Imagined Conversation – Shauna Niequist – Part One: Chapter 1

Part One

Gravity of Love

Chapter 1: I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet

Ben: Good morning, Shauna. How are you?

Shauna: Well, I woke in NYC.

Ben: We love NYC. Go Mets!

Shauna: I’m a Yankees fan.


Shauna: [Laughing] – well, see you in the World Series, 2022!

Ben: That would be amazing! But, those Dodgers….we will see.

Ben: So, listeners can hear you describe where “I guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet” came from for you and your family, and what it means, and how you use it now, directly from you at places like:

Ben: In short, when your family moved to NYC, your kids would come home and ask why the other kids knew things they didn’t. You taped the phrase on the wall and it became a sentence giving your family common language about being a “learner” in a new city. Eventually, this broadened to be a common language for what it means to be a learner, a beginner, to be curious and make mistakes and get back up. To ask questions and figure it out as we go” (Niequist, p. 8).

Shauna: Yes, “I told the boys that each of us was going to say that phrase every single day about something, and that it was a good thing, not a bad thing. Not knowing something already doesn’t make you bad or dumb…it just means there’s more to learn” (p. 8). “Instead of this beeginner label being a balm over a wound…I began to like it..It’s changing my writing, mymarriage,my parenting. It’s bringing curiousity and freedom and peace” (p. 9).

Ben: That is a lot – a lot of output from a phrase; a lot of expectation from a phrase – even if we grant that this goes beyond a phrase to a mindset. Still, changing your professional, married, parenting/home life….bringing freedom and peace….these are huge. Either huge “results” and/or huge expectations on anything/anyone – in this case, on a mindset of learning, resting on a phrase.

Ben: Now that I’ve offered an initial offensive strike at your thesis, let me offer a bit of insight which, naturally, I gleaned from you, as a potential place from which to answer this opposition.

First, a grounding and recognition of the opposing view/set of questions: I think this questioning I have is legitimate because in 2022, post-pandemic, it seems like so many authors/podcasters/etc. offer their “well-packaged panacea,” their “way out” or “way up” or “way through” the things which we find when we face ourselves – which we should do and which the pandemic may have, in some ways, forced us to do. Perhaps the pandemic simply removed a few layers and brought us just a bit closer to the self-awareness and introspection which we should have been working toward all along. In any case, now, one can find/buy/subscribe! to any number of “phrases, apps, mindsets, philosophies (half-baked, often), services” which will bring the, apparently requisite, “change…freedom…peace….” Or, at least bring the façade/appears/minimum-requirement-of it so that we too can post “success!” and perhaps market, package and capitalize (I mean this very much in economic terms).

Shauna: That is a lot of words just to say that you think your position is legit.

Ben: Ha! Guilty. Yet also, I did try to question my own question before bringing it to you – I didn’t/don’t want to be just oppositional – but, I do feel “marketed-at” by “solutions-to-self.”

Shauna: So, Ben, before your self-defense of your question, you mentioned a “potential place from which to answer?”

Ben: Yes; gleaned from you, naturally!

Shauna: Yes; I am the answer! Ha!

Ben: Well, I think you provided a helpful place to start – a reference to Ted Lasso, of course!

Shauna: Of course!

Ben: Ok; seriously though – within your writing I found this place to start:

“…without realizing it, I had been wearing an expert hat for a long time – as a parent, as a writer, as someone who had lived in her hometown for a long time. I was the expert. The answer person” (p. 9).

Shauna: Ah; and now, even while that assumption may now be true, or maybe it isn’t, or maybe it isn’t held by the people who held it before, including myself, now, I know and I see that, “I don’t have all the answers anymore” (p. 9).

Ben: So you did, at one point, “have all the answers?”

Shauna: Well, I certainly thought so sometimes and at other times, others certainly thought that I did.

Ben: Maybe we can start here, before going deeper into the starting place that you give us for how “IGIHLTY” can actually bring change to professional, married, parenting life – how IGIHLTY can actually bring curiosity and freedom and peace (p. 9).

Here, I’d like to ask, “where did this assumption come from?”

Speaking from myself, I know that sometimes I am looked at as the person with all the answers, because:

  1. Sometimes people just look to me – maybe because:
    1. I was already talking (likely)
    2. I interrupted them (likely)
    3. I’m tall. Seriously – Research has investigated this phenomenon.
    4. I’m white.
    5. I’m male.
    6. I’m cisgender.
    7. Positively (hopefully?), maybe because they know me and they know that, as an 8, at our best, we really do go to “answers first.” Sometimes this is problematic, when we haven’t fully listened toothers/the problem itself. Other times, this can be an asset, like in many of the decisions Madeline Albright made which simply got people moving to the Vision – admittedly leaving some people behind and admittedly leaning hard on others to do The Work as the 8 as “an insatiable devourer of help;” as Madeline Albright self-states, “Plainly, I am not good at stopping, but for that I blame my enablers” (p. 325). Shauna: This type of “acknowledging a fault as something “cute” by quasi-drawing it out while describing the way someone as an 8 actually USES others sometimes helps and is adequate and sometimes rubs salt in the wound of a two who wants recognition (but through their own faults, won’t directly ask for it and will shun it (sometimes violently) when it is given). This can be a vicious circle. Ben: True; and the “head down; run to the Vision and pull others” aspect of 8s can, again, sometimes be the right thing at the right time (see the good FDR did), and sometimes not (the way he hurt others, his family, and, potentially, achieved 800% improvement to the Vision but perhaps could have gained 900% for himself and others if he had proceeded differently… to tell? In any case, this attribute is known (quickly) to people 8s are in the room with for the first time and certainly for those who know us – this attribute often leads to scenarios where people look to us to speak first.
    8. They know we 8s will go first, want to, that this is our first instinct and that, in some “impossible” scenarios, we will brainstorm and stick our necks out for the “wrong” solution in order to get us all out of a rut and toward a solution.
      1. Sometimes they do this positively, knowing the group needs this.
      2. Sometimes negatively – baiting us to go first just so they can destroy.

Shauna: Also, they usually don’t like side-tracking………

Ben: But that’s where some of humanities best ideas have been found! And, “Jesus works in the margins, right!?!?!”

Shauna: I’m not so sure that is what that means but I am becoming more sure that we are way down a side-trail…….

Ben: Well, let’s take a quick selfie and get back on track.

Shauna: Ok, so, we were “talking about curiosity and freedom, but under those things, what we are talking about is self-compassion – treating yourself with the same care and kindness you’d show to someone you love” (p. 9).

Ben: Ok, now, with full-disclosure, a side-trail: SO, TREAT THE ONE’S YOU LOVE WITH THE CARE AND KINDNESS YOU’D WANT THEM TO SHOW YOU AND YOU’D WANT YOU TO SHOW YOU. I really, really need to work on care and kindness to the one’s I love…..I have, in essence, as of the season I am in now, essentially no self-compassion, no self-care, no self-kindness….therefore I am treating the one’s I love equitably – but, at a wrongly, inadequately, selfish, sinfully, low level, baseline-only let’s-just-get-by-until-tomorrow-which-will-be-the-same-drill (*at best) only.

2022/09/30 – BM

Shauna: Thank you for saying that – there’s a lot of work there. Don’t go alone.

Ben: For now, back on track.

Shauna: Well, yes and no – “on track” and your “side-note” do relate, perhaps more than initially assessed.

“I [also] have a long history of saying things to myself – about my body, about my feelings, about my failures – that I would never say to another living human” (p. 9).

[Self-compassion] does not come naturally to me. Self-compassion is letting yourself off the hook….

Ben: Is it?

Shauna: Let me finish! Self-compassion is “letting yourself off the hook, letting yourself be huyman anbd flawed and also amazing. It’s ghiving yourself credit for showing up instead of beating yourself up for taking so long to get there” (p. 9).

Ben: Alright – either I’m obtuse enough to need to slow down and open up some of that; or I am a judgemental jerk enough to want to do that…….but, in any case, some of that language is so common, I don’t know if it helps / what it means….for example, “letting yourself be human and flawed……… yourself credit for [just] showing up….”

Shauna: I didn’t say “just” showing up – there is an important distinction. I’m saying showing up deserves credit AND I view it as step one. Putting the word “just” into my mouth/words = changes things to mean show up and no more needed. Which is not the case, typically. Rather, you must show up in order to then assess and reassess the situation. People who skip this either never show up….

Ben: Ok, yeah, that’s not good…

shauna: …or they show up without pausing to give themselves credit and then to look around as assess:

  • where am I exactly?
  • am I really where I thought we’d be?
  • the plan I walked in the door with – does it really fit now that I’m here? Does it really fit the situation and these LIVING BREATHING humans? Where are they at right now? Where are we as, if there are, let’s say, four people in the room when we walk in, now there are five, so, there are:
    • Person 1
    • Person 2
    • Person 3
    • Person 4
    • Person 5
    • The person 1 to 2 dynamic
    • The person 1 to 3 dynamic…..
    • The person 1 and 2 to person 3 dynamic…..
    • Infinite really, as all people are infinite and we change within and from second-to-second.

So, to skip this would be missing so much!

Frankly, missing so much context/logistics, like we are talking about if you walk in with an agenda, which sometimes, sure, things need to get done.

But, also, missing so much because humans are really fascinating, great, life-giving, dynamic, fun, fathomless; rich in these and so many ways.

Ben: Alright, well, now that I’ve been annoyingly obtuse playing devil’s advocate, I can also say, I do resonate with what you are saying – or I am resonating with you more and more. I’m a late-bloomer; like Madeline Albright, C.S. Lewis, and others…so, I’ve learned it always, ALWAYS, takes “so long for me to get there,” as you say, and that it really doesn’t seem to change anything when I get upset and “beat myself up for taking so long to get there.”

Ben: Let’s revisit something you said earlier: “We’re talking about curiosity and freedom, but under those things, what we’re talking about is self-compassion – treating yourself with the same care and kindness you’d show to someone you love,” (p. 9).

Ben: So, sometimes, I think in graphs – for better or worse.

Shauna: Cool! No, wait! Gross?

Ben: Here’s what I mean, in this case: