I love to read!? I especially love reading fiction and in the last couple of years have developed a real lust for urban fantasy.? Authors like Patricia Briggs and Richelle Mead take me out of my head and into a world quite separate from my own.? I always look forward to the journey.
But what I like most about reading is sharing books with my daughter.? I like to hear what she says about the characters and the plots; I like to muse with her over alternate possibilities and shifted endings. ?We are always trading and recommending the other’s next read.? ?At her urgent insistence I began Before I Fall by first-time author Lauren Oliver.
By page 60 or so I found myself getting really anxious and annoyed, not with the book, but with the feelings that book was bringing up in me.? Ms. Oliver brings high school years alive in a clear voice that made me start remembering why I am glad that is over.? By the middle of the book, I was audibly sobbing.? My heart punctured by the truth spilling from the pages and flowing in torrents from my heart.
Before I Fall is a story about a second-semester high school senior who comes to self-awareness through the bizarre repetition of a single day which ends in a car wreck.? Each day the heroine challenges herself to see clearly the circumstances of her life and the situations of those around her.? Every day she must question yesterday’s truth and painfully question herself and her motivations and her expectations and her judgments.? I was so powerfully struck with the unfolding of her heart and soul.? I was honored to stand witness to her growing self-awareness.? I felt myself opening to me by reading about her opening.? Because of its clear and thorough description of the process of opening to and understanding self-awareness, I consider it one of the best books I have ever read
Of course, the whole car wreck theme touch close to home for me.? And the learning I garnered for myself in the process of reading and then reflecting on this book, I don’t think is over partly because of the fundamental themes it explores but mostly because of how it has meshed with the experiences in my life especially in the last four weeks or so.
Though it was never directly expressed in the book, this book caused me to really consider a very bad habit that I have.? I minimize myself.
Maybe you will have heard somewhere about the dangers of denial.? Denial is dangerous.? But have you ever considered the dangers of minimizing yourself?
Say you are in a car wreck and your car is totaled and you are banged up a lot.? If you say to yourself and to others, well that wasn’t really that bad, you are running a really good chance that you are minimizing yourself and your experience.? You are taking this really bad hurt and mushing it down to fit in a tiny box and then holding up the box to say, “See! I’m not in denial.? I see that I was hurt.? And Look!? It’s not that bad!”
When you minimize, you are refusing to own all of your experience.? When you minimize, you deprive yourself of the support you need to help yourself get through the trauma of the event.? When you minimize you think you got it handled and then you won’t be prepared for the day that it finally springs from the box and bites you in the you-know-where.
The worst part about minimizing yourself is that it becomes a habit.? I am not so good.? I am not that smart.? I am not that angry.? I am not that lovable.? Each time, you give off a little bit of yourself.? You let go of a willingness to own all of you.
In some respects, minimizing is a natural tendency especially in the face of trying, overwhelming times.? We begin to work through our experience by trying to make it less overwhelming and less threatening.? The trouble is that at some point the efforts of minimizing become overwhelming themselves and they definitely outlive their usefulness.
Observing my habit of minimizing myself makes me think of the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, a song by Dido called Life for Rent.? Here’s the lyrics to the refrain:
But if my life is for rent
and I don’t learn to buy
Well I deserve nothing more than I get
Cos nothing I have is truly mine
Minimizing is like trying to rent your life.? It is an effort to avoid claiming, accepting, allowing the wholeness and fullness of your life.? All of it, the good, the bad, the ugly, the awesome, the terrifying, the beauty.
If you’d asked me a month ago how I am, I would have said something like, “Oh I am fine.? I am alright.”? Now if you ask, I say, “I am not that good but every day I am getting a little better.”? A month ago, I was hoping that I’d could get away with just renting my “accident” in September.? Today, I am ready to buy and own that a scary, awful wreck happened to me and my daughter.
Between reading Before I Fall and several important conversations, I sprung from a tiny, tiny box, caught myself minimizing me, and said, “Wow, Cheryl!? Isn’t that interesting!? But does that really serve you now?”? The answer is that if I want to hold on to me, I will buy my life and learn to accept ALL that my life includes.? And as I can I will let go of the tiny box, encouraging myself to take in the fullness, attending to whatever the experience may be and become.? I will work on letting go of how I minimize myself.
That’s where I am.? How about you?? How do you minimize yourself?