I can still see her face. A lovely, demure woman in her late 50’s or early 60’s, kind eyes edged with delicate lines. Her voice had that buttery southern lilt to it, and when she spoke to me she gave me one pat on my knee and left her hand there while she said very definitely, “Honey, you need to get comfortable with imperfection.”
I took a personal growth class years ago called “Servant Leadership” through the local St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Although I’m not Episcopalian, it is an inclusive place where all feel welcome. The class really spoke to me in its approach to the world. Presence, listening and asking good questions are part of a facilitation method that I’ve developed and this was all about those elements of interaction manifesting into something bigger, better and more impactful.
Years later, as a follow up to that class, I took the Journey to Authenticity. It was based on a book by Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. That led to participating in a group suggested by the book called a Circle of Trust. The Circle of Trust is described by Palmer as a “…quiet, focused, and disciplined space… in which the noise within us and around us can subside and we can begin to hear our own inner voice… making use of stories from our own journeys, and insights from poets, storytellers, and various wisdom traditions.” During the process, these circles divide into Clearness Committees, “a communal process of discernment around a difficult life or vocational issue.”
It was during the practice sessions of the class in one of the Clearness Committee portions of the process that my Southern angel spoke to me. The guidelines of the clearness committee consist of non-judgment, listening and not giving advice, so I should have known when she said, “Now, I know we are not suppose to give advice, but…”, that I was in for it. I don’t know exactly what she was reacting to; me talking about my overwhelming desire to serve my family and do what was best for everyone, my struggle with how to balance what had become my life and my personal passions that got lost along the way, or simply that I was speaking with such immature authority about what I should be doing and feeling that compelled her to speak the words that resonate daily like a mantra. Whatever her reason, she broke the rules on my behalf and I am grateful.
Confucius said, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” The Journey to Authenticity has begun and “Honey, you need to get comfortable with imperfection.” has become the voice in my head. I’m still working on the rest.