The Gifts of Imperfection. Somehow this book ended up on my library request list, although I don’t remember what prompted me to request it. It was probably the title. I’ve always thought perfection was a gift, so finding a book that claimed just the opposite piqued my interest.
The author, Brené Brown, says the “gifts of imperfection” are “courage, compassion and connection.” This is the week I have been practicing all three.
Ms. Brown uses “courage” not as bravery, but as the ability to open up and tell our stories — the ones about how we feel totally humiliated because we just screwed up badly — to someone we know we can count on to listen and be empathetic. She defines “compassion” from its Latin roots, which mean to “suffer with.” And she talks about “connection” as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued.”
I hosted two potluck lunches with old friends, one in which we cooked together, an activity which always cements connections. I courageously shared embarrassing stories with my hair stylist in which we both confessed to recent incidents in which we fell down needlessly and gracelessly. And I was joined by special friends at my mother’s second memorial service, this time with a minister who had a connection to me. I tested my courage further (traditional definition of courage), by making a book pitch to a literary agent at a writers’ conference. The book I’ve been working on is a memoir of my adventures in a public school system. Earlier I had gotten myself in a froth over this, especially after attending three workshops about crafting the perfect pitch (obviously these folks don’t see imperfection as a gift) and feeling that mine was still flawed when I went into the interview room.
I’ll start by saying that the main feature of the five-minute interview was a marked lack of interest on the part of the agent. However, she made me feel comfortable. I got through my first three sentences with ease; but I was not prepared for her interrupting me, just as I launched into the next sentence, with: “Why should anyone in Ohio care?” I spit out all the reasons I could think of for Ohioans to be interested only to watch her shake her head. “No one in Ohio has heard of Bellevue and could care less about its schools.” She let me finish, suggested I make the book hilarious and blog it to gain a following, then signaled that time was up. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind the experience and would do it again in a minute, but not until I have a lot more material and have figured out what excites people in Ohio.
So much for perfection. I think the only recipient of my compassion this week is me and I may have an opportunity soon to continue to practice it on myself. I had an interview to be considered for membership on the city’s Arts Commission, which was probably the first interview I’ve had in 25 years, an ideal situation in which to demonstrate my ignorance in front of a panel of three. It’s been several weeks and I’m still waiting to hear whether I was chosen. If this trend continues, I’ll be able to view imperfection not as a gift connected to specific situations, but as a way of life.