Cultivating and letting go

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Usually the first Tuesday each month is my update post: how the writing’s going, the queries, the journal submissions… Things are pretty much the same in that regard, so instead I want to share some musings I had while reading Brene Brown’s book about vulnerability, “Daring Greatly.” It’s been resonating strongly with me, and in the spirit of what the book advocates (the positives of vulnerability and the courage it takes to express it), I decided to make this post a bit more personal in the hopes that it helps someone.

So first, Brown has this list of qualities that the most wholehearted people have in their lives:

  1. Cultivating authenticity – letting go of what people think
  2. Cultivating self-compassion – letting go of perfectionism
  3. Cultivating a resilient spirit – letting go of powerlessness
  4. Cultivating gratitude – letting go of scarcity
  5. Cultivating faith – letting go of the need for certainty
  6. Cultivating creativity – letting go of comparison
  7. Cultivating play and rest – letting go of productivity as self-worth
  8. Cultivating calm – letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle
  9. Cultivating meaningful work – letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
  10. Cultivating laughter – letting go of being cool and in control

Brown wrote how when she compiled this list, she realized she only had two in her own life at the age of 41, and how devastating that was for her. I struggle with many of these too, and even though 30 is still quite young, I had this bolt of panic that, oh god, what if I’m still struggling for decades to come? In that moment I felt discouraged in myself for not getting to where I want to be already.

Sometimes I feel this pressure to “get over” my struggles and insecurities, and to get over them fast, so I can live the bulk of my life in mental peace. I feel compelled to fix and conquer my troubles. Because I feel like a flawed person if I don’t. A lesser, weaker person if I don’t.

But immediately I realized that very mindset is part of the problem. (See #2.) It’s not about “mastering” the list. It’s not about checking off those qualities and sitting in them comfortably for the rest of your life. It’s about the process. And maybe that process will take your whole life.

And maybe it’s GOOD for that process to be lifelong. Not just inevitable or understandable but actually GOOD. Because maybe the work of that process is important in and of itself. The machinations your soul goes through. The act of growing, becoming.

Someone who beefs up a muscle doesn’t then stop exercising, like “okay cool, got that muscle done, time to sit back forever.” Because muscles atrophy. You have to keep working them. Someone isn’t weak for going to the gym, they’re strong because they go to the gym.

Okay, enough gym metaphors. (“Does your soul even lift, bro?” Haha.) Anyway, Brown’s book is speaking to me right down to my core, as I imagine it would for… well, frankly all of us. Vulnerability is something every human experiences. I highly recommend it. The book, I mean. Although, yeah, I recommend vulnerability too. 🙂

~ Noel

p.s. Oh, and happy July Fourth to my fellow Americans! I’m not super patriotic or anything but I looove fireworks! Gotta have me some sparklebooms ❤

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7 thoughts on “Cultivating and letting go

  1. A great post, Noel. I think these ten items are like weeding a garden or cleaning your house, you’re never really “done” because it requires some degree of vigilance and upkeep. I read a similar book last year, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It is set up as a 12-week course and covers all of those items. Honestly, it changed my life, both as a person and as a writer, and I highly recommend it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooh, I’ll have to check that out, since I loved another book of Julia Cameron’s – The Right to Write. If you haven’t read that one, you’d probably like it too. 🙂 Your gardening/cleaning analogies are right on the money, that’s a great way to think of it. Thanks so much for your note. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Noel, I just finished reading “Daring Greatly” and wanted to thank you for reviewing and recommending it. I watched both of Brene Brown’s TED Talks, too. I had always felt like some nebulous dark shadow was following me around, preventing me from doing and saying what I wanted and being totally myself. This book gave that shadow a name–shame–and provided a piece of the life puzzle that explains and connects so much. Keep reading and sharing, Noel. Your efforts make a difference. “The Right to Write” will be next, I have it on order from the public library.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That must have been an amazing revelation! I love those moments when something I’ve wrestled with for so long suddenly clicks into place. I really appreciate you sharing this with me, and I’m so glad the book helped you – it’s helping me too. Let me know what you think of The Right to Write when you’re done as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. At 44 I’m not entirely sure how many of these qualities I could truthfully claim to possess. Another fascinating topic and easy to understand why it would resonate with you. I’ve been thinking a lot about my personality traits over the last month so this piece was perfectly timed for me to read. My angle has been more about recognizing the aspects of my character that I dislike and trying to work out how I would change them (perhaps brought into focus by spending three weeks with my parents and seeing certain flaws that have been passed down!). Lovely to hear your thoughts as always – with your gift for conveying emotions with such humour and clarity you should think about becoming a writer and stuff… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, well gosh, I guess I DO kinda like words or whatever… How has this never occurred to me before?! 😉 I was thinking about that list again recently (more like nonstop ever since I read it) and I realized it’s not so black and white as “having” those qualities versus “not having” them. There are many degrees, and actively working on those qualities is PART of being the wholehearted person she describes. I had to remind myself that she said “cultivatING” – a present-tense verb. There will be days when a quality shines and other days when it lapses back, and that’s all part of the process. Same goes for working on character flaws, as you mentioned. I think anyone who can acknowledge their flaws and is trying to improve deserves a hearty pat on the back, because many people don’t even get to that step; they just want to live in ignorance and stagnation. Having the openness to work on yourself is a noble thing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Noel! I was fiddling around with my web site and came across the link to your site from back when I quoted from one of the short stories you shared in our group. I like how you ended this post. I think we all do well to recognize our utter nakedness of our soul and embrace it rather than hide it. Vulnerability is our lot, even when we don’t acknowledge it so I’m right there with you. Might as well acknowledge and own it. GREAT practice for any artist. Thanks for sharing!

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