Sunday Night Check-In: #RisingStrong

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I took to reading Brene Brown’s Book Rising Strong again this weekend. I just absolutely love that book. Her techniques for getting up from a “fall” and actually learning something from it are profound. I found myself in a “face down” moment last week, and I was able to read her insights with new eyes with some fodder that was personally meaningful. I literally couldn’t put the book down Friday night and woke up Saturday morning with a totally different outlook on transforming my mistake into an asset. If you can’t take a mistake and turn it into a learning opportunity, it’s a wasted jewel.

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My sourdough starter was ready this week. Wednesday it was bubbly and active, and I couldn’t wait to try it out. I didn’t have time to read up on baking bread, so I chose to make some sourdough waffles from the King Arthur Flour online recipe book. I combined the starter with the flour and some of my kefir to replace the buttermilk and let it percolate overnight. When I got up Thursday morning, I replaced my morning routine with a waffle-making experiment.

Round 1 didn’t go so well…..

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Neither did Round 2…..

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I realized that my waffle iron was ticked off at me because I had ignored it for over 10 years, so I cut it some slack and let it win a couple of rounds. I tried something different each time, but I decided I should spray it again with some Pam, and, voila…. Round 3 was sour, fluffy and downright amazing. I doused it in homemade cane syrup, and it was divine. Then I remembered that I had real maple syrup, so I tried that, too. Honestly, I think the cane syrup was a better complement to the tangy flavor of the sourdough, and I think I’ll use that in the future. The maple was just a bit overpowered by the flavor of the waffles.

This weekend I took some time to make sourdough bread. I had to pull the starter out of the refrigerator and feed it 3 times (at 12 hour intervals) in order to get it “rising strong”. (Pun intended) I watched the below video to get the instructions on how to make it.

In a past life – or at least it seems like a different lifetime – I baked bread all the time. I had all of the tools, regular deliveries from King Arthur Flour in Vermont, and a knack for making awesome bread … all the time. But most of my tools have been donated, I haven’t used the dough hook on my KitchenAid mixer in over a decade, and I don’t remember the tricks I used to make my bread perfectly delicious. And I don’t think I was ever really successful with sourdough. Because it’s made from wild yeast, it’s unpredictable and … well … wild.

This morning I got up to knead the dough and then set it aside to “rise strong”. I had leftover starter so I made some more waffles. The recipe I used this morning used the sourdough and the regular salt and baking powder to make it rise. Ehhhh …. this one wasn’t nearly as good as the wild yeast leavened batch during the week. I ate it with some homemade blueberry sauce, but I won’t be making that recipe again. It was nothing special.

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The bread however is excellent! One loaf is still rising. I wanted to experiment with rising times and flavor. So, I let one rise for about 8 hours, and I may let the other rise until the morning. They say it makes a difference in the flavor. I cut off a chunk of the one already cooked, slathered it in butter and honey and enjoyed the first homemade bread I’ve had in ages. My house smells like fresh-baked bread again. Ashok was so entranced that I caught her just as she pulled half the loaf off the counter. She was ready to go at it.

Everything I’ve read about sourdough tells me that making it is an art AND a science. When I made my starter, I literally “caught” wild yeast out of the air. It grows and bubbles and makes my bread rise. So, the yeasts in my air are probably different than the yeasts in your air. They will always be unique. And humidity, the temperature of my home, the amount of time I let the bread proof, the quality of my water and flour and many other variables will affect the final product. It really does remind me of the journey with my curls. It’s a relationship that will develop over time, and I can’t control the outcome. I can only learn to work with it and be surprised at how it all turns out… hopefully pleasantly!

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In Brene’s book, she talks about that “face down” moment in the arena. We are in the midst of an emotional shit-storm. We want to get up and make it go away fast … blame somebody else, minimize it, numb ourselves, stuff it down… anything that will make it go away so we can get the hell out of there. But when we do that, we learn nothing. But when we fall and let ourselves look around down there – explore the uncomfortable feelings, understand what caused them and define the core triggers – we can enable a breakthrough that can literally change our lives. This process of looking inside and feeling our feelings – like the “rising strong” of sourdough – is not a simple process. It is time-consuming and can be quite painful. Most of us would rather just go for the shortcut – buy the bread somewhere else – rather than have to go through all of that work. But when we do that, we miss learning about what motivates us, what makes us “wild” and ultimately helps us to “rise strong”. In other words, that’s the good stuff. 🙂

Have a great week, y’all. Don’t take the easy road… the road less traveled makes all the difference. 

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The Rumble of Storytelling: #risingstrong

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I continue to percolate on Brene Brown’s wisdom and process in Rising Strong. Her premise is that the “story” we tell ourselves about ourselves needs to be written in order to create a different ending. And it is the stories of our lives – especially the stories of our falls – that make us who we are. By denying or hiding or minimizing our stories, we become less authentic.

I suppose that authenticity may not be a goal for everyone, but it is certainly a goal for me. I spent so much of my life trying to figure out who I was “supposed” to be as a wife, a daughter, a friend, an employee and even as a child of God. It was a horrible dilemma. I never could find the manual so I was constantly searching in people’s eyes and words for the answers. Instead of making authentic connections, I was trying to determine if I was acceptable, and if not, what I needed to do to be acceptable. It was exhausting and very, very lonely.

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Brown calls the act of digging into our emotions and our story “the rumble”. The biggest rumble of my life so far – and I expect there will be more – took place after my second divorce. I had gone to counseling before and had worked on my addictions for many, many years. It helped a little, but I obviously was still not functioning well enough to run my own life in a way that was supportive to my spirit. My armor was so solid that it took the blinding emotional pain of divorce and a complete wreckage of my life to give me the motivation to really look inside. I never wanted a real rumble. Who wants to go through that?  I found myself in a place where my armor was hurting me more than protecting me. I literally could not move forward and could not budge backwards an inch. The rumble was all I had left.

I don’t know how to describe how I felt at that time. The grief was debilitating, but I’d had grief before. It was almost like my life force had dwindled to a mere drip. I literally could not move beyond what I had to do that minute. Some days all I could do was cry. Other days I functioned fine. But I had no desire to make plans. All I wanted to do was throw myself into the curiosity that had grabbed me about who I was and how I ended up in this place once again. All of the authors I was reading and my spiritual guides were saying that I needed to really be present and open to this process in order to stop these patterns that were crippling my enjoyment and effectiveness in life. It was a sacred time.

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The whole premise of Rising Strong is that we have to change the story. But, in order to change the ending, we have to rumble with story to understand the truth. I had to look at my tendency toward perfectionism. I’m not the typical perfectionist who wants my work to be perfect and who kills themselves for their “products” to be perfect. I was the kind that wanted you to think I didn’t have issues. I wanted to be “all together”. And, honestly, people always told me that I seemed like I had it all together. But, they usually told me that after I fell apart in front of them, and they were shocked that I was a mess inside. I always felt embarrassed about that, but what I now realize is they were probably very happy to see that I was just like them. I was just too afraid to get that close. My perfectionism kept me in relationship with people that couldn’t be real and prevented me from real, authentic connection.

I wish that perfectionism was my only rumble, but I realized so much about myself during that time. I rumbled about issues around intimacy, my lack of boundaries and my inability to set them, my belief that I was unlovable and a host of other things. I was so supported. What I found out was that most everybody dealt with these things, but only a small percent of courageous souls will actually take on the rumble. Most want to numb out or lead half-lives or double lives in quiet desperation. I just didn’t want to do that anymore.

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When I was in the midst of the rumble, I thought that would be my life. It was very hard. It was time-consuming. It was expensive with therapists and workshops. But after a time, the rumble stopped being my life. And my life got better. Brown hadn’t written Rising Strong, and I didn’t have a process. Re-writing my story happened in bits and pieces and with individuals, but my most powerful part of the process was when I started this blog. One of my main motivators was that I wanted to continue to rumble with my perfectionism. I wanted the people I knew to know the real me. I didn’t want to sugarcoat it, and I knew that it was hard for me to do that with the short times that we could spend together. I knew that telling my story in a blog for everyone to see would push on every button I had. And I was ready to strip away the facade and see what would happen

There are times when the rumble with my perfectionism has been painful, and I’ve truthfully felt shame after some blog posts. But I’ve never taken one down. I used blogging as a spiritual practice, and my blog is sacred space for my own work in being authentic. It has been powerful for me in that way. But I’ve been most surprised by the power of writing itself. I’ve always heard that writing will help bring closure. That first year of blogging I slammed doors shut all year long. I wrote my story. I re-wrote my story with the power of hindsight. It was profound, and it literally changed my life.

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Today, I blog more about my daily life than I do my past. I’m not rumbling so much with past anymore. My fear about rumbling being my life was unfounded. The rumble was and is worth it. I am at peace with who I am today. I know my boundaries, and I set them. My relationships are real and authentic. Surprisingly, I have many more friends than I ever had before. I thought I would have less, but boundaries help me be cleaner with the people in my life. And if we don’t mesh, the connection dissipates rather quickly. I still rumble on occasion, but the process is just how I “do life”.

Brown’s book is helping me define my process a little more. Rising Strong outlines a process for something that is inherently messy and hard. It gives me structure and a language that makes sense. And I just love the fact that her books are becoming mainstream. I dream of a world where we all rumble with ourselves instead of each other. If we could do that, we could all rise strong – as individuals, as a culture and as a world.

 

 

Embracing Badassery #RisingStrong

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When I was driving home from North Carolina, I decided to check out an audiobook from the library. I’d been wanting to read Brene’ Brown’s new book “Rising Strong”, and, to my surprise, it was available. I read – hungrily – her latest research and insight on how to rise strong after failure.

I’m usually not a fan of the “pull up your bootstraps” philosophy. I recoil a little when people don’t take time to feel the loss and pain that they suffer whenever life deals them a loss. I was afraid this would be another inspirational speaker lending to that philosophy. I should have known with her emphasis on vulnerability that she would cringe at the same lack of attention to the feelings incurred during loss. She calls our tendency to gloss over the bad part of failure “gold-plating grit”. She mentioned that when speakers tell their stories of failure, they have a tendency to take about 30 seconds to gloss over the hard part before sharing the glorious journey to success. She wrote “Rising Strong” in order to explore that moment in time when we are face down in the dirt “marred by dust and sweat and blood” (Theodore Roosevelt). She says if we miss that part, we miss the meatiest part of learning about ourselves.

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I had no idea that I’d be faced with my own need to “rise strong” when I came back from vacation. But I certainly knew there would be more opportunities in my life where I could use this information. What one of us has not had our face buried in the dirt of failure? Who has not lost a loved one or suffered a broken heart? Which one of you has never made a mistake where the wash of shame cloaks you in its dark, paralyzing shroud? We all need to know how to rise strong…. because we all fall.

I’ve often heard that if you haven’t make any mistakes lately, you haven’t been working hard enough. There is a movement to use failure as a way of learning in innovative workplaces. I remember when the worker who failed would be fired quietly and ushered away in a buried organizational announcement saying they were “seeking better opportunities.” Smart companies have figured out that when they don’t understand their failures, they lose very valuable information that helps them move forward in leaps and bounds. Innovation, it seems, has deep roots in failure. I would think that would apply to individuals as well.

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Brown says we have a Bad Assery Deficit. Our tendency to ignore that moment when we are face down in the dirt signifies emotional cowardice. We want to get up and gloss over that when we tell the story of our return to glory. Why should we spend any time looking at how we feel in that moment? That moment when shame and self-doubt are often hanging over us like a paralyzing cloak? Those messages of shame and self-doubt give us pointed clues about where we’ve been hurt and our inadequacies. It is in that space that our buttons have names, and our inner critic has a crystal clear voice. It is that precise information which will lead us to healing long-term and in changing our perspective in profound ways. In other words, that is the space in which we grow.

I’m an extrovert, and I process feelings by talking about them. So, when I’m face-down in the dirt, I will pick up the phone and call those on my short list that know how to help me process that painful moment. I learned a long time ago that ignoring those feelings of shame and self-doubt and embarrassment prolonged and interrupted the healing time. They don’t go away. They hang around and start to influence my behavior and relationships in an unwanted way. By having some safe friends who are not spooked by that face-down moment and those dark feelings, I can walk through them and learn much more about myself. I find it infinitely interesting. And I find it such an honor to hold space for others in that way. Intimacy … that’s intimacy in a nutshell.

I’m listening to “Rising Strong” again. I wasn’t able to take notes while I was driving. She outlines a process which includes writing your story and exploring your failures in that face-down moment and using the information to “rise strong”. I know the power of storytelling… and she applies her scientific research and insights to her own stories of failure and hurt. It’s a beautiful thing to read.