Sunday, January 22, 2012

Perfection/Imperfection

I am currently reading a book entitled The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. It was recommended by a friend. So far it is really good. I don't know if I'll agree with every thing written in the book, but there certainly seem to be some gems so far. Her theme is to help people live a wholehearted life...which she says requires courage, compassion and connection. I'm only a few chapters in, but already felt really impressed by something she wrote...probably because related thoughts had already been on my mind.

When defining what she means by compassion and connection, she talks about how we think we need to be able to do things on our own. That if we are independent and self-sufficient, then we are strong. She says, "Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we're very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It's as if we've divided the world in to 'those who offer help' and 'those who need help.' The truth is that we're both." (page 20)

Then she goes on to say that one of the most important lessons she's learned is:

"Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help." (page 20)

That seems so powerful to me. I know a few people who have proudly said things like they've never had anyone bring a meal to them or never asked neighbors to help with ____ (moving or something). To me that seems sad...and one more example of how we place people into groups and judge...and I'm not totally free of this at all. I absolutely love my neighborhood, and there are many reasons why. But the one that stands out in my mind is how wonderful my neighbors (and family) were when Ella had her open heart surgery. So many prayers were offered on her/our behalf. While she was in the hospital, neighbors brought meals to us. Several neighbors brought gifts for Ella...and even for Michelle so she wouldn't feel left out. A neighbor asked if I needed her to get milk or anything else from the store. People called to get updates and to just let us know that they cared. I'm not sure that I've ever felt such an outpouring of love...from others around me and by extension, from Heavenly Father...knowing that He had sent these people into my life. Even now, more than 4 years later, on days when I feel a bit alone or like I could use a friend, I often remember back to that experience and know that if and when we really need help, we will get it...know that there are friends and neighbors that care about my family. It's an experience that makes the world seem like a better and brighter place. I would hope everyone has the opportunity to feel that way from time to time. Serving makes you feel wonderful and it is great to serve and show love to others but it is also great to be served. On countless occasions, people have helped me out to the car when I had a cart full of groceries and 3 young kids or have done other small and simple things to serve me...and when it happens, it makes me feel like the world is a good place and that there is still a lot of good in most people.

As for recognizing imperfection as a gift, I'm sure I still have a lot to learn.

I read President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's General Conference talk today entitled "Forget Me Not". In one section, he talked about not forgetting to be patient with yourself. He reminded us that none of us are perfect and that we often compare our weaknesses with someone else's strengths. He reminded us that the person we admire and think is perfect, isn't. President Uchtdorf said this, "God wants to help us to eventually turn all of our weaknesses into strengths, but He knows that this is a long-term goal. He wants us to become perfect, and if we stay on the path of discipleship, one day we will. It's OK that you're not quite there yet. Keep working on it, but stop punishing yourself." What a great reminder for me!!

In this same talk, President Uchtdorf reminded us to be happy now (despite our imperfections, trials, etc.!)... I love what he said there..."The happiest people I know are ...those who, while in pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of the everyday moments. They are the ones who, thread by daily thread, weave a tapestry of gratitude and wonder throughout their lives. These are they who are truly happy." In the book The Gifts of Imperfection, her journey really began after a lot of research about shame and fear when she kept finding these people that were living inspiring, happy lives. She began looking at these people and one day jotted down what she saw in their stories. She made a list of do's and don'ts... and her do list included: rest, play, worthiness, trust, faith, hope, love, belonging, joy, gratitude, creativity, authenticity (page x). Some real connections with what President Uchtdorf said (of course).

On Facebook, many people have been sharing an article this week called "Don't Carpe Diem" by Glennon Melton ...an honest, opinion piece by a parent that admits that parenting is hard and every moment isn't wonderful. But she, goes on to say, there are two types of time...chronos...the typical minute by minute, often filled with drudgery and even unpleasantness... and kairos...God's time...the magical moments where you really see the beauty around you. For me... these are the moments when my 3 year old wraps her arms around me and tells me she loves me...or when she begins laughing so hard and we all begin to laugh because she is so stinking cute. The moments when my 6 year old plays every note on a piano song perfectly and her face lights up and she beams with happiness...or when she snuggles into my side and looks at me with love and trust. The moments when my 8 year old asks insightful questions or begs me to read another story or comes and sits on my lap (since she doesn't do that so often now that she's getting bigger). The moments when a student at school really grasps a concept that has been eluding them. The times when I'm reading or sitting in church and suddenly, something clicks and I understand something I didn't before or I know how to tackle a problem I'm facing. And yes, I agree with Melton. Most of our minutes are chronos time...and plenty of them aren't that amazing or fun or pleasant. But if we focus on the kairos minutes, if we watch for them and remember them, then life is beautiful and happy, over all.