog on Book Care and a comment by Lingering Visions on another blog, I felt inspired to tell the “stories” of a couple of my books.

First of all, I’m a saver. (I prefer that term to “horder” or “pack rat.”) I love meeting people and consider myself blessed by all the wonderful people I have met in my life. But, as we all know, acquaintances come and go; saving things they gave me or wrote to me helps me remember them and their role in my life, however brief. I’m very aware, though, that a lot of this will be lost someday when my memory (and my body) is no more, and someone combs through and discards my belongings. I don’t mean to sound morbid, but it is reality.

So…I’m starting to allow some of my books to tell their own story. Here’s a couple of examples of what I mean.

books, God Among the ShakersA one-time co-worker and friend wrote a book about The Shakers. We lost touch when she moved out of state. While going through some old stuff, I found a photocopied review of  her book, as well as a promotional card on which she had jotted a note to me. Instead of throwing these things out, I put them in the back of the book. As I continue to sort through my papers and saved items, I will find other things and add them (I know I have photos, cards, etc.) If I never tell anyone the story of our relationship, I hope someday that someone finds the “treasures” in the book and is interested in the story behind it.

John Adams, David McCulloughAnother book with a story? I have an autographed copy of “John Adams” by David McCullough. When the book came out, McCullough was reading from it at a nearby charity event. My employer’s president had purchased a whole table of tickets to the event. He was not able to attend, but he gave the tickets to our company librarian to distribute. The librarian thought the company book club members were the logical choice to receive the tickets; I was one of the lucky ones! Each table had one autographed copy of the book. At the event, a photographer took pictures of the attendees at each table, trying to sell the photographs. I did not buy a picture, but I have a xerox copy of our photo. I came across it in some papers and put it in the back of the book, along with a the ticket and brochure about the event.

The story is there if someone wants to piece the items together and read the clues. How about you? Do any of your books tell their own story?



{February 15, 2013}   A Book Lover’s Care Guide?

Has anyone written such a thing?

The last blog about bookmarks lead me to thinking about book care. I figured bookmarks were created to keep people from folding back the corners of pages (as a tool for book care), but I had no idea of their history until I found this link. Interesting! (I should have used that link in the last blog.)

I then did a search for book care and found most of the information that came up was directed at children and was regarding library books. The exception was this humorous video created by the George Mason University library, which was directed toward college students. Wouldn’t we treat our own books at least as well as we would treat library books?

I guess not. I recently pulled some old poetry anthologies out of my bookcase, and I have a confession to make. Book lover that I am, I found dog-eared pages. Oh, the shame! The anthology was from college, I believe, so I can claim I was just young (like the young people in the video) and didn’t know better…do you buy that? The book was Contemporary American Poetry, edited by A. Poulin, Jr. (2nd edition). The cover is damaged with folds too. (I’m really dating myself here because from what I could find online, this book  is now up to the 8th edition. There was also a 4th edition in my bookshelf that could have been from graduate school.)

Poulin Poetry Anthologies

I could try to defend myself by saying that they are paperback books. Paperback books were created to be more “disposable” versions of hard cover books. They were also more “affordable” versions of hard cover books, although nowadays they are pretty expensive as well. I have saved a lot of my paperback books because it would be pricey and a lot of work to go back and replace them with hard cover versions. I made a big “book care” mistake with my paperbacks though: I had them in a bookcase that got direct sun! So I have…bleached out spines.

So..there’s two book care no-no’s: don’t dog-ear the pages (#5 on the video) and don’t keep them in the sun!

And how many of us can claim we don’t eat while we read (#4 on the video)? I love my tea and toast with a good book. Some of my books have a butter-grease thumbprint or two on a few pages. That can be a reason why some people don’t like to read library books or used books…you don’t know where the book has been! (Anyone remember the “Seinfeld” episode with George taking the book to the bathroom?)

Finally…I come to book covers. Anybody else out there old enough to remember covering your school books with paper bags or other paper book covers? The paper bag ones were wonderful to doodle all over and personalize. Book jackets were originally used to protect the covers of hard cover books and now are pretty much a marketing tool.

How about it book lovers…do you have any “rules” for taking care of your books? Any book care tips to pass on?



{February 8, 2013}   Using Bookmarks

bookmarks, reading, books

Bookmark gifts

As you can see, I’m not talking electronic bookmarks here. I’m talking about those items that you stick between the pages of paper books. I have received many of them over the years as simple gifts, made of so many different materials: metal, paper, cardboard. The photo shows just a few; there are countless others still stuck in books that I abandoned mid-read. My bookshelves are probably full of twice as many.

So you would think I would use them, right? Nope…I’ve recently taken to using scraps of paper as bookmarks. I find myself writing down words I don’t know, or jotting down references and subjects that I want to look up later. The scraps with scribbles go into a small box on my desk for when I have some free time on the computer (which isn’t often, I must admit). I felt like I wasn’t getting enough out of my reading by skipping over words or using the context to guess at their meaning. I felt I was giving up opportunities to learn!

I’m wondering, how many of you still use bookmarks?




Poetry AnthologiesThe weekly photo challenge topic is illumination, but this post isn’t about the photos; it’s about illumination of the mind.

I recently borrowed Harold Bloom’s poetry anthology from my town’s library because someone in a poetry group recommended it. It has been a while since I have been in school, so this was a challenge for me. I love and write poetry, but nowadays I read modern American poets (most of whom are still living). The wonder and beauty of anthologies, of course, is that they expose the reader to a variety of poets and poetic styles, allowing him or her to compare them and choose new favorites — hopefully sending them off on a journey of discovery and learning. In this case, it actually sent me back to my own bookcase!

bookcaseMy office bookcase is chaos and a catch-all. It is also full of what I consider my “necessary” books: anthologies from when I was a student of literature. For the most part, I never read them straight through; I extracted different pieces for papers. Their purpose was to get a broad spectrum view of a time period or some other random criteria (women poets, American poets, etc.). As I read, “Till I End My Song,” I discovered different poems from familiar poets and poems from poets I had never read before. It also contained works by poets whose names sounded familiar to me, but just in a peripheral way; I had never sought out their work. I found a new-for-me (but dead) poet whose work I wanted to read more of: Stevie Smith.

One of her most famous poems is “Not Waving but Drowning”:

Nobody heard him, the dead man,

But still he lay moaning:

I was much further out than you thought

and not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking

and now he’s dead

It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,

They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

I was much too far out all my life

and not waving but drowning.

My interest was more immediate than an Internet or Library search: I went straight to my bookcase and …VOILA! Several of my anthologies contained poems by her. This was step one: after reading those I could decide if I wanted to turn to my library for a deeper look (the answer was “Yes,” BTW). I love being able to do that.

As an editor and reader I have always been in love with books. The day is yet to come when I will turn to a Kindle or a Nook, but I have changed my book buying and retention habits in recent years. I no longer keep novels unless they are first edition or signed, or I absolutely love the book. (Wuthering Heights will always have a place on my bookshelf!) I consider poetry books or short story anthologies necessary books; they can always be revisited at different times and bring different illuminations to a hungry mind.



{September 29, 2012}   The Sunshine Award on a Cloudy Day

Two weeks ago, I was nominated for the Sunshine Award, by Sofacents. (Although I still have two more letters of the alphabet, I don’t think I would have gotten through my music series, A Fan’s History of 80’s Boston Bands, without his comments!) My sincere and grateful thanks to him! It has taken me two weeks to get to it because I have been working extra hours recently and hurt my back, making sitting at the computer a little difficult, but better late than never!

This blog has been quite an experience for me. I started it when I was unemployed and dispirited to keep myself writing and busy. In the beginning I had only stealth readers who never commented, so it felt like I was writing in a vacuum (which was fine, but I already do that in my journals at home). Every once in a while someone would tell me in person or on the phone that they read my blog and enjoyed it, but there was nothing in writing that said that; WordPress wasn’t giving us stats then.

I finally got so discouraged I was going to give it up; I wondered why I was doing it. I decided to start a new blog, Last Train to Qville, without a plan of how to end this one. I panicked and decided to keep this one going as well. I’m glad I did as readers have finally found me, and now I have an award!

Part 1 is to answer some questions about myself.

1 – What is your favorite Christmas movie?

Hmm…Sofacents mentioned “The Sound of Music” and I do love that one, but I don’t think of it as a Christmas movie, even though it has a Christmas scene. There’s a modern one I love that isn’t a Christmas movie, but has Christmas scenes called “Love Actually” that I like a lot. It tells several stories simultaneously with a fabulous cast. It has some sad parts though. On a lighter note, I LOVE the cartoon “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Great music!

2 – What’s Your Favorite Flower?

I can’t give an absolute answer to this one. I love to garden, and I love so many different flowers. I guess I will choose two very different flowers: lilies and sunflowers: formal and everyday.

3 – Favorite Non-Alcoholic Beverage

That’s an easy one for me; I’ve been drinking tea since I was a child.

4 – What is your passion?

That’s a tie between reading and writing. I could happily spend all my hours doing both. In second place is my love for animals, especially cats.

5 – Favorite Time of Year?

That’s a tie between spring and fall. I love spring because it is such a relief after winter. Green is my favorite color, and I love to garden. Spring means a new gardening season. I also love fall because I love the fall colors, fall food like apples and squashes. Spring might have the edge only because my allergies are worse in the fall.

6 – Favorite Time of Day ?

Another easy one, I am definitely a morning person. I look forward to my quiet morning time drinking my tea, reading a book, or doing some writing in my journal. A day not started that way is not usually a good one for me. If I don’t get something done by 1:00, it often doesn’t happen.

7 – Favorite Physical Activity ?

Walking. I could walk and walk and walk, as long as I have good sneakers.

8 – Favorite Vacation ?

That’s another tough one. Due to economic conditions, my husband and I have not been on a vacation in YEARS. When we had full-time high paying jobs we liked to go to Mexico to Iberostar resorts in what is called the “Mexican Riviera” near Playa del Carmen. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that was my favorite vacation. I think my husband and I differ on this one. I like going to a new city and seeing and doing touristy things.

Part 2 is to nominate other blogs for this award. Here’s a few I discovered recently that I like:

http://patriciaddrury.com: great photos

http://holisticcomplications.wordpress.com

http://corngoblin.wordpress.com: very creative and witty writing

http://drieskewrites.wordpress.com: great photos

 

The other two I wanted to note were called Images & Words and A Little Box of  Light, but I am having trouble locating the links. I’ll get back to that!

 



{February 21, 2011}   So Many Books, So Little Time…

As a book lover I have stacks of unread books in my house, some given to me, some picked up at yard sales or on sale.  As I have mentioned in a previous blog, I have been using Paperback Swap to get rid of books I have read and don’t want to keep, and swap them for others that I would like to read, but I recently ran out of credits!

So…I looked through my stacks and picked a book that my husband purchased and read years ago by a best-selling author.  It seemed like a good candidate for Paperback Swap:  written by a popular author and not a “keeper.”  Trouble was I wasn’t in the right mood to read it; it didn’t grab me and make me look forward to reading it. It was drudgery.  I spent a couple of weeks getting through just a couple of chapters.

In my younger days, I committed myself to books — once I started one, I tried to finish it no matter how long it took (of course, I would often start another one on the side while I dragged myself through the first one).  That was then, this is now; I’m older, and there are too many books I want to read before my time is up (and more being written every day!).  I want to read a book that cheers me up, makes me laugh, broadens my knowledge, or sparks my creativity.  Taking classes and going through training requires enough “have to” reading right now.  That book is going to Paperback Swap today, even though I haven’t read it; today I start something fun.



et cetera
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