Wonderstruck interviews are back! I love this series. For those of you who may be new to this blog, all guests answer the same five questions. It’s amazing to see how different their answers are from one another. Plus, hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives. Watch for new interviews on Wednesdays.
Today I’m delighted to host Christianne Squires of Still Forming. I met Christianne through an online booksmith course and was captivated by her positive, enthusiastic energy. Be sure to visit her website (link is at the end of the post) and consider signing up for her Cup of Sunday Quiet e-newsletter. It’s one of my favorites.
Enjoy this time with Christianne.
What have you been wonderstruck by recently?
In the last year, I’ve become enamored by a personality typing tool called the Enneagram (pronounced “any-a-gram”). It’s a deep and rich tool that has existed for centuries and centuries and is deeply tied into our spirituality, helping us notice the light and dark we carry in us and how we’re invited to grow deeper into our true selves.
Because it’s such a complex and deep tool, it can sometimes take a bit of time to discover your true Enneagram number of the 9 numbers it offers. For me, this has been true. I spent about six months sitting with the number 5 (the investigator/observer), then spent another five months sitting with the number 1 (the perfectionist/reformer), and in the last few weeks I’ve begun turning my attention to the number 3 (the achiever/performer).
These numbers might sound like gobbledygook to people who don’t know what the numbers mean, but the point is that the process of trying to determine my true number has felt like a bit of a quest, and it’s been unsettling to not be able to land.
I don’t know if my number really and truly is 3, but I can say that in the last few weeks of sitting with that possibility, I’ve noticed a bit of slowing happening for me. I have wrestled with anxiety in work-related contexts the whole of my adult working life, and that has been a source of great pain and trouble for me. But as I sit with the idea that my true essence might be that of achiever/performer, it helps make sense of why the fear of failure in a work context would produce such great anxiety.
It’s also allowed me to notice how often I worry that my work isn’t going to measure up, only to discover on the back side of sharing it that it far exceeded expectations. Noticing this, I’m being invited to trust in my capacity and ability, to rest in my ability to perform well and offer value.
All of this has me a bit wonderstuck, really. That is a truly great word for it, for sure.
What part of your day are you grateful for?
In August, I started a 9-month program at a local church called the Long Retreat, which is a program based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. This is a saint who lived in the 1500s and helped people move closer to God through the use of their imagination in prayer. My prayer life in the last 15 years has been greatly aided by the use of my imagination, and so this makes the retreat program a great fit for me.
As part of the retreat, we have daily prayer exercises to complete, and we come together once a week to share how the daily experiences were for us. The leaders emphasize finding a regular time and place to do these daily prayers, and I’m finding that my time and place have become very special for me.
I’m not a morning person, so I usually stumble out of bed around 9 in the morning. Then I pour my mug of coffee and sit on the couch for about 30 minutes and read, letting my brain wake up. After that, it’s time to do my Long Retreat. I light a candle on my little table and settle in on our not-often-used loveseat couch, facing the candle. I stare at the candle for a bit, watching its two flames on the two wicks dancing along, as though it is me and God dancing together. Then I open my exercise book and and begin the time of prayer, which includes some reading, some imaginative prayer work, and then some journaling.
It’s a time in my day that’s become special to me.
What part of your day is tough? How do you move through it?
Getting out of bed! As I mentioned above, I am not a morning person at all. My husband is. He often wakes around 6 in the morning and makes productive use of the quiet space in our home. But I’m lagging behind in bed until around 9 each day.
I often feel a lot of shame around this. I struggle with thoughts like, How privileged am I, that I can’t even get out of bed before 9 in the morning, especially when there are plenty of people who have to wake earlier to tend to their families or get to work on time? I work out of my home and don’t have children, so neither of those aspects are part of my daily life.
I’m finding that I am helped to move through it in two ways. First, by noticing that I am very productive in the wee dark hours of the night. There are many nights I’m up until 1, 2, or 3 in the morning, working on ideas and being creative. The silence of the house and the neighborhood create a kind of cocoon that helps my creativity have space to flow. This is part of acknowledging that my rhythm is more night-oriented than morning-oriented, and that’s OK.
The second way I’m helped forward is by doing what I described above: starting my day with coffee and reading on the couch. By giving myself some space at the beginning of the day for my interior world to think and wake up slowly, getting up begins to feel easier and even pleasant.
I was reading something Leo Babauta from Zen Habits shared recently about habits, and he said we often fail to incorporate new habits into our lives because we have a negative association or experience with the new habit. If we can replace that negative association with a positive one — like, instead of thinking, “I have to wake up early, and I’m not a morning person,” we think, “I get to wake up earlier and enjoy a lovely, slow morning to myself for a little bit” — we will be more successful at it. This is along the lines of what’s helping me with my morning routine these days.
What do you wish you were more conscious of?
I wish I was more conscious of how good I am at what I do, that I bring quality work into the world. Like I mentioned above, I have a tendency toward anxiety and toward doubting my work’s worth, and yet I consistently find that those who receive what I do are very pleased. I want to trust the likelihood of a positive outcome more on the front end of the experience than I presently do. I am in the process of learning this, and it’s already beginning to make a big difference in the quality of my experience of myself and my work while it’s in process.
How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?
I am a pretty introspective person, and being in alignment and integrity with my values and sense of life purpose and direction is very important to me. I tend to feel internally pretty quickly when I’m getting off course, which prompts questions of what I need to do to get back on course with myself and my purpose and direction. I think the thing that most helps me with this is staying in tune to that sense of alignment. When something’s off, I can feel it. Paying attention to that feeling and addressing it when it happens is essential for me.
Christianne Squires is a trained spiritual director who lives in Winter Park, Florida with her husband and their two cats. She is the founder of the online contemplative community Still Forming. You are welcome to connect with her on Facebook.