The Gifts of Imperfection: Q&A #3

UPDATE: Here are links to the first two discussions of The Gifts of Imperfection:

Discussion #1
Discussion #2

Welcome to the third virtual meeting of our book club to discuss The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown! (If you don’t know what’s going on around here, read this post and visit Brené’s web site.) The discussion in the comments of Q&A #1 and Q&A #2 are brilliant. I’m touched by how brave everyone has been in sharing some very personal stuff. That is beautiful and courageous and exactly the point of The Gifts of Imperfection. Well done and thank you, everyone.

Once again, I’ve covered the Guideposts pages of my book with arrows, exuberant underlining, brackets, and circles. The topics in these last few Guideposts resonated with me a lot, especially the stuff about creativity and play.

If we were all sitting together in my living room, I’d ask you some questions to get the ball rolling. I’ve shared a few of my thoughts below… take a look at the questions and let us know what you think in comments. Don’t feel pressure to answer all the questions; feel free to respond to the ones that inspire you — and be sure to add questions of your own if the spirit moves.

Our Discussion

Guidepost #5: Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith (p. 87)
Truth is humor; and humor is truth. We joke around our house that I know what I want every second of every day, and that’s mostly true. I tend to trust my gut most of the time, but after reading this chapter, I realize that often, when I ask others, “What do you think?” it’s because I don’t like what my gut is telling me. Need to spend some time thinking on that!

I could also relate to this: “When we just want to get the decision-making over with, it’s a good idea to ask ourselves whether we simply can’t stand the vulnerability of being still long enough to think it through and make a mindful decision.” You guys, I’m not even kidding. Dave and I were just discussing something important that we’ve been mulling over for a few weeks, and I blurted, “Jeez! F*ck it. We’re doing it. I just don’t want to talk about it anymore.” Yes, I have a little bit of a history of jumping into things because I don’t want to examine them any more. Working on it. Promise.

Do you follow your gut? How does that usually work for you? Do you ever get impatient with the decision-making process, or are you a mull-it-over type of person?

Guidepost #6: Cultivating Creativity (p. 93)

Prior to this past year, I would have read this chapter and been forced to admit to myself that I’d let my creativity flounder in the wake of the “discipline” of training and the real — and perceived — distractions of my full-time job. But I’m delighted that in 2010, Dave and I committed to the cookbook project and injecting more creativity (and bravery) into our lives. It was tough at first, and there were times when I felt like I’d over-committed myself, but the work — the actual making of recipes and writing and photos and collaborating, and then sharing it with others — was life-affirming and invigorating.

A few years ago, a friend told me her favorite quote was “Comparison is the killer of joy.” That quickly became one of my favorites, too.

What inspires your creativity — and are you making time for it… or can you carve out some time to add it to your life?

Guidepost #7: Cultivating Play and Rest (p. 99)

About a year and a half ago, my therapist asked me, “What do you do to play?” I sat silently for, like, five minutes, then said with a giant question mark in my voice, “CrossFit?”

Play is “apparently purposeless,” so that leaves out CrossFit, writing, and a bunch of other things I enjoy that are playful but not really play. However, I do play hide-and-seek with Smudge, and most of the time, when I stroll around my neighborhood, I walk on the curbs like they’re balance beams or kick a rock in front of me with each step, like my own private soccer game.

Play is definitely one of the areas where I could put some attention. I have a hard time when I can’t think of a purpose for the thing I’m doing. Intellectually I know that’s detrimental, but emotionally, I’m still working on it.

Do you find it easy or hard to truly play? What’s your go-to playtime activity?

Guidepost #8: Cultivating Calm and Stillness (p. 105)

Brené wrote, “For me, breathing is the best place to start. Just taking a breath before I respond slows me down and immediatly starts spreading calm.”

One of the gifts of Kundalini yoga that’s really affected me outside of class is my new attention to my breathing. When I feel myself getting tense, I roll my shoulders back and down, then use of the nifty breathing patterns our teacher Robin has us practice. My current favorite is 8 little inhales (kinda like snorts through the nose) while mentally, chanting sa-ta-na-ma, sa-ta-na-ma, followed by a long slow exhale until the lungs are empty. It’s instantly energizing and relaxing. Great trick for when you feel like you might explode.

In the stillness department, I’m continuing to practice guided meditations from Jack Kornfield and just stared experimenting with new ones from Dr. Russ Harris (who has a lovely Australian accent.)

Have you tried meditation; what was your experience? If you’re not a meditator, what stops you from trying it?

Guidepost #9: Cultivating Meaningful Work (p. 111)

Ugh. One of my least favorite things when meeting new people is the inevitable, “What do you do?” question. Until recently, I’ve never felt like what I did to pay my mortgage was an adequate descriptor of who I am, and even now, I would say ‘writer’ before blogger or paleo chef. I’ve always wished I could say to people, “Don’t tell me your job. Tell me what matters to you.” but that’s a little personal for handshake time, no? I just think it’s so much more meaningful to know what makes peoples’ hearts sing or makes them feel good about themselves.

What do you think of that? What would you say if we were just meeting, and I released my natural weirdo and asked “What matters to you?” rather than “What do you do?” Or would you rather talk about what you do?

Guidepost #9: Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance (p. 117)

When my thyroid conked out a few years ago, I had a very strange experience: I didn’t enjoy listening to music anymore. It was too loud, too jangly, too annoying. I stopped singing in the shower and in the car… my band practices were lackluster and eventually, both of the bands I was in sort of fizzled out. It was heartbreaking because I’ve played the piano and loved singing since before I could write my own name. I knew my Synthroid prescription was finally working the morning I found myself singing along to the radio, very loudly, on my way to a CrossFit workout at 6:00 a.m.

Having music in my life is essential, and another thing I love about Kundalini is that we sing at least in every class. It makes my heart soar to sit with my eyes closed and hear-feel the vibration of the whole room singing in unison — reminds me of my dorky, but beloved, high school chorus days.

I’m also very pleased to say that Dave and I have instituted dance breaks in our work day. So far, we’ve shaken our fannies to Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory” and Pitbull’s “Rain Over Me.” In Dave’s defense, I have to admit those songs were my picks, and when it’s his turn to play DJ, he’ll probably select better songs. He has great taste; I like what I like, whether it’s “good” or not. Anyway… it was fun and sweaty and silly and had no purpose. Whoop!

The story Brené told on pages 122-123 about her daughter dancing in the department store reminded me, again, how grateful I am that my parents let me be weird. They embraced my “not like others” tendencies, and it was such a gift. I roller skated to the library in an orange terrycloth bathrobe, built a fifth grade speech assignment around how to make tacos, braided my hair into cornrows when Bo Derek was super famous, and went through a period when I wanted to dress like a ’50s sock-hopper. Through it all, they told me I was beautiful and smart, so now I feel perfectly comfortable being the weirdo in the room. YAY!

Are you a shower singer? A public dancer? A private dancer?

Not a question, but…

On page 126, Brené wrote, “I’m not at all sure that this work is about self-help. I think of it as an invitation to join a Wholehearted revolution…. Revolution might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance. Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance.”

I like nothing more than being defiant and railing against the way others say we’re supposed to live: in fear, in shame, stuffed with processed food, beholden to celebrity ideals of what’s beautiful… I’m not doing it, and I applaud you for reading this book so you can think about how you’re not going to do it, either.

Hit the comments and let us know what you think!

Future Meetings
Pages 1-48 (intro to the beginning of Guidepost #1) – Monday, February 13Read the Discussion
Pages 48-85 (Guidepost #1 though Guidepost #4)– Monday, February 20 Read the Discussion
Pages 86-130 (Guidepost #5 throrugh the end)– Monday, February 27– Done!If you’re new here, you’re welcome to join us! Just get a copy of The Gifts of Imperfection and chime in on the discussion anytime!

The Gifts of Imperfection: Q&A #2

UPDATE: Here are links to the first and third discussions of The Gifts of Imperfection: Discussion #1 Discussion #3 Welcome to the second virtual meeting...

Read More
Gifts of Imperfection: Q&A #1

UPDATE: Here are links to the second and third discussions of The Gifts of Imperfection: Discussion #2 Discussion #3 Welcome to the first virtual meeting...

Read More


  • pamela says:

    This book has affected me in ways I had not expected, and I’m not really sure I can even articulate much of it yet. I wasn’t going to comment at this point since I’m not sure I have much to contribute, but I do want to say something about meditation.

    I’ve been meditating, TM, for just under three years. I love the quiet, effortless nature of it. I also love that I feel both calmed and energized each time I meditate. The program calls for twice a day. I am sometimes, often, remiss in following that guideline. Oddly, I don’t know why I sometimes skip meditating. It is wonderful to just relax into it and have absolutely nothing to do for 20 minutes or so. I fear, occasionally that I may not think I deserve the peace that comes with meditating, though I certainly hope that’s not true. TM has given me insights that were surprising and really, and I know how dorky this sounds, have changed my life.

    I love that you take dance breaks.

    • Mel says:

      It’s amazing how much the little dance breaks are changing my outlook. I was kinda grumpy yesterday afternoon, and I called a dance break. My husband Dave resisted, but eventually joined me. It was silly and the song went on too long — but it did the trick. Changed my perspective and lightened the mood… amazing.

  • Jamie says:

    Yes, I missed you last week but then forgot to check back in…you posted some really good thoughts and points. I have to tell you, this book is rocking my head, now I’m ready for it to rock my world!! I think I need to work on trusting my gut more…I’ve lost my love for being creative and need to find it again…and I don’t think I play much at all (although I LOVED how walk on a balance beam and kick rocks). So….definitely need to focus on these more. I do love, love, love what I do and find it to be meaningful (I’m a counselor)and am working on a few dreams around that (private practice and a few little projects). About #9, we have the Just Dance videos and they are really fun. I have no idea what I look like but it is so much fun to try…that counts, I think. I could just turn up some songs and let myself go once in a while (love your dance breaks)! A couple years ago I went to a 10 day meditation retreat. It was absolutely crazy amazing! For 10 days, I meditated for 10 hours a day with many other meditation students. We walked and lived in silence. At first, it was so hard….I hated it and wanted to go home. After a couple days, it became easier. By day seven, I could feel the vibrations of my body through my breath (which sounds kinda weird and psychedelic but it was freakishly cool)! It was a hard transition back into the real world after those 10 days but only for a few hours…and today, I can’t sit for 5 minutes and meditate. But if I tried for 5 minutes a day….or 10…which doesn’t sound like much…I might be able to find that calm again!

    Thank you so much for such a great book club! I will be reading this again!

    • Mel says:

      That 10-day meditation retreat sounds tough and awesome. I’d like to try a weekend sometime before I commit to 10 days 😉

  • Dania R. says:

    I’ve just loved this book… I feel like the timing of this book and some other events that have transpired recently have really given me a kick start that I needed. These last guideposts were certainly my favorite and probably the most impacting…

    GP5) I think I’ve always been a pretty intuitive person and somehow managed to hone in on listening to my gut instincts. But much like the book pointed out – I know that when I don’t like what I hear, I always seek outside approval. I even highlighted on page 88 “What silences our intuitive voice is our need for certainty.” YES! I’ve learned that when I truly meditate over what I’m feeling and tap into that awareness, the results seem to set me on a good path. But more often then not, I am also the “eff it!” personality and don’t want to think about it, analyze it, worry about it and just plow forward… which often tends to set me backwards and I end up right back having to make a similar decision later down the road. I loved Brene’s definition of faith – Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty. I have been focusing more lately on trusting my instincts and having faith that they are leading me in the right direction. I won’t lie, it’s hard!

    GP6) This chapter just made me sad. And made me long for my days of community theatre. I think once I entered college and set my sights on the corporate world – all my creativity was neatly tucked away deep down inside. It wasn’t until this past year when I finally left the corporate world and set out to discover what truly made me happy that the creativity has started to seep its way back out. There is something about that release. I’ve started writing again and stepping out into more right brained activity and less “engineering” focused tasks. I think about this topic a lot… and tend to see happiness in people that have creative outlets – drawing, painting, singing, designing their own gardens, creating new recipes. And the folks without any of this are missing out on something wonderful. I was missing out on something for over 10 years. That’s kinda tough to swallow.

    GP7) Um, why is CrossFit not play? 😀 Play is challenging, especially when there isn’t much time in the day to fit everything in. I guess I’ve always been wrapped up around the thought that play can only come after everything else that must be finished IS finished… which is usually never. And when I DO play, I always try to give it some purpose. I’m not so good at play. The main thing I took away from this chapter stemmed from the idea on page 102 “If we want to live a Wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating sleep and play, about letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.” Of this, I am guilty. Which means I, too, will be creating an “ingredients for joy and meaning” list as suggested and compare it against my to-accomplish list. I’m a little nervous about what I may discover.

    GP8) I suck at cultivating calm and stillness. I think I’m missing that particular gene. I get anxious and frustrated. Jamie – congratulations on lasting 10 days at your meditation retreat. It sounds like an incredible experience. For me, my periods of meditation are extremely short – usually right before I fall asleep… and in the shower. That’s when I truly seem to be able to quiet my mind and focus on the quiet. That’s probably why our water bills are so high. My mom told me a few years ago that prayer is when we talk and we ask for something and meditation is when we stop and listen for the answer. I try to remember that… to just be quiet and listen.

    GP9) I LOVE IT!! “What matters to you?” I can only imagine how startled people would be to hear that, but once they decided to answer – I would imagine they would light up! I’ve always hated telling people what I did… it never defined me. And usually they’d either start to tune out for lack of understanding or caring or they’d spout off all of this technical information of which I had no interest. To me – engineering can be a very soul draining career. But to share what matters… yeah, that would be pretty cool. Since I think very few people in the world have tapped into a career focused around their passions and what they truly love – I think they would most certainly enjoy sharing what matters over what they do.

    Brene said on page 115, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” So true.

    GP10) “What one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever” page 120. I think I was an uptight child because I am still the same way now. What I have realized is that the friends I most enjoy being around are the quirky ones – the ones that speak their mind, act their own way, and are fabulously unique. Those are the people that make me laugh and bring out the best in me. Maybe I’m attracted to these folks because I want to be more like them? I just can’t bring myself to dancing in public, but will certainly enjoy the company of those that do. This is probably why I highlighted page 123 – Betrayal is an important word with this guidepost. When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt, and soulful expression of who we are, we betray ourselves. When we consistently betray ourselves, we can expect to do the same to the people we love.

    Thank you so much for hosting this book club. This book was really a wonderful read and I’ve already told a few people to run out and get it. I’ve certainly enjoyed the experience and the free therapy!

    • Mel says:

      Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your thoughts on the Guideposts. I really enjoyed reading your responses. This little book really packs a punch, no?