Posts Tagged perfection

Feedback Nourishes the Blogger’s Soul

skier in midair

Ms. HalfEmpty has found that jumping on skis gives you pretty quick feedback!

Bloggers love feedback.  We’ve even been called comment whores.  If a post appears in the blogosphere and no one is around to read it, was it even there?

Writing about my personal life in a public space is scary.  I wonder what people will think of me and how they’ll react to my decisions.  Will people think my trip around the world was extravagant and unnecessary?  Will I be criticized for quitting my job?

By putting it all out there, I make myself vulnerable to feedback of all kinds.  Fortunately, I’ve never received a nasty comment. But sometimes the lack of comments gives me pause.  I wonder if anyone is reading.  I wonder if I wrote a bad post.  I wonder if I’m a bad writer.

I realize there are all sorts of benign reasons not to comment, but of course my mind loves to jump to the worst possible conclusions.  So it’s been especially heartening when people email me privately about my posts.  Here are a couple that made my heart sing:

AMAZING!  Wow, that was insightful, enjoyable, and provided an awesome perspective.

Your latest blog entry was your best so far in my opinion.  It was more of you…  It gave and encouraged perspective…

Since I started writing about my life away from the corporate world, I’ve also gotten emails from others who echo my feelings and frustration with the work world.  One was from a high school friend, who I lost touch with years ago after we went to different colleges.

I’ve been reading your blog, and just wanted to tell you that I’m in awe of your courage to stop working and pursue your passion. Your latest post particularly hit home for me…

It is so awesome to hear that my writing reaches people and resonates with them (and of course, I love knowing that I inspire awe).  This email got me thinking about our shared high school background.  We both took the hardest classes (Gifted & Talented or Advanced Placement) and did well.  We were taught to excel.  We were attached to outcomes.  We were ambitious.  This competitive culture often led to long hours of homework and a school/life imbalance.  My friend is finding that same imbalance in her current work/life situation.

I certainly don’t have the answers, but I have tried to restore balance in my life.  It’s a significant change from my academic days when I pushed through, worked harder, and willed things to happen.  Now, I’ve taken a step back and am open to new possibilities.  I’m trying to let things come to me, but it’s difficult after a life of planning and striving.

Perhaps I’m looking for something that doesn’t exist.  I’ve been a perfectionist all my life, so I’m used to seeking the unattainable.  Mr. HalfFull often reminds me that even though he loves his job as a teacher, most of it isn’t fun.  But he endures it to get to those moments of bliss.

Maybe the experience of working at work we love is like marriage. We are enamored at first and then settle in. We become committed to the commitment we have made: most days average, some good, and a few that take us back to the beginning, reminding us of the inspiration that brought us to the point to be lucky enough to call most days average.

Committed to the Commitment

Thank you dear readers for commenting, emailing, and just reading.  I love your suggestions, insights, perspectives, and conversations.  You feed my soul.

  • How much of your personal life do you share in public?
  • Do you seek out feedback? 
  • Have you gotten feedback out of the blue that made your heart sing?
  • Do you believe that work is generally not fun?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Happening Upon My Namesake

Four Posts panorama

After our one day layover in Madrid, it was time to take a 3 hour bus trip west to VaughanTown. You won’t find VaughanTown on a map because it’s not actually a town.  In fact, it’s in 5 different towns.  Our VaughanTown was outside the village of El Barco de Ávila.

VaughanTown is an English immersion program for Spaniards.  As native English speakers, our job was to help the Spaniards gain confidence in their ability to communicate in English by exposing them to a wealth of speech and accents (including American, British, Indian, and Australian in our group).  The Spaniards pay for the program individually or through their companies, and the Anglos, like us, are volunteers who are compensated with free meals and a free stay at a 4-star luxury hotel.

Bus to VaughanTown

Anglos and Spaniards on the chartered bus to VaughanTown. Some are getting their last few moments of sleep, and others are already chatting away.

Before we could start our little English haven in the middle of Spain, we had to get out of the city and away from all the Spanish speakers.  Most of the participants took the chartered bus from Madrid with us to the middle of nowhere.  But along the way, we made one stop outside the town of my namesake.

Before our 30/40 World Tour, I didn’t even know why my parents picked my name.  But when my mom heard that we would be in Ávila, she shared this with me:

Ending the 30/40 World Tour in Spain is more than just a wonderful place to visit before heading home, but it is also a symbol of being on the edge between the east and the west.  The Greeks called Italy Hesperia or “land of the setting sun” and referred to Spain, still further west, as Hesperia ultima.

Spain is the place from where Columbus changed the understanding of where the world does not end, going from the known world to discover the new world. It is a place where Miguel de Cervantes created a fascinating hero with Don Quixote, the dreamer chasing the windmills. It is a place where you can hear amazing guitar tunes (La Tuna, Segovia, Sarasate, and Albeniz) and see flamenco dancing. While each region in Spain is unique in food, scenery and history, all Spaniards share a love for living life to its fullest with time for siesta and time for workkeeping soul and body well balanced.

highway exit to Ávila

The bus made one stop outside Ávila on the way to Gredos

More amazing, is that the last landing of the heroine’s journeyis not only in Spain but also in Ávila, the city of the famous Teresa of Ávila. While it is a coincidence and not a pre-meditated plan of Ms. HalfEmpty and Mr. HalfFull, it is a potential revelation for the couple, but especially for Ms. Half Empty.

In fact, there is a strong resemblance between our heroine and the famous saint of Spain who was constantly in search of perfection, while at the same time she challenged many of the existing social norms for women in the 16th Century. One of her most famous books, The Way of Perfection, describes her experiences in prayer which ultimately culminates in rapture.

St. Teresa of Ávila painting

1827 painting of St. Teresa of Ávila by François Gérard

The secret as Teresa explained in prayer is that it does not matter as much to think as to love.  Loving in the first place is allowing oneself to be loved. “Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift…”  Hopefully, our heroine will discover this on her quest.  It is not about righteousness in perfection, but about letting go to find oneself.

St. Teresa was a trailblazer, a reformer, a Doctor of the Church, and a very smart woman. She was a fascinating señora like our heroine. She liked adventure at an early age; she even ran away from home at age seven with her brother Rodrigo to find martyrdom among the Moors. She was beautiful and atypical of women of her time by making the most of her intellect and challenging the men of her time. She had a mind of her own, which she manifested as a mystic, writer, teacher of meditation, and founder of the Carmelites. Her work became classic text in Christian spirituality, mysticism, and Spanish Renaissance literature.

Four Posts

Ms. HalfEmpty at the Four Posts, which overlooks the walled city of Ávila in the background.  This shrine marks the place where St. Teresa’s uncle stopped her from running off with her brother to seek martyrdom in battle with the Moors.

Our heroine’s last landing is truly fitting before crossing the Atlantic Ocean and coming home to hit the road running and engage in a life of love.

Hotel Izán Puerta de Gredos

Our four-star accommodation during VaughanTown — Hotel Izán Puerta de Gredos.  Our room was on the top floor with one of those windows peeking out of the roof.

Woah, no pressure Mom!  Those are some big expectations.  But I do still love Mr. HalfFull (even after spending 24 hours a day with him for 10 weeks), so maybe that’s a good start on the life of love.

At the end of our bus journey, we reached Hotel Izán Puerta de Gredos, which sits on 15 acres of land in view of the Gredos mountain range.  The location was beautiful and secluded — a 30-minute walk from town.  This would be our home for the next 5 days, during which we would spend 16 hours a day speaking English to Spaniards.

  • Who is your namesake?
  • Have you found a life of love?
  • Have you ever participated in a program like VaughanTown?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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