Good Things







Mati and me, photo by Kelly Rae Roberts; Ali Edwards and Brené Brown, PhD

While I'm hard at work on a new project, my friends are serving up good things that you won't want to miss:

If you've dreamed of exploring painting or learning from amazing artists, it's time to Get Your Paint On with Mati Rose McDonough and Lisa Congdon.

Ali Edward's One Little Word workshop is a great way to weave a thread of intention through your new year, and it's not too late to join her.  Registration will be open all year, though who wants to wait any longer?

And starting today, Brené Brown partners with Mondo Beyondo for a special Winter Dream Lab: The Gifts of Imperfection.  Check it out!

Perfection isn't true.

Perfection isn't true--my sign is almost completely washed out by my analog flash. Wonderfully imperfect. Diana InstantIt's been a fun week of celebration with my friend, Brené Brown, and the release of her new book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.  Brené's writing is always a good companion in times when authenticity is a struggle for me (and there are many such times).  Her thoughts are somehow challenging and comforting at the same time, as if to say, It's not an easy journey, but we're on it together.

Her latest book is giving me a new understanding of the way I lose belonging when I don't bring my true self to the table.  And it's teaching me that some of the things I confuse with belonging (like fitting in or pleasing people) are really just poor, pale substitutes for the real thing.

We want to share the celebration with you, so one lucky commenter will receive a free copy of Brené's new book.  The giveaway will run through the weekend, so tell us in the comments what you'd like to let go of or embrace for a chance to win. (I'm letting go of Doing It All and embracing my limitations.) I'll announce the winner next week.

You can read more about Brené's Perfect Protest and her work at Ordinary Courage.  Her new book is available now on Amazon.

An Access Point to Authenticity

at Coney Island. Horizon Perfekt, xpro Lomo 200 film.

When the authenticity conversation first came our way, many of us were raising our hands and murmuring, amen.  Our trusty bullshit meters promptly sounded whenever someone was posing or hiding something, and we hated that.  "Don't be a fake" could have been an early slogan, or "Give it to me straight."  Hell yeah, authenTIcity, man.

At first, we want to be given something real or true.  But the conversation doesn't have to sit with us for long before we inevitably turn the lens on ourselves.  We want to be authentic--we don't want to be a faker or a poser or someone who ever sets off the bullshit meters of others.  We want to know who we really are, we want to give ourselves permission to be that Real Person in the world, but this is the very point on which we so often get stuck:

Which one is the real me?  Is it my private self or my public persona?  Is it the way I am with my parents, or is it the way I am with my partner?  Is it only the way I am when I'm alone?  Is it the self I was 5 years ago, or the self I am today?  Or what about the self I'm aspiring to become--doesn't she count for something?

We are a bag of endlessly differentiated parts.

We are complex.  We live in a modern cafeteria of contexts, with modern technology gradually erasing the physical divides between work space and home space, between personal time and professional time.  Instead of switching hats throughout the day, we're more likely to stack them on our heads all at once. 

Many of us share the desire for authenticity, but we haven't always been given a lot of access points into it.  There aren't a lot of clear roadmaps for how to take each part and to understand and experience how it relates to all the other parts.  How they all belong.  How they can ever form something even resembling an authentic sense of self.

This is where the integration conversation comes in.  It addresses what to do with the bag of parts.  It leads us into a place where the parts become a whole.  And from that place, we can experience a revelation in what it means to be true.

Click through for updated details about the Integrate in the Rockies Retreat this fall.

Eat Me Big, Drink Me Small

Diana Instant+Yesterday the Integrate Retreat finished, and I came home to rewrite my story for Thursday's show before running into Manhattan for the rehearsal.  This morning I'm taking it easy, thinking about unpacking from last week's trip, savoring and settling back into my daily life.  I was home to select the Get Lucky giveaway winner on Sunday at midnight, but couldn't get a post together to announce it until now. helped me select the winner: Emily from Collecting Raindrops.  Congratulations, Emily!  Send me your mailing info and I'll get this yummy read on its way to you.  Everyone else can have Katherine's new novel arrive in her mailbox by ordering a copy here.  More on the retreat is coming soon, but here are a few thoughts about its theme, Integrate, in the meantime.

Size has been on my mind a lot since I saw Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland a few weeks ago.  The parts in Alice's journey in which she's eating or drinking something to make her big or small really stood out to me.  I could feel her struggling with her size and power, and myself grappling with my own.

Life is full of moments in which we feel big or in which we feel small, and it's easy to think that one must be our true identity, and the other a mistake or a just a part we're playing or a sham.  So it's especially confusing when we feel both at once.  I know I can rock that stage, but I really wish my friends were here to hold my hand.

Something about watching Alice grow and shrink and grow back again on a big screen helped me see with a new clarity that the essence of who we are defies measurement--it exists on some other plane.  I could see the possibility that I could be so malleable, that I could be big or small as the situation requires.  Inside this paradigm, it is normal to go back and forth between these paradoxes of self: seen and hidden, strong and vulnerable.  Going from leading a retreat in a beautiful brownstone to washing poopy panties by hand feels matter-of-fact instead of like some crazy whip-lash.  It all belongs: all my roles, all my sizes, all my pieces.  They are all true, and they all get their moments.  Eat me big, drink me small. 

The Middle Space

Lexington Express, Diana+

Tonight I'll be celebrating my anniversary of onstage storytelling with The BTK Band, an improvisational storytelling rock band led my friend, Peter Aguero.  They are something amazing to behold, all themselves.  They have a great show lined up--one I'm honored to be a part of--and today, like many days, I'm straddling the middle space.  You know the one--the huge cavernous gap between the confidence of knowing you've got a move to bring, and the vulnerability of being true or innocent or tender in a city that's famous for eating such people for dessert.

Big and small. Brave and vulnerable. Good and bad.  These are the dichotomies that have ruled my life, and it took so long for me to learn that I could (or would ever want to) be both, to learn there is a place to stand in the gap that lets you hold all your pieces at once.

Good and bad is probably the last stand for me in this battle.  This weekend I was thinking about how much of my life (most of it) has been about labeling or identifying the good and the bad parts of myself.  This intel fed a massive engagement to hide the bad parts, hoping they would disappear if I shoved them into a dark enough corner.

I still remember the tears that filled my eyes when I looked at Jen in her kitchen last April after she did a Humpty Dumpty number on me--the moment between when she completely undid me and the next, where she would show me the way back together again.

I said, "It's like who I am is a collection of quarters on the table, and I've spent all these years and all this effort trying to keep them all heads-up, to keep only my good parts showing."

"But you don't actually know which parts are good," she said. "Some of those pieces you keep under wraps are the best of all."

In that in-between, undone moment, I knew what it was to be loved.

It's taken months of having this be the larger conversation going on in the background of my life for me to return to it again with new eyes.

A quarter is worth 25 cents, regardless of whether it's facing heads up or tails up on the counter. And so it is with all of our parts, pieces and endless complicated facets.

It's been revolutionary for me to consider that perhaps:

  • my questions are more helpful than my answers.
  • my vulnerability, worry, intensity, fears--all the things I want to keep under wraps--have their own gifts to offer.
  • inviting them all into the picture paints a portrait of me that is more true, that is humanizing.
  • welcoming our dark, unpresentable parts into the light of day is an access point to our own humanity--to our truest selves.
  • showing up in life as our truest selves creates the possibility of deep connection--the kind of connection we long for.

This is what the Integrate Retreat in April is all about.  Finding our own dichotomies and the way to straddle the middle ground, to hold it all: big and small, brave and vulnerable, good and bad--to stand and move through the world with the kind of gentle fierceness that our raw humanity makes available.

I'm inviting you into this conversation, and if you're in the area, I'm inviting you to the show tonight (Under St. Marks, 9pm). Come.

***Thanks to everyone for the moving comments on the Weekend Giveaway. Via, the winner is . . . Lindsey of A Design So Vast.  Congratulations, Lindsey! Email me at jen (at) jenlee (dot) net with your mailing address and your copy of "Lanterns" will soon be on its way. The rest of you will want to get the Light and Love while you can.

the things i can't fit on a tshirt

just as they are, Diana Instant+Making new friends can be nerve-wracking. You go through different stages, like the "This person seems too good to be true" waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop stage.  Or the "I hope I don't blow it" stage. In my experience, this one can last a long time.

The internet feels like a normalizing medium for me--I don't think it shows my undesirable parts too much, like a really forgiving pair of jeans.  But in person I worry about the parts of me that my old friends have acquired a taste for but my new friends might find unpalatable.  Things like:

how neurotic and anxious I am

how I'm as intense as three tightly-wound people put together

how I'm freakishly productive at times

how I see a lot, more than some people are comfortable with

And I wish I could trade all these things in, along with my crazy hair, and just be normal and nondescript.  I know I couldn't be liked for any of these things then, but I couldn't be disliked for them, either.

Being new friends is sometimes about breaking the bad news to each other.

I'm sorry I'm such a freak.

You probably think I should be committed.

It's okay if you don't know what to do with me.  I have an un-fan page for people like you on Facebook.

You keep glancing over to see if you've lost them yet, and you're only worried because the stakes feel higher than whether you'll get unfollowed on Twitter for being an obnoxious morning person.

One friend spent her whole first visit to my apartment breaking the bad news.

You're going to like my sister more than me when you meet her.

I disappoint everyone.

I never meet expectations.

She kept looking at me to see if this new deal we were forging was broken yet.  I listened to every word, and only thought with amusement, Are you done yet?

She had a whole day's worth of this material.  This confirmed my suspicion that we were meant to be friends.

I spend a lot of energy trying to seem normal.  I think there's something about the social stigma and stereotype of the "crazy artist" that makes me want to keep most things under wraps.  Yes, I hear voices in my head and see stories more clearly than facts.  But I call this creative. Not crazy. (Though there's plenty of crazy being served up on the side to explain the confusion.)

It reminds me of the statements people wear on tshirts.  Maybe some things about yourself are just easier to wear emblazoned across your chest than they are to say out loud.  Things like this:

I have post-event social anxiety. This leads to compulsive/obsessive event debriefing, like a really long and pointless post-game show.

I'm totally awkward in certain social situations.  Like at bars. I never know what to order in a bar.  What I want is an Irish coffee or a Baileys and coffee, but with decaf. But they never have decaf at a bar. And then they're mocking me for asking.

I'm always worried that my apartment looks too messy or my kids are acting too wild or that I look too disheveled, since I'm generally too lost in thought to manage such things well. And I hate taking showers.

I worry that my neuroticism will be confused with obsessiveness. There's a difference.

I think about death every day. Without exception.

I live in constant fear of being misunderstood.

I don't know why I'm telling you all of these things. Maybe because I couldn't fit them all on a tshirt.  Maybe the question we're always asking is this: Can you take me just as I am? 

If not, I have a Facebook link you might be interested in...