Well, I found it - the picture of me among my old books, pondering what the h to do. What to keep, what to toss, what to let go to welcoming friends. And behind me all the while, my beloved old red bookcase (back when it was purple) which currently lives in my parents garage, a couple thousand miles away.
I went hunting for the picture this week, when I found myself in front of a shelf of what I have come to think of as my "spiritual" books. There sometimes seems to be no other way to think of these sorts of books. But most books are spiritual, really, and I guess that's why I'm ready to pare down this shelf.
I was a little shocked at the urge I had, though, when standing in front of the awkward shelf, wondering how to organize it better. I honestly thought it was the shelf's fault that things were bothering me so much. It's the books, a voice inside said. They have to go.
Really? I thought, panicking.
These books nurtured me through graduate school, and helped me stay sane for most of the past seven years of my life. I have piled them next to my pillow at night, their presence like a childhood blanky.
But for the last six months or more, they have been annoying the crap out of me, leering like angry hangnails from the corner of our living room. It is time to say goodbye.
This week, I also dug up an article I printed out a while ago, when I first started at the company I work for. The article is titled (hilariously?) Handling Your Perfectionism, and I don't remember now how I happened upon it. But I have been stressing out lately, for some good reasons, for some illegitimate, and I pulled out the article to - what else? Get a handle on my obsession with getting a handle on things.
It is my experience that what lurks behind the perfectionist urge is actually terror. Certainly, some components are aesthetics, and a desire to perform well. But I believe that perfectionism is really an expression of fear - fear of failure, fear of being wrong, and most importantly, fear of being seen.
This fear of being seen is really a fear of being vulnerable. But, the skill of becoming vulnerable is one of the most powerful ones we can cultivate as sentient beings. Because, as Robin Williams says in Good Will Hunting, that's where the good stuff is. And it's true. It isn't easy to do - to stand fully within yourself and let yourself be seen as your whole, flawed, perfectly imperfect being. But that's what courage is. And radiance and authenticity.
It is a sleepy Sunday night over here, and my eyes are getting droopy. I wish I had a story to illustrate my point, but I thought it more important to simply write and say hello, and try my darnedest to write an imperfect post.
Lastly, I want to post these pictures of my old office during graduate school, when I felt like the worst writer on the planet. I felt like the office was claustrophobic, and dumpy, and lame. It looks so beautiful to me now. And the books look so perfectly selected, clear and muscular on the shelves.
|I prefer to work with dead dogs nearby.|
|Eternally listening to the Avett Brothers. |
|The red bookshelf. Now in red.|
At the same time, the lack of confidence I had then took me deeper into myself, to find out where grace and comfort live, because the alternative - of living within the critical voices that stormed my mind and gave me migraines - was unbearable. Pain and hope for its utter alleviation led me to the yoga studio, and to my meditation practice, and to the play of handstands and back bends, and twisting philosophy books. It is tempting to feel shame for the mistakes we make, but what if they truly are invitations to grace?
I have heard that compassion's root is a broken heart. This I believe - it is our healing that births our strength.
As I go, I want to say - let us all learn to be truly good to ourselves, for we teach others how to treat us when we know how to treat ourselves. And in those teachings are the light of our hearts. May we hold them high for one another.