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I Thought It Was Just Me


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  • Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home
    Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home
    by Leigh Newman

    Can't wait! 

  • Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit
    Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit
    by Krista Tippett
  • The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves
    The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves
    by Dan Ariely
  • Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up
    Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up
    by Harriet Lerner
  • Rhythm And Repose
    Rhythm And Repose

    Tender and beautiful. 

  • Boys & Girls
    Boys & Girls
    by Alabama Shakes

    Love this album! So happy when I saw BrainPicker post this on her site! 

  • City of Refuge
    City of Refuge
    by Abigail Washburn

    Pure magic!

  • Some Nights
    Some Nights
    by Fun.
  • She Ain't Me
    She Ain't Me
    by Carrie Rodriguez

    I'm such a fan. 

  • I'm Your Man
    I'm Your Man
    by Leonard Cohen

    Take this Waltz is on my top ten list of all songs!

  • Babel
    by Mumford & Sons
  • Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey (Original UK Unedited Edition)
    Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey (Original UK Unedited Edition)

    So totally addicted to this series! Absolutely amazing!

  • Zen: Vendetta / Cabal / Ratking [Blu-ray]
    Zen: Vendetta / Cabal / Ratking [Blu-ray]
    starring Rufus Sewell

    Based on your recommendations from a recent blog post! It's another wonderful BBC mystery series! 

  • The Good Wife: The First Season
    The Good Wife: The First Season
    starring Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth, Josh Charles, Matt Czuchry, Archie Panjabi

    One of the best shows on TV. Juiliana Marguiles is incredible. 

  • Doc Martin: Collection - Series 1-4
    Doc Martin: Collection - Series 1-4
    starring Martin Clunes, Caroline Catz, Lia Williams, Stephanie Cole, Ian McNeice

living on heart time

I’ve made a big decision (or maybe the universe made it for me). My dig deep button is still broken, but rather than fixing it, I’ve decided to get rid of it. I’ve decided to do away with the entire idea of digging deep. Last week, after my trip to Amarillo, I thought things would get back to normal, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Grace helped, sleep was restorative and quiet time has been healing. But, there has been a fundamental internal shift in me; the kind that rattles your soul and awakens your heart.

So, I’m going to spend the next few months experimenting with some radical new ideas.

I’m not going to dig deep anymore. When I’m emotionally, physically and spiritually done, I’m going to stop. I’m going to stop feeling proud about


And I’m going to start honoring


I can’t tell you how hard this will be for me. I’m already struggling with some shame about “taking it easy” and “honoring rest.” One of my big shame triggers is “being lazy.” I’ve built my identity on being strong and irrepressible. Not strong and tough enough to say “NO” but the “push through” variety. The, “Shit, man, that’s nothing.  I do that much stuff in a day.”

I’m also not going to multitask anymore. I’m not going to feel satisfied because I can talk on the phone, answer emails, cook dinner and take care of my kids at the same time. I’m even going to TRY and stop talking on the phone and driving. I’m tired of getting somewhere and not even remembering the drive.


Right after the worst, scariest part of the 2007 breakdown (we seriously need to find a new name for this), I told Diana, “I’m afraid to get better.” When she asked me why, I started crying. I said, “I know I’m fragile right now so I’m really taking it easy. What happens when I feel better?” What happens when I feel normal again? What happens when scarcity sneaks back in? When I’m too busy to be grateful? To create? To meditate? To pray?

How do I return to this life that I’ve built around being all things to all people, all of the time? I like taking it easy. I like being too overwhelmed and too burnt out to take it all on. I’m afraid to go back to three or four meetings a day, trips every other week, one big writing project stacked on the next. What happens when I stop living on heart time and go back to head time?
How do I say “no” when the issues are so big and important? The world needs changing. How can you ever say “enough” when people are still hurting? How do you measure success when you’re trying to create a more compassionate, loving world?

I managed to be very careful for the first six months after my return to "normal." And, that brings us to March. I’ve slipped. I’m off the serenity wagon. Now, I’m Kramer on Seinfield . . . SERENITY NOW, DAMMMMIT!

So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to scoot, slide, and stumble my way back to what’s important. I’m going to do one important thing at a time. I’m going to stop and relax. Create and meditate. I’m going to remember that the world doesn’t need one more hurting person, but more inspired, hopeful people. Suffering doesn’t heal with more suffering. It heals when joy is created and shared. If I really believe in my work, I should honor it and move slow and thoughtfully.  

I’m in Washington DC today, meeting with some of the incredible women of the Nobel Women's Initiative. These are women who are literally changing the world. As we talk and strategize, I’m reminded of a quote that I saw on Ali Edwards blog a few weeks ago:

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
--Harold Thurman Whitman

When I lead workshops on shame resilience and compassion, I always talk about the power of writing things down. I decided to take my own advice and wrote down this list. I got caught up in prioritizing (of course) so I put them in alphabetical order to alleviate the stress.  

Alone time
Family time
Good music
Prayer and meditation
Steve time
Taking and sharing photographs 

Whew. Reading this list is painful for me. I don’t make these things a priority. I see them as a luxury. It’s so easy to see “coming alive” as a privilege, not a necessity. I do these things AFTER the “important” stuff is done.
But, imagine if you did these things first. If "coming alive" was the priority. Imagine.
I get that work has to be done, but there's a whole bunch of unnecessary stuff that I can absolutely let go. I'm going to try. I'll keep you posted.

If you feel like sharing your "coming alive" list, I’d love to see it! Share it in the comments section or link back to your site!
Let’s come alive together so we really can change the world!


« serenity now. insanity later. gratitude today. | Main | to rwanda with love, hope and GIRL power »

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Reader Comments (28)

Seems you and I am having a similar walk. I have been exhausted always digging deep and sticking it out. I gave myself permission to let go and let God. Stop trying to be superwoman and just enjoy life as it should be enjoyed. I wish you luck and many blessings.
04.8.2008 | Unregistered CommenterLu
I just got through telling another blog friend that I thought multitasking is overrated. I completely feel like you can't appreciate the simple things in life if you can't even stop to think what they are. And you can't think about what they are when there are so many things around you. I'm listening...
04.8.2008 | Unregistered CommenterMelody A.
Yes, exactly.
I am in a PhD program right now and took this semester off to destress and regroup and respond to what my life was calling for. At first I thought it would be a "rest time" in order to refill and go on; now in the last month or so I've realized that it has actually been a transformative time and that I will go forward differently.
Thanks for the reminder & LOVE the quote.
04.8.2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie W
I love this post. Dearly. I want to fill a tub and soak in, simmer, stew with these earth shattering soul mending ideas. This is the book I want to read. The inspiration and direction for daily-hourly living. I love your list. It feels like my own-and yes, they are the things I do after the "work" is done too.
so again--thank you for sharing!
04.8.2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Mankin
Synchronicity is an amazing thing! Here's to one thing at a time and the things on the "coming alive" list first instead of after all the other work is done.

Being in the moment
One on one time with each of my kids
A date with my husband
Enjoying the preparation and eating of good food, not just stuffing something down on the run
Quiet time
Connection with friends, new and old
Sharing stories
Prayer and contemplation
Finding my dreams and my voice
04.8.2008 | Unregistered CommenterRenae C
I heard about your book recently and it sounded like something I needed to read so I visted your website. This is refreshing . . . real people with real feelings who aren't afraid to tell others.

Unfortunately, I am a man. Not just a man, but a "Man's Man" I guess I don't need to say any more than that. I am not just a perfectionist, but a perfectionist at keeping my perfect image perfect in others' views.

I am working on becoming real to myself and others. I think all of you are going to help me.

Thank you and God Bless.
04.8.2008 | Unregistered CommenterClark
I made a list like this not so long ago. I need a hug everyday. I need someone to talk to and someone to listen to. I need time alone. I need to spend time walking outside. I need to laugh everyday. I need to work and enjoy my work.

What we really need is not so hard to give ourselves. We need time.

I had the same kind of thing happen to me as your 2007 breakdown. Two years ago I came to a point in my life where I decided to kill myself. It was a good thing actually. It scared me so bad, I decided to treat my depression seriously. I changed my life, am still changing my life.

It's okay to slow down. To sit on your ass and do nothing sometimes. I have a hard time with that one as well. I'm always busy, busy, busy but I'm starting to realize the all this busyness is my addiction, my way of avoiding dealing with the painful things in life.

I'm learning and it sounds like you are as well. Take care.
04.8.2008 | Unregistered Commenterdeb
I am a little stuck here. One of the things that makes me happy is also the thing that makes me dig deep sometimes and feel crazy- my work. It's such a struggle. What else is on my list.

Quiet time
family time
friend time

Now if I could balance the first one a little better, I may be able to get to these others on my list more often.

I like this idea of pulling the plug on the "button". I have to think more about it.

04.8.2008 | Unregistered CommenterFarrah
At one point in my life, I think I was about 19 or 20 years old, I was stirring soup with one hand, rinsing out a dish with the other, and picking up a paper towel that had fallen on the floor with my toes. I remember clearly thinking: Harnessing the power of my feet could double my productivity. Shortly before finishing college, I had a summer to-do list. It included reading The Inferno in its original Italian, learning Mandarin Chinese, and getting a cat. I got one thing done: her name is Sacha. I can't make anymore lists. No more to-do lists, no more "when I have some free time" lists. I would find myself with an hour to spare, frantically trying to determine which thing on my list I had time to do. I don't have any meaningful answers, but I can say that sometimes in the search for trying to do less, I end up adding yet another list to my life, ever trying to harness every bit I can wrest from the time I have on this earth. And when I don't do even those things, I end up feeling guilty because it's one more thing I have not gotten around to. So now, sometimes, when I am wondering which rejuvinating thing I should do ( go to the park and read? call my mother? watch TV? work on the never-ending architectural drawing of my ever-changing dream house?), I remember that relaxation should not be so stressful. There are so many self-imposed "shoulds" in life, but the most important is breathing, so I do that. I should breathe. So I do. Not a "I am going to sit here and meditate while counting my breath" breathing, just breathing. In. Out. So simple. And it's something I am already doing anyway. ;)
04.8.2008 | Unregistered CommenterKara
My list:
walking my dog
reading a book that's not about therapy or self improvement
going out to lunch with co-workers
riding horses
writing in my journal
art museums
breakfast with friends
drinking coffee & reading blogs
04.9.2008 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie O
I want to allow myself time to putter, to do nothing, to stare out the window...
04.9.2008 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
I can tell you how much I appreciate the honesty in your blog.

I am working on coming out of a "Mood" that has lasted for a couple of months. The gray and the rain in Seattle where I live does not help much. I just gave up multi-tasking as well. As a wife, mom, and an employee not an easy task but worth the effort.
04.9.2008 | Unregistered CommenterDenise
What about calling it the "when my batteries died", or the expression that Ellen used?

Get rid of that Push on Through Button. Am so with you.

04.9.2008 | Unregistered CommenterVeronique
Every time I read your blog everything seems to stop. So deep are your words of pain, courage and strength that they bring tears to my eyes and my heart to ache... for you and every one who is under so much life stress / pressure.
I believe that God sends things our way, not to hurt us but to help us grow stronger. God does this with love - we are his children and he loves us so much. So as a child goes to a parent when they need a hug, guidance, support, help, love, pray to God. He will hear you. The Bible says that your faith is strongest when you are weak (if you let it).
You are in my prayers.
04.9.2008 | Unregistered CommenterValerie
I've been in this place for 5 years now. I resent the push I am getting from family members who have never seen me so unproductive. I am so done with productive. I just want to wear comfortable clothes,comfortable shoes, actually sit down and read,eat when I WANT AT HOME. I think many of us have burned out, and I don't think it's a bad thing to want less, spend less, do with less.
04.9.2008 | Unregistered Commentersf
What's on my list?

Tub time (alone)
Reading time
Focused family time (without thinking of the gazillion other things I have to do)
Work out time
Girlfriend time
God time
Discovering my passions time

And, not necessarily in that order.

I think that although I'm feeling better than I's because I've said "screw it" to the DIG DEEP BUTTON. SCREW IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And, hell YES to honoring feeling too full or too empty, taking it easy, and saying NO!!!!!!!!!!
04.9.2008 | Unregistered CommenterJen A.
Great Post. I so appreciate your thoughtfulness and honesty about things. Your words (and also the photo that you took on your retreat) reminded me of a Mary Oliver poem that I just came across...

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

~ Mary Oliver ~

04.10.2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
A few years ago my husband and I went to Kenya to visit friends. They lived in a remote Maasai village. I distinctly remember feeling 'alive' at that time. I reflected on how that could be, what was making me feel so 'alive'.

In part, things were so incredibly simplified. ONE sippy cup. Food and meal choices were greatly restricted by market produce available and what we'd brought along from Nairobi. Showers needed to be planned hours in advance to ensure a bit of hot water. No TV. No computer. Time with friends and family was at a premium. No appointments to run to. No phone ringing. When it got dark we went to sleep. It was like life was forceably stripped down to what's important. Oh how I wanted to wrap all of it up and take it home with me. But now the list of items we lived without for those three weeks in the bush are what cripple me. Pulling me. Sucking the life out of me. I think I need to make my own 'alive' list and post it throughout the house.

I also agree that multitasking is highly overrated. It's a bunch of bonk, is what it is!!!
04.10.2008 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
Wow! It has taken me a while to see this as I was "behind" on some of the things I want to do--like read your blog. I feel like you have written my story and this last post especially. I have Fibromyalgia and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. One of the big problems with both is extreme exhaustion. I am having to learn to prioritize big time because my energy envelope is small and when I keep pushing I crash--over and over. Your post was just want I needed to remind me that this learning to live a new kind of life doesn't happen overnight and we have to take ourselves back to whatever helps us remember that. Thank you for being so courageous as to put this out there for others. Deb
04.10.2008 | Unregistered CommenterDeb Jones
Some years back I got a major physical illness that took my breath away, and took away my ability to be Superwoman, working all the time, always always. Thank God I got sick. I was such a slow learner, it has taken me at least 10 years to retrain myself to live life simpler, quieter, slower.

I still have an active full-time business, a husband and a house. But I don't go crazy doing everything anymore. I get up an hour earlier every day so that I can drink Chai tea and read the paper (or some of it, at least) in bed before really starting the day.

I always take a hot bath every night, no matter how tired I am or hot late it is. Those things remind me that I can be in charge of my DOINGNESS.

And it is still hard to not be Superwoman, or at least try to...
04.10.2008 | Unregistered CommenterB.
Brene, this post SO resonted with me. I'm so glad I found your blog. I posted my list here: Thanks for sharing with us!
04.11.2008 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Brene - let's sneak off and see a chick flick sometime...


PS - I am GREAT at goofing off!
04.11.2008 | Unregistered CommenterOptimst
I posted about this subject at my blog: Thanks for the bloggy inspiration!
04.11.2008 | Unregistered CommenterOptimst
I am so glad I found your blog! Especially at this time in my life. I have no energy, constant panic attacks and just generally feel like I never have time to do what I want. I know i need to simplify my life. I know I need to slow down, meditate, breathe, be bored for a change.

Remember how when we were kids on summer break, and the days seemed so long and full of possibility. How being bored was such a horrible thing. Well, I really miss being bored. I miss not having anything to do. I want to somehow find that feeling. I want to just sit outside for hours, being in nature. Being at peace. Not getting that pain in my chest, that uneasiness and nervousness that spreads throughout my body and makes me get up and be "productive." I need to shut off that voice. The voice that screams, "What are you doing just sitting here!?!? You should be cleaning, or organizing or doing the bazillion other things that need to be done. Right. Now. I have no idea how to do that at this point, no idea how to shut off that voice. I think I am getting there though. I think I have found hope. With every post I read in your blog, I feel like I am closer to understanding what I need to do and how to do it. What I need to do to be happy, and not feel like I am dying. every. single. day.

Thank you. Thank you for being honest and sharing your life and your struggles. You give me hope. You give me the strength to keep trying. You help me see that it can be done and I will do it! I will be able to throw that button away and just live! Enjoy! Rest.
04.11.2008 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle
Why have we become such do-it-all-be-it-all society that if want to sit down for 5 minutes, light a candle, and (gasp) do nothing we have to justify it as "meditating" or "me time" so we don't feel guilty or lazy.

I'm trying something new myself.Desperately searching for a better purpose and meaning in my life. I joined in on the Oprah/Eckart Tolle "A New Earth" book club and online class. So far it has made me more aware and to help me take a step back.

I love how Eckart Tolle says, "Creativity comes out of stillness...the space of stillness, that's where all creative endeavor is born". I'm trying...
04.11.2008 | Unregistered CommenterJessica K.
I call them love lists, and as a therapist who loves to goof off and play I get clients to do love lists as a valuable way of helping them reconnect and give joy to themselves.

I love the water.
My absolute favourite thing to do is to collect nature’s beautiful treasure on wild beaches while listening to the waves crashing.
I love anything a five year old loves, princesses witches and things that sparkle.
I love:
Snuggling in front of a roaring fire talking about hopes, dreams and wishes.
Curtains billowing in the breeze, fresh air and a house filled with music.
Grey striped rocks, heart rocks, white pebbles, and New Zealand paua pieces.
Candles, citrus essences, and luxurious fabrics like organza, satin and velvet.
Soups, salads and sushi. Simple, healthy, and delicious.
Meditation in calm quiet places.
Creating art in gorgeous colours like tangerine, fuschia and lime.
Coloured resin, collecting hearts, and cuddling with the cat.
Gardening in the rain, play, blowing bubbles and belly laughing.
Inspiring others to live their lives passionately and on purpose.

I am glad that you share who you are and what you believe in with the world. Thank you. Yes I am on the other side of the world so I can read your blogs anytime right! Your intellegence, compassion and authenticity is greatly appreciated.

By the way I think serenity now; how to awaken your soul and rattle your heart could be a great book title for you?
04.16.2008 | Unregistered CommenterPrincess leelee
"I don’t make these things a priority. I see them as a luxury. It’s so easy to see “coming alive” as a privilege, not a necessity. I do these things AFTER the “important” stuff is done. "

Ouch. Me, too. And letting go of all the truly unimportant stuff, the stuff that keeps me from getting to the coming alive stuff - why is that so hard for me? Wondering if I'm afraid to come alive, afraid I might fail at that, too.
10.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLorena
Brené, you're changing the world too, you know?
11.26.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonica Sanyal

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