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Where's the Magic?

I have reached the part of The Gifts of Imperfection I was dreading.  The part that says, there is indeed no magic answer.

I felt my stomach drop a little.  I mean I always knew the work was mine to do, and I am truly blessed to have the financial resources through my work benefits to take this time to explore who I want to be.  Still.  There was that small part of me that thought maybe there was a Coles Notes version.  Yadda, yadda, yadda---get to the punch line. Fifteen affirmations a day--toss a coin in a fountain---spin around three times---ta-dah you are now whole!

"We don't want to be uncomfortable.  We want a quick and dirty 'how-to' list for happiness."
"...I'd love to skip over the hard stuff, but it just doesn't work.  We don't change, we don't grow and we don't move forward without the work.  If we really want to live a joyful, connected and meaningful life, we must talk about things that get in the way.   ...shame, fear and vulnerability"  Brené Brown.

When I was in the adult day treatment program we often spoke about how everything we were learning about---self-esteem, perfectionism, communication, depression---were all common sense things.  It was like we KNEW them, but we had forgotten them....or more likely....decided we were not worth the time to consider that they had anything to do with us as we ran a million miles an hour through life....head down, eye on the prize. (What prize would that BE by the way?)

At no other time in history have we had immediate access to such a vast amount of information. With all this at our fingertips--we can learn about the benefits of eating well, exercise, how to preserve the environment ---we know what we are supposed to do---but we don't do it!  Why?


Because it is hard.  This is very hard, uncomfortable work.

I occasionally see a naturopath.  Usually when I am feeling out of control of my health.  I need her to steer me in a direction, any direction, just so I feel like I have some control over what is happening to me. I did six months of no wheat, caffeine, sugar, oats, pepper, citrus fruit, strawberries, dates, raisins, eggs etc. etc.  after blood tests revealed a sensitivity to these foods.  (I thought I was sensitive to dairy and limited my intake for years.  But dairy didn't show up on the list at all! Probably because all the other crap had shut down my stomach the dairy wasn't digesting properly!  I can love CHEESE again!)

It was hard.

No dinners out. (lemon and pepper were the hardest to get away from)
Bring your own food when you go to someone else's house ( not cool....)
Avoid birthday cake, potlucks, donuts, coffee, tea, muffins, homemade goodies at work and try not to sound snobby ("No thank you. I am not eating *fill in the blank* right now.")

And people didn't get it.

"Oh come on.  A little won't hurt you! "  (Um yes it will during this cleansing part---just let  me do this---k?)  "You are on a diet?  Why?  You are skinny?" (not a diet diet ...sigh)

They belittled my plan.

"Oh all diets are fake.  How much did the fancy blood tests cost ya---sucker!" "You don't look sick?  Why cut out all the foods?"

It was like they wanted me to fail.

"Are you still doing that stupid no eating everything diet?" "Would you have a coffee for crying out loud! It is not going to kill you!" (gee guys--thanks for the support).

So as I try to compare how hard it is to go through recovering from a breakdown to trying to completely change my diet as a lifestyle change--I notice a few things.

  •  It is really hard to explain what you are going through to people.  People who care about you though, will take the time to listen, ask questions and be sensitive to what you are trying to do.

  • You have to practise what makes you healthy every day.  I no longer have to live such a strict diet, but I am much more conscious of what I eat. Coffee is back in a big way--but other things that were on my no-no list I avoid easily and now enjoy my dairy!  (I think I am not supposed to eat beets---so easy trade for ice cream!)

  • There are probably people out there who are struggling too.  Some will ask questions because they are comparing what you are going through to what they are going through and they want to know there is hope.  Just remember to keep focused on me.  Direct people to a professional for serious crisis issues.

  • For others is the opposite.  They will pretend what you are going through isn't real.  Things they don't understand make them uncomfortable.  Getting to the core scares the crap out of them so they pretend it just isn't a real thing to justify numbing their shame, fear and vulnerability with another donut, glass of wine, drug of choice.
There is so much in this chapter it will take a few days, posts to digest all this and see where I fit in. 


  1. Wow, Brigid. This post really resonated with me. Thanks for this.
    I have a somewhat messy story. I was scarred by it, but instead of sorting through it all I spent years ignoring it. I refused to believe that I had any emotional baggage. I just wanted to be "fine" to be "normal". I didn’t want to accept that something awful had happened to me and that I was affected by it. I wanted to believe that my Dad and the many people that had hurt me and deserted me didn’t have enough power to leave any lasting wound. That was a huge mistake. Because there was a wound and it was left open and raw for years. I would begin to wonder from time to time if I really wasn’t as “OK” as I pretended, but the idea of beginning to unravel the mess in my heart scared me and made me shut down and trudge along. It was in late 2011, and I was sitting at my desk at work. I had been miserably alone and sad for longer than I could remember. I opened a word doc and began typing. I’ve been a sporadic “writer” for a long time….but, I had never written from the realest and rawest parts of my soul until that day. Every bit of anger, resentment, and brokenness poured out of that unhealed wound and into words. I read them back to myself and took a deep breath. “I’m not okay.” I whispered aloud (don’t worry. I work in an office all by myself—no one heard me!). Saying it out loud was terrifying and real. I couldn’t take it back; it wasn’t a thought that could be smothered or ignored. It was spoken and true and I had acknowledged it. I think it was that day that I realized that I could do the hard thing and begin to pick up the pieces and put my life back together again. And, I began a long journey. It’s been HARD! Like you said, I wish that I could just say Fifteen affirmations a day--toss a coin in a fountain---spin around three times…. :) Too bad it’s so much messier than that. But, we can do hard things!

    Lots of love to you today, Brigid!


    1. Love right back at ya! What I find so interesting is that for years I was angry at my mom. We were not that close once I became a teenager and even after I moved out and started my own family. I wanted her to be one thing, she was another. It hurt me she did not even see it. Oddly enough, in therapy, while we were NOT specifically focusing on my mom...we did talk about how my perception of what a wife--homemaker--mother should be set impossible standards for me to meet. Somewhere along the lines I realized my mom was just my mom...not out to get me...just who she was--flaws and all---and now I am at peace. (do not get me wrong--she can still drive me crazy! LOL) but the anger has vanished. And the thing that I think thats so cool is that I was not particularly working on that part of me....but the healing happened. What it took was acknowledging it was there and how it impacted my life. Step one. Then I have no idea what happened---I was working on my and anxiety and such and I just felt that it was gone.... Sounds like you have identified some key experiences that make you who you are---but don't have to define who you continue to be. Keep yourself surrounded my lots of people who love you and support you. I will try to share what I get from this chapter in her book---I want to almost type the whole thing over again because it seems like each word is so important and each person will take something different away from it.


    2. Wow, that's an interesting story. And, that's a good perspective to have in every relationship----not expecting the person to be some impossibly perfect image that I have created in your mind. How often I am guilty of doing that!!

      I'm still working through how I can resolve my relationship with my Dad. There was a lot of abuse, alcoholism, and unaddressed mental illness. I haven't seen him in years which makes it all kind of tricky. It was always my plan to cut him off asap and move on with my life. I was hoping to ignore his existence entirely. Now that he has been cut off and ignored for years, I am beginning to wonder if that wasn't the healthiest approach. For the first time I am entertaining the idea of reaching out to him. The truth is that he was a horrible father to me. While I know that it wasn't my fault that things played out as they did (something he tried to make me believe), I am beginning to recognize that I wasn't completely innocent. I hated him, and I know now that hate will never make someone want to change. I wonder if I had loved him and tried harder if anything would be different. I was really little (around 13 yrs. old) so I'm not being too hard on myself since I was just a kid. But, for mostly my sake, I wonder if I should attempt to make ammends....this time acknowledging where I failed. I don't know.....I'm still trying to figure this out.

      I like what you said: "Sounds like you have identified some key experiences that make you who you are---but don't have to define who you continue to be."

      That is very similar to what I wrote on the day I accepted that I wasn't fine:

      "I dont want to be melodramatic. I resent the emotional. I despise phrases
      like "baggage", "disturbed past", "product of my cicumstances". If your life is a difficult one then I wish at least that at the end of the day you could shake it all off and not have it effect you. But, that's not the way it works. Your life soesn't nessesarily define you but it does shape much of who you are. It determines your struggles, your anxieties, your strengths, passions, faults, insecurities. Despite how badly I want to ignore it, "baggage" is unavoidable. And ignore, I try. I've believed that if I pretend that things like my Dad not loving me, that I was homeless at 13, that I spent countless nights hiding from him and his wrath, that he was a drunk, and that I was deeply depressed by the age of 12 never happened, then they would fade away from my memory leaving me to move on and have a normal life. I'm finding that that is a lie. You can't ignore an abused childhood. I've tried to let go and forget, but I'm still not normal. If I'm completly honest with myself and acknowledge the hurt that I'm feeling, maybe then I could be fixed."

      Anyways, thanks again Brigid for your posts and your responses to my comments. My interactions with you have really, truly been helpful in me figuring myself out.

  2. Wow. Thanks for sharing all of this with me. Part of healing is sharing and reaching out and having people like me tell you ---you were a kid (as you said) NONE OF IT is your fault. Absolutely none. And I am not kidding here. You have had a lot to deal with ---more than anyone I know---or for sure--more than anyone else has ever shared with me.

    We are who we are today because of how we were shaped growing up. How we flourished or wilted under the care of our families. It has an immeasurable impact on who you are today. Acknowledging that is the right thing. Talking to people who love you and support you is also the right thing.

    You posted that wonderful post on Monday. Think about that. We only have today and cannot go back to the past to make changes or fix things. The past is gone. We have what do you want to do with today? How do you want to spend it? What do you want to feel? To do? To experience? Hopefully you answer joy and love and hopefulness and peace and things like that. Bring the things into your life that will allow you to experience those things each and every day.

    If you can look at your dad and say--he is a person who has problems. They are HIS problems and while his problems impacted my life...he is just a person with problems. Maybe bigger than most. But do I want to invite these problems into my life or can I come to peace with finding a way to say what I want to say and move on. Have you ever written him a letter? Poured out everything you are feeling and then let it sit for a few days....add more...take out more...write another letter. Then find a away to let it go....burn it, set it in the ocean...attach to a balloon...shred it and toss it in the wind. For as long as you need to. Every day if you want. Just for YOU. What YOU need. Just focus on you since the one thing you can never do is change someone.

    I wish I could wrap your 13 year old self up in a huge blanket and bring her here and give her a safe place to sleep and food and love and a home and brothers! (LOL!) And tell her she is smart and beautiful and has so much to offer the world.

    You can actually do that! You can write a letter to your 13 year old self. What would you tell her if you were on the outside looking in at her? What would you say to your 13 year old self now?



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