Sunday, November 22, 2009

a deep breath

Two hoatzins (Opisthocomus hoazin) on Cocha Blanco (White Lake) in the Peruvian Amazon near Blanquillo. See my other Peru photos!
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

Well hello!

It has been a crazy last few months, I tell ya. I am finally starting to breathe a long sigh of relief (though the final sigh to end all sighs will come after my book is fully approved and edited!). Writing that book, the draft that is, has taken me - from proposal to now - five years!!! At times I didn't think I'd finish, I didn't know if I wanted to, I thought I didn't have anything new to say, I questioned who was I to write a book on this topic, no one would listen, no one would care, it sucked, and on and on and on. But I felt some relief in hearing at least two writers say that they had very similar feelings. One was Liz Gilbert, the author of the amazing runaway besteller Eat, Pray, Love. She wrote about her feelings of the book's inadequacy (ie it sucked) on her website's Thoughts on Writing page. Another was Rachel Held Evans, who I met online because of her book on a similar topic - Evolving in Monkey Town - which is due out by Zondervan Press soon. I know that such thoughts are held by many writers in the long process of writing their books. And another thing, I've long since let go of the thought that if it didn't become a critically acclaimed bestseller, I was a massive failure. I can almost guarantee you, it won't. And I'm ok with that. At this point I just want it published!! Of course I'd be thrilled with wonderful sales and good reviews, but with the topic being so controversial (evolution and Christianity) I have no doubt there will be some authors on various sides of the fence slamming it. We'll see.

Regardless of all that, I feel a sense of freedom that I haven't felt in a long time because having the book incomplete felt like a huge weight on my shoulders. On top of having the book to write, I had tons of other writing to do in order to pay bills, plus my kids, my boyfriend, and the stress of life in general kept me so busy I hardly had time to write the book in the way that would serve it best - start on it and focus on it and finish it. That's why I went to Montana, and that turned out to be a huge blessing! Then as soon as I turned in the draft, I had a nearly 3,000 word feature due a couple weeks later, and now I have to write several blogs for my Animal Planet blog post to line up for when I'm out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday and my drive home from Pennsylvania to Texas. But I feel a whole lot lighter in my load right now!

In the past few months, Doug and I attended a 7-week Couplehood as a Spiritual Path workshop, a Christian-based workshop based on author and psychologist Harville Hendrix's bestselling book Getting the Love You Want (which is secular). Reading that book changed my life, and I tried to apply the techniques within my marriage many years ago, but the hard thing is if you don't practice it regularly, it doesn't become second nature. Then you don't end up using it when it counts, when you're upset. I wanted to introduce Doug to the concept now rather than later, even though every other couple in the class was married (and the fact that he will attend a class like this says so much to my heart about him!). I missed two of the sessions because I was in Montana but the ones we attended truly helped communication in our relationship. It can be so difficult to overcome some of those behaviors that we bring from our childhoods, the fears that prevent us from doing things or lowering our walls, or the triggers (buttons) that get pushed and make us over-react. But I believe self-awareness is the first step, and then the committment to start to change, to move in the direction of greater love and greater empathy for one another.

The final day we got a "Roadmap to Change" that includes the following advice:

Do this daily for the rest of your life:

  • Spend a few minutes a day praying for your relationship
  • Do at least one caring behavior for your partner
  • Send your partner an appreciation (ie say one thing you appreciate about your partner)

Do this weekly for the rest of your life:

  • Visualize and review your Relationship Vision (something we created in the workshop)
  • Engage in a shower of blessings (this is where one partner sits on a chair and the other person walks around them saying praises about that person - first physical attributes, then behaviors, then character traits then general affirmations - in an increasingly loud voice so you end up yelling loving things by the end! It counteracts the negative stigma we have with raised voices and replaces it with loving affirmations). I can say when Doug did this for me, it truly made an impact on both of us. It was a transformative moment.
  • Take turns planning at least one high-energy fun activity per week
  • Create new gifts of change (ie decide one small, measurable behavior you will change for your partner and then tell them you want to do it as a gift to them).

A central part of this is the concept of mirroring, which is a pretty standard technique in psychology circles. You repeat back what your partner says verbatim, or as close as possible, to make sure you got it right. And then you go through the steps of validating it and empathizing with them. It's a lot harder to do than it sounds!

If I don't get a chance to post again before Thanksgiving, have a very blessed Thanksgiving!!

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