Here’s to another year of climbing!

One of the last conversations I had with my Grandma Whipple was while we were standing in her kitchen.  I had stopped by their house on my way to or from someplace for a quick hello.  Grandma and Grandpa Whipple’s house was always quiet and relaxed.  I would stop in at an hour too late to warrant a dinner invitation, but she would warm up some of her home-canned tomato soup and grill a cheese sandwich.  I ate at the snack bar while she and Grandpa tidied the kitchen.  

I moved to Cheyenne shortly before Grandma collapsed one morning in their modular home in Quartzsite, Arizona.  So this—my last remembered conversation with her—must have taken place while I was on my way from Boise to Utah or Wyoming to visit other family.  I am not sure what sparked the conversation topic.  Maybe it was the California Prop 8 issue going on at that time.  Maybe I was talking with her about one of my friends from growing up who had come out as gay.  Grandma wasn’t someone to gossip.  I don’t think she would have brought this up so it must have been something I said. 

What I remember is the emotion with which she relayed her thought.  She told me about a cousin (to the best of my memory) who had a son who was gay.  She said that her cousin received some pressure from members of their church to disown their gay son for his sinful lifestyle.  Her cousin struggled with the church from that point on.  I remember the look on Grandma’s face and the tone in her voice, “How could anyone expect that? To turn your back on your own child?”  Maybe her sentiment lodged into my heart in that moment because it echoed my own.  A feeling that I had little room to voice in the bath of conservative talk radio, black and white thinking and critical judgement, in which I was immersed at that time in my life.  I actually don’t know how she felt about gay marriage or other political or liturgical policies, but it was clear, she valued love over any of that.  

I’ve been kicking this idea of values around in my head for a few days.  Brené Brown said, “…if we are clear about the values that guide us in our efforts to show up and be seen, we will always be able to find the light.”  What are my values? 

Per usual, I had to do some sifting of the shoulds.  I thought of the values my parents taught me, both directly and indirectly.  Things like independence, financial responsibility, honoring one’s commitment, faith, kindness and listening intently.  I thought of the values my church taught me: faith, obedience, respect, personal conviction.  There are the values I learned in my 20s: scarcity, hard work, nature, patriotism, wealth, being well-liked, dedication, and attention to detail.  There are the values I’ve learned in my 30s: compassion, balance, humility, openness, trust, and self-expression.  I let them pass through the sieve like fine grains of sand until a few pebbles remained. 

It’s obvious that I value a lot of things but I think it really came down to these three for this moment in my life.

Courage.  I have realized that my personal happiness doesn’t come from seeking comfort.  I feel my best and most alive when I live with courage.  Even though the allure of comfort is real, it is not for me.  Maya Angelou said, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”  

Integrity. When I learned about integrity is a kid, it was related in stories about returning miscounted extra change to a store clerk or fessing up about breaking something that belonged to someone else.  The word integrity comes from the Latin word integer, which means whole and complete.  Another word that shares this root is integrate. I love thinking about integrity in this way.  It no longer becomes a giant check list of doing all the right things and avoiding all the wrong things.  Integrity is about integrating yourself. About becoming whole and complete. Brené Brown defines it this way, “Integrity is…choosing to practice your values rather than simply professing them.”

Love. I saved the best for last.  Above all, I value love.  And Cheryl Strayed’s description and directive the best: 

“Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want or keep.

The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of love.”

Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar

What will your guiding values be for 2019?  Brené Brown posted a nice list of possible values to get you started (click here).  Here’s to another year of climbing!

3 thoughts on “Here’s to another year of climbing!

  1. glen says:

    Thanks for this stimulating essay Michelle. I think I’ll take on Wholeheartedness as a value to further develop in 2019. It seems like, if mastered, it might increase my joy and the joy of those who care about me. I need more study to understand its application in my life.

Shine some light my way. Tell me your thoughts!