day 36/40: #40shoutouts40days

Dear Terry and Michelle,

Do you remember when you risked piloting your leadership course on me, Celeste, Angela, Shaun and Jason in 2003? Bless you. That was pure fun, vital therapy. Considering all the time you spent with us, I practically owe you thousands. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I could legitimately finish today’s shout-out right here but that would be cheating you out of proper praise.

First of all, thank you for asking me to participate. It was an honour.

Second, thank you for kicking off the workshops when you did. The timing could not have been better. I was in the thick of processing a failed relationship. I had just quit dancing and subsequently fallen into a bout of depression, something I was out of touch with in the first place. I felt like an alien in my own skin. This realization was painstaking for me. For once my reflection was unfamiliar. I couldn’t be honest with myself and dare to lock eyes with the stranger in the mirror. The course was a spiritual intervention.

I don’t remember exactly how it came out but eventually I told you both that I hadn’t been faithful to journal much. I pretended it was a non-issue. Instead of responsibly owning my actions, I actually blamed my emotional state and writer’s block on a notebook, or perhaps a lack thereof.

At the time, I was obsessed with a particular brand I found at Winners (which, for my British friends, is like TK Maxx. TJ Maxx if you’re American. It’s all the same company.) I forget the make now but it was genius.

First of all, the cover was red. More Cindy Crawford and less RuPaul. Bonus points. She held a pen, had crisp lined pages and opened flat. She wrapped herself elegantly with a magnetic closure and fit beautifully into my handbag. We were inseparable, Little Red and I. She even had an internal pocket for keepsakes. After pouring my soul onto the pages of a few volumes, I couldn’t find another one like her. Conveniently, this happened precisely when I was having trouble addressing serious issues of the heart. I hit a wall.

Instead of recognizing my pain and daring to process it in writing, I hid. Then instead of taking ownership of my apathy, soldiering on despite an imperfect journal, I threw up my hands in defeat. I pathetically blamed Winners for selling out of my prized notebook. “Oh, I would be journaling but I’ve run out of pages and can’t seem to find another one that meets my high standards. I can’t write in just any book. I need Little Red. She’s perfect.” Bullshit, Elissa. You’re hiding under perfectionism and an illusion that you have it together. All this came out over a spiral-bound notebook.

You two, Terry and Michelle, very graciously helped me see the error of my ways. You also boldly spoke the truth I desperately needed but didn’t want to hear. My perfectionist DNA allowed me to hide and pretend it was noble. I was proud and afraid. I thought I was justified in waiting to do everything “right” – waiting for the right journal, the right words, the right state of mind – but you exposed my vice. Everyone is flawed, you said. Anything hidden cannot heal. You pointed out that leaders are not impermeable to pain.

Healing follows confession. We must confess to others and we must confess to God but first we must confess to ourselves. It was uncomfortable to be seen so vulnerably by you but our conversation brought about new life in me. Finally I could confess and heal. Redemption began after our workshops concluded.

I’d like to think that my perfectionism died after our time together. It didn’t. I have to continually ask the spirit of God to reveal my blind spots. Pride never dies completely. But thanks to you I am at least aware of myself and my vice. Thank you so much for giving me that priceless gift. I wish I could deliver you some of this imperfect banana bread to say thanks.

Much gratitude,

Elissa Joy

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