I did something very daring the other night...something totally out of character for me.
Obviously I like to write, and even go so far as to throw my thoughts out into the world in a very public way (on this website, in the local newspaper, as well as writing for Suburban Parent Magazine). But how much courage does THAT really take? It's easy to write in the quiet of my own home and then hit a button which catapults my words out onto the Internet (or into the hands of the editor).
But, one thing I really DISlike is public speaking. Talking in front of a group of people is not, in any way/shape/form, a strength of mine. In fact, my fear of public speaking goes so deep, the only way I can actually talk myself into it is if I have the ability to sit in a circle with the group. Standing over people kicks my anxiety level up to a point where I will talk myself out of attending an event. (I am sure there is some kind of therapy for this...)
Anyways, back to my story...
About six weeks ago, I had an epiphany while engaging in a Tummy & Butt class. The instructor, a friend of mine who is the owner of a local family yoga/exercise studio wherein I was exercising, is also a super outgoing woman who has a deep desire to help others (kids and adults) reach their full potential physically/mentally/spiritually. I thought this brilliant idea I had during our sixty-second long set of burpees might be something she would be interested in. After class I emailed her...sure enough, she LOVED my epiphany!
The idea I had was to form a book club and discussion centered around self-help/inspirational literature. (My favorite genre, of course!) I decided bimonthly would give the group the best chance of taking off (after all, who has time to read an entire book and get together to talk about it once a month?!)
Together we decided a BYOB and appetizer venue would be great for our Friday night gathering. No heavy commitment upfront, except to rsvp and to read the book. We consulted family schedules, school calendars, community event websites....then decided there are always a bah-zillion things going on and there would never be the perfect night, so we chose the best dates possible for our schedules. (Knowing at least there would be the two of us discussing each book).
Last Friday night was the first in a series of five discussions. My initial book selection was among my absolute favorites, written by Brene Brown, PhD. called The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.
(I am going to be completely honest with you here and tell you my counselor (yes, I have one) thought my book discussion idea was terrific...that it might even bring me out of my public-speaker shell, however, she felt the book choice itself was pretty daring. She wasn't sure where the discussion about a book based on shame/fear/vulnerability might lead a group of women who were out on a Friday night drinking wine and eating bacon wrapped water chestnuts).
Well guess what...everything went great! I had even been organized enough to create an outline (though we veered off of it several times, which turned out to be a good thing). The book discussion circle included a dozen or so women who had the courage to join me to share their observations about the book as well as talk about some of their own life stories and struggles.
The essence of what I learned:
1. I am so not alone in my desire to live my life authentically. Although I often feel surrounded by people who care more about what others think than to assert their own values and opinions, there are plenty of other people like me (who also sometimes feel alone) who work hard each day to keep the masks off.
2. Moms feel a great deal of pressure when it comes to how their children are performing at school, in sports, on the SAT/ACT....(to me this is just an extension of comparing how soon our kids walked, talked, recognized their alphabet, read a book).
3. People in our area feel compelled to try and "keep up with the Jones". From the vacations they take to the car they drive to the square footage they occupy. "Bigger is better" has been a consistent motto in Texas, many of the women in the room felt it was all too real in our town.
4. Trying to be what we think others want us to be is exhausting work. Fitting in and being accepted are two completely different things. Those of us who showed up at the book discussion just want to be accepted for who we are.
5. We cannot give our children what we don't have. If we live to project an image to the outside world that is not in sync with the person we truly are on the inside, it can have plenty of negative effects on our family life, and ultimately on our children's future.
Our next book is called The Dance of Connection by Harriet Lerner, PhD. We will be meeting again in November for discussion. Totally casual, we even talked about wearing pajamas. If you would like to attend our "circle of non-judgment" and explore some books about working towards our authentic life, please email me so I can share the details with you!