I like to think of myself as a voracious reader.  Isn’t that a great word?  Voracious.  Rolls off the tongue.  I probably would be a voracious reader if life didn’t get in the way.  Work, family and friends tend to conspire to lure me away from my towering stack of books.  I generally have anywhere from 3-6 books going at any one time depending on my mood, Book Club and library due dates.  Right now, the stack of books that I either want to read, am reading, have started but not picked back up, or feel guilty that I haven’t started and should, is nearing a tipping point.  Literally and figuratively.  My bedside table can no longer accommodate them, the chair next to my bed is overwhelmed and then there’s the kitchen table with its own stack.  The label, “book hoarder,” is about to be a real thing.

Unlike my usual intake of all things fiction, I am on a self-help tear.  I credit a few friends last summer for getting me started but then the Whole 30 experience in January really got me thinking.  For those of you who are not regular readers of my column (there’s still time!), Whole 30 is a 30-day eating experience wherein you omit all wheat, dairy, legumes, sugar and alcohol from your diet.  I made it by the skin of my teeth but made it, I did. This gave me both a great feeling of self-efficacy and made me more aware of the stories I tell myself about my limitations.

I never would have thought I could live without bread, cheese and wine.  Did it.  Nor would I think I’d ever want to do it again.  Did it (only for 20ish days but still).  With those triumphs fresh in my mind, I turned my attention to my thoughts and actions.  The FAB Conference in April was a wonderful opportunity to listen to Shelli Johnson, a life coach from Lander.  She was funny, inspiring and real.  She said so many noteworthy things but the one that has really stuck was, “the space for me to grow is so much bigger when I’m inspired.”  So I put down my fiction and I picked up some books that are inspiring and challenging me.

Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before is helping me look at my procrastination tendencies.  Ok, they’re not tendencies.  It’s a way of life.  For example, I am writing this column on Friday at 11:41.  It’s due at noon.  I tell myself that I work better under pressure and am more creative with the hot breath of a deadline on my neck but is that really true?  My writing might be much better if I had more time to think about the words I wrote rather than sparing a quick glance for editing and punctuation before hitting send.  Argh.

Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly is showing me how being vulnerable completely changes the way I move within my world.  By allowing people to see the real me, insecurities and all.  Striving, failing, getting up and trying again, I become stronger and more courageous.  Let’s take dancing in public.  I love to dance.  Unfortunately, I look like someone who is doing some bizarre combination of polka and step aerobics with some Zumba moves thrown in.  I don’t care.  I may have cared in the past but I am over that now.  I now dance like it’s my job any chance I have.  Perhaps others who are watching me flail about on the dance floor will take courage from my display and join me without fear.

Then there’s patience and understanding.  I have zero of the former and am spotty with the latter.  Viktor E. Frankl has a great quote I’ve now heard from two different people in a matter of weeks.  I think that means I should be paying attention.  He said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and freedom.”  I would add that in our response also lies a better relationship with our teenaged children, parents, friends and random strangers.  So I’m taking lots of deep breaths before I speak.  I’ll just say this is a work in progress.

Finally, I’ve got two books from Glennon Doyle Melton going right now.  Love Warrior and Carry On, Warrior.  I’m about to hit this column’s word limit so I won’t tell you all the amazing nuggets I’ve gleaned from this woman who is brutally honest about her choices and her struggles.  What I will leave you with are the quotes at the beginning of one of her books.  I have been trying to keep the first one in mind for awhile.  The second one is easier to forget but even more important to remember.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Reverend John Watson

“Including you.” – Glennon