book club 21 small

Book club

Week 10, by me: Tracey Yokas

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.

Rumi

Not Great but True

Monday on my walk I started listening to a new book that is about the topic of giving and getting attention. The author’s perspective is quite different from Mark’s in that she is writing about power dynamics in regular conversation and how directing the flow of attention is what gives a person power. I’m only one chapter into the material, but it’s a fascinating premise. The author, Kasia Urbaniak, did a Ted Talk about it. See that HERE.

I bring up Kasia’s book because it’s another serendipitous event of the kind that’s been popping up since we began reading Mark’s book! I could never have imagined that the VERY week I started listening to a book that was gifted to me almost a year ago would be the EXACT same week I’d be reading about the same topic in Mark’s book–a perfect example that there is more at work on this earth than what we see!

I must need to pay attention (ha ha!) to this idea of giving and getting attention, and how it relates to Mark’s and Kasia’s versions of power. Also, they are writing about a similar topic in different ways. It’ll be interesting to see how their lessons do and don’t braid and how putting these two things together may change my view of them and me.


When I was a little girl of three years old, my mom and dad were supposed to have another baby. They named her Lauren. Mommy’s tummy got really big. And then. Nothing. No baby.

I have no memory of the days my parents must have been preparing for Lauren’s birth. I have no memory of her not coming home. What remains of that time is 2 photographs of Mom and her belly in an old album—the only tangible proof that Lauren should have existed. That she was, at least for a short while, made of flesh and blood and certainly as real to my mother as I was.

Lauren died at the hospital. As she was being born, or before or directly after. I can’t be sure. I assume my parents grieved in their own ways. Or, not at all. I can’t be sure because Lauren was never discussed. I forgot I was supposed to have a sister.

I can be sure that my parents soldiered on–one foot in front of the other, one day after the next—because there was a roof over our head and food to eat. Dad went back to work and Mom went to her bedroom and life went on.

Lauren was gone. I was still here.

See me Mom. See me Dad.

A gaping hole existed at the center of our family.

Feelings I couldn’t understand revealed themselves in my body: stomachaches, headaches, vomiting, trips to the hospital for mysterious maladies. “We can’t find anything wrong with your daughter.”

Of course not. It wasn’t that kind of sickness.

I spent hours alone in front of the TV. I looked at the screen and found there someone who looked back. I grew older and became obsessed with acting. I craved the attention, wanted to be adored.

Young, I chalked up this want of attention to the fact that my astrological sign is Leo. Leo’s never shy away from a spotlight. I’d forgotten about Lauren, remember. I didn’t understand that I was trying to fill an internal well that was already malformed by my parents’ inability to give me the attention I needed.

I grew up and moved to California. Made an adult life for myself. I made choices I knew at the time were unhealthy and I made them anyway. I strove to get ahead the way adults do. Success will fix everything, I thought. I’d finally feel whole, complete, happy. Success would mend the broken well, and attention dressed up as contentment would last.

But the years passed and I noticed relationships falling away. People I cared about removed themselves from me. I was hurt, angry, and confused with myself and them. Why, when I tried so hard, did this keep happening?

Now, after years of personal work and reflection, Mark’s words make so much sense.

“Too often, once on our way, the momentum of getting keeps us from giving, and we resurrect the wrong kind of power.” p. 179.

Getting any kind of attention, even unhealthy, felt better then than getting none and played to my ego’s weakness. Oh the drama! The neediness! What I couldn’t see was just what Mark says: I was into the getting!

This is complex because the giving/getting of attention has layers and harkens to me also of living consciously versus unconsciously.

I wasn’t literally unconscious, of course. But it wasn’t until I experienced a crisis–a storm so severe my thickly built façade of fine-ness disintegrated like paper in a flame–that I began to see I’d been moving through my life on autopilot. Here and not here. The need for getting attention made me, in a way, numb to the rest of life, its nuances. It’s helpful here to expand the imagination, to consider the many ways and various places a need to get attention can manifest.

This state of autopilot-ness prevented me from being present with and giving meaningfully adequate attention to everyone, including my family and myself.

Gifting myself appropriate, healthy attention was how I found my way back to myself, to seeing myself and then others. And then to be able to freely give attention. To want to give attention, to feel grateful about giving attention. It started with giving attention to myself.

“. . . this concentration of wakefulness will help you live. . .” It was a necessary component to finding my way back, but not until after I’d already done some damage, hurt people I cared about.

I don’t say this in a woe is me way. Not at all. I’ve come too far and learned too much for that.

It’s important to me to reiterate this here because it’s coming up in the sharing I’m doing around my book. My intention for putting out thoughts, feelings, and information about mistakes I made is not to imply regret or to weaponize. It’s not for anyone to think, I did that. I’m a fuck up. No!

My hope is for people to have compassion for themselves and others. To explore how you/me/we/us can have conversations where we feel seen and heard–by giving attention to each other, by giving and getting attention–around difficult topics, and take responsibility when that’s what we need to do.

“So, when feeling the pain of being lost or insecure, when alone and out of touch with all that matters, give your attention to anything, quickly and fully. And the Universe, which has always been near, will come rushing back to fill you.” p. 180.

Here, we share and give our attention to ourselves and each other and to what was, what is, and what will be so that the Universe rushes in to fill us.

What struck you about this week’s reading?


Book Club Schedule:

  • Week #11 Staying Close to What Is Sacred through Stacks of Wheat, Maria Rodgers O’Rourke, Nov. 11
  • Week #12 Placeholders through Going With The Stream, Tammi Scott, Nov. 18
  • Week #13 <<<BREAK>>> Happy Thanksgiving
  • Week #14 Everything We Need through Becoming the Poem, Kim Prendergast, Dec. 2
  • Week #15 The Empty Saddle through This Belongs to Everyone, Eva Tsoureka, Dec. 9
  • Week #16 FINAL book club round up Zoom, Saturday, December 18, 10am pacific

A link will remain here to week 1 in case anyone wants to review the spearheading guidance. Week 1.

nepo 1

A page from my mini journal

I was so taken by Mark’s section on our Inner Critic that I created this small collage, and wrote notes about the inner critic and meditation. “Introspection cleans the window.” !!

I had so much fun making this quick little page. Art projects don’t have to be big or intricate to help us make meaning out of what we’re reading and learning. They’re another way to give attention.

Optional Art Prompt:

Pick your favorite sentence from this week’s or next week’s sections and create a journal page featuring the quote. (Send a pic if you do!)

10 Comments

  1. Tracey, I’m so sorry you had to live so much of your childhood under that umbrella. Myself included, many of us have lived through childhood trauma. And here we are, exchanging thoughts and feelings on your blog, looking inward and also looking outward.

    When a person is suffering, it is difficult to focus outward. I don’t think it’s intuitive to focus outward when in psychic pain. So Mark including this in his book is important. Looking inward all the time is not going to make for having close and sustaining friendships. We need to “see” others to have the give & take of healthy relationships.

  2. Wow Tracey, what an amazing and heartfelt post. I really related to the story about your baby sister who died. Unresolved grief is a common theme in so many families including my own. My Dad ran off with another woman when I was 3 years old and I never saw him again. He died when I was only 15 so I never had a chance to contact him
    as a adult. My mother was so full of rage and sadness that she never mentioned him again. She destroyed all of his pictures and it was as if he never existed. This had a huge impact on my life as you can imagine and I am still grieving this loss. Sometimes while meditating I begin to sob and continue to release feelings connected to this event even now 66 years later.

    So in this weeks reading Mark says” No matter how awkward our authenticity it is the foundation of lasting beauty.” This statement led me to write this poem.

    When I am me I connect with others, but when am I not me?

    Is being not
    me even possible?

    There are many different aspects of me, all part of a complex whole.

    Each aspect of me is as real as any other.

    Me is a constantly changing entity.

    I am evolving, each second a new death and each breath a new life.

    What part of me has remained constant?

    Is it my soul?

    Do I ever really show the real me?

    Do I even know what that is?

    Is there any such thing?

    My current identity feels more and more like a flesh suit, a costume that is getting worn out.

    Where will me go when this body dies?

    I guess all we can do is continue to strive to be as authentic as we can in each moment, knowing that we are constantly changing entities.

    1. What a beautiful poem, Diane. Thank you for sharing it. How relatable..to be wondering who the “real” me is…and how we change. Thank you.

  3. This feels poignant, from The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clementine Mawariya: “Nobody is who you think they are at first glance. We need to see beyond the projections we cast onto each other. Each of us is so much grander, more nuanced, and more extraordinary than anybody thinks, including ourselves.”

  4. Tracey thanks for this share. It is so powerful to reflect on what has shaped us. This part in the reading also stuck me and funny enough I went out today and I was making my way into work I was focusing on all kinds of possible future outcomes, projecting my fears all over the place as usual. Then I remembered this part of the reading and thought nope! I need to channel my inner Nepo and give my attention to what is front of me and ONLY what is in front of me today. This helped me so much today. Of course this is an eternal challenge of mine and always just beyond my reach. But the more I am reminded to focus on this present moment only the better I am focusing on this moment only. The chatter in this head is REAL and LOUD. I also know I learned in my early years that my feelings didn’t matter much. Not that parents didn’t love me or care for me. I know that they did with all their hearts. Each parent had their own set of challenges and mental health issues and my needs just got left behind and I internalized this as my needs were less important and I have lived my life that way. Today I choose to challenge this whenever I catch it.

    1. Kim, I can relate to internalizing your needs as not mattering. That happened to me during childhood, also. I had to find my voice and gut feelings as an adult. It surely took effort but I knew the path to feel at peace with myself was in understanding how I felt, what I needed and how I was to communicate this. I am happy to hear you are on a simlar path. It’s easier to discern how I feel these days, but sometimes I need to spend time figuring out how I feel as it’s not always immediately apparent!

    2. Thanks for this, Kim. Oh yes…I understand..re: parents who loved but had their own challenges. Exactly! But, since we never talk about that kind of stuff, kids’ brains turn that information into all kids of mis/ understandings. I SO feel you about the loud internal chatter. I have that too…and you’re so right about the practice. This, for me, is why a creative outlet is so important. It, another form of meditation, really quells that internal stuff…except when it doesn’t, lol. Then, I get practice accepting what is visually right in front of me. I’m so thankful you shared this. It’s powerful for us to remember we can (and must) challenge the difficult thoughts! xoxo

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