“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Sunday, 28 August 2016

This Changes Everything

I've been attending our Unitarian Summer School at Great Hucklow for eight years now, and each year, I come home changed, enlightened, and enriched (and generally a couple of pounds heavier, but that is another story!)

My friend and colleague Danny Crosby usually invites people to worship with the words: "Come as you are, exactly as you are...but do not expect to leave in exactly the same condition..." and Summer School is much the same. It provides a rich mixture of worship, theme talks, engagement groups, and other optional activities.

This year's theme was 'This changes everything'. We were treated to some outstanding theme talks, and inspirational engagement groups. In my group, we were asked to discern / work on a credo or touchstone to which we might turn in times of shock, uncertainty, and change. This was a very deep and enlightening process.

But the thing I have taken away this year, that I haven't been able to stop thinking about in the last couple of days, is a lovely song, which was taught to us all at the end of one of the theme talks, by Nancy Crumbine, a Summer School stalwart from the US. It goes like this:

Here I am, here and now, in this moment,
Here I am, in the place I am meant to be
Nothing can hurt me, nothing can shake me
I am free, I am whole.

This is what I love so much about Summer School - the unexpected, life-changing gifts it provides, year after year. It is the spiritual highlight of my year, and I wouldn't miss it for the world. I am so very grateful to everyone who contributes: to the Summer School Panel, who work for months to get it all in place; the facilitators of the engagement groups; the leaders of the optional activities; the worship leaders for morning devotions and epilogues; the minister for the week; and the Nightingale Centre staff. And to all the participants who come along prepared to be open and vulnerable, and to trust the process, and to grow and change.

Friday, 12 August 2016

On Perfect versus Good Enough

Over the Summer, I have been re-reading Brene Brown's wonderful books, The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong.  One of her strongest messages about living wholeheartedly is to let go of the need to be perfect, to be the best. Striving for excellence is good, beating yourself up for not making 100% not so good.

I've recently re-joined my local gym, and am enjoying pushing my body a bit, trying to get a bit more toned, a bit more healthy. On Wednesday, I decided to up the ante a bit. So instead of doing 15 minutes at level 1 on the main cardio machine I'm using (which simulates running, but without the impact), I did 20 minutes at level 2. There were bellows to mend by the end, but I had a great feeling of achievement. I've also upped the number of reps I do on the upper body machines from 12 to 15. It's such fun to challenge myself, to push myself. Lots of lovely endorphins!

But here's the thing. I'm not comparing myself with any of the other gym users, not beating myself up for not being able to run for an hour on level 5 (or whatever). The only person I am competing with is myself - the idea is to improve my fitness over time. Because it makes me feel good.

Then yesterday evening, one of my oldest friends came round to play canasta. I don't get to see her much, so it was lovely to catch up while we vied for the mastery.

We have been playing canasta together sporadically since 1988, when we used to play every morning, going down to London on the train from Northampton. It is such huge fun - we both play the very best we can, and thoroughly enjoy the contest, but it truly does not matter who wins. Last night, she won the first match; I won the second. We are both openly triumphant about our wins, and commiserate with each other's losses.

But the absolutely most important thing is the huge fun of playing the game. Neither of us has any innate need to beat the other - our self-worth is not on the line. We just enjoy playing.

And that is so precious.