Strengthening relationships and feeling less lonely is a challenge for emotionally sensitive people and can be overwhelming. Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges offers a step-by step model that is easily understood and gives the reader a way to move forward. I am grateful to Lori Deschene, the author, for answering a few questions about her work.
How did you get the idea for Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges?
I knew I wanted to write a book about strengthening our relationships, both because authentic connection is such a huge part of Tiny Buddha, and because I’ve personally experienced the consequences of shutting people out.
For years when I was younger I isolated myself in shame, afraid that people would reject me if they knew about my struggles and shortcomings.
As a highly emotional person—and someone who needed over a decade of intensive treatment to work through some deep emotional wounds—I was always worried I might reveal the depth of my pain, and thereby embarrass and alienate myself (as I did quite a few times after one too many drinks).
I also feared that people would judge me if they knew about my biggest mistakes. I judged myself; why wouldn’t they?
It’s taken me years to forgive myself, develop my confidence, and open my heart to others. I’ve also done extensive work forgiving people who’ve hurt me and rebuilding some of those relationships. As a result, I now feel more connected, loved, and supported, and better able to love and support others.
Looking back, I realize I never did anything big. It’s been a slow journey of two steps forward, one step back. And that’s what these challenges represent: tiny steps forward into a more loving, openhearted world.
Because it’s a Tiny Buddha book, it includes more than seventy stories from community members who’ve also strengthened their relationships through tiny acts like these.
How did you develop the exercises? What do hope the reader gains from the book?
Most of them are things I’ve done—or creative twists on things I’ve done before. Others were inspired by the contributor stories.
The book is broken down by month, with different themes for each one. And every week starts with a story or two, so you’ll often see challenges tied to that story in the week that follows.
Have you tried all the challenges? Do you have a favorite? Any stories about your own experiences?
While I hadn’t tried every challenge before writing the book, I have now! It’s hard to pick a favorite, since they encompass so many different themes (including kindness and thoughtfulness, releasing anger and forgiving, and support and encouragement, to name a few). But I can share my experience with one of the challenges.
Not too long ago, I was having a horrible day. I had to mail something at the post office, and I ended up waiting in line for what seemed like forever, and eventually being a little rude to the postal worker behind the desk.
It wasn’t my finest moment, and I felt incredibly guilty after—so I went back the next day and apologized.
It was a little thing I may not always have done, due to both pride and embarrassment. But I made the effort to acknowledge my shortcoming to a total stranger, and felt better about myself and my impact on the world as a result. I’d like to think I made her feel a little better too.
How do you handle hate mail or upset readers (if you have any)?
I don’t actually get any hate mail—and I feel so fortunate for that! I do, however, get emails that are a little insulting every now and then (not sure if that qualifies as hate mail…)
If I feel it’s going to benefit both the reader and me, I’ll respond addressing their points, trying my best to be open-minded and not defensive. If I get the sense there’s no value in writing back, I don’t respond.
This hasn’t always been easy for me. For a few years I responded to every email—including solicitations. I wanted everyone who emailed me to know I considered them important, and I still want that. But now I try to do that while also valuing myself and my own time.
Who has been your greatest inspiration, how and why?
My grandmother has been my greatest inspiration. I actually wrote a post about her here, after she died several years back. I also dedicated my second book to her and included a story about her in this one.
She was one of the most patient, kindhearted, loving people I’ve ever met. I come from a big Italian family, and we’re all loud and passionate, some more than others. Things can get a little heated sometimes, but Grammy never fueled it, got caught up in it, or judged anyone for it.
Instead, she modeled what it looked like to respond calmly, with a loving, accepting heart.
One could easily have assumed my grandmother had an easy life, and that’s why she was eternally open, giving, and grateful. But that wasn’t the case at all.
She lost her mother young, spent three years hospitalized as a child, and eventually became a full-time caregiver to my grandfather—who lost both his legs and then passed away, seventeen years before my grandmother’s death.
But none of this embittered my grandmother. She had her faith and her values. And while I didn’t share that faith, I always respected and admired how she lived by it.
Which section of the book was the most difficult for you to write?
The “Honesty and Trust” section was a little challenging to write, in that it’s more difficult to come up with challenges for this theme than it was for more straightforward ones, such as “Admiration and Appreciation” and “Giving and Receiving.”
“Acceptance and Non-judgment” was a little difficult as well, but I feel proud of the final result. Hopefully, readers agree!
Of all the projects you have, what is the most rewarding for you?
The most rewarding project has been Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse I created with my fiancé, Ehren Prudhel.
I never planned to create an eCourse. It didn’t fit in with my self-concept, as I’ve never seen myself as a guru or a leader; but rather, someone just like Tiny Buddha readers, whose lived and learned and wants to share.
But as movie lovers and aspiring screenwriters, Ehren and I loved this idea, combining self-help and film, and I also really embraced sharing my personal story in a new way—through video, as opposed to just written articles.
After putting so much work, and so much of myself, into the course, it’s been incredibly rewarding to see how it’s helped people transform their lives.
Are you working on a new project?
A few, actually! I’m hoping to launch member-hosted meet ups at the start of 2016, to help readers connect with and support each other off the web. I’m also working on a children’s picture book and planning to launch a series of short films, with Ehren, in 2016.
I’m pretty excited about all of these new developments, as I know the first will add tremendous value for the community, and the second and third will enable me to explore my creative side.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
Just one more thing: If they’d like to learn more about Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges, or grab a copy for themselves or a loved one, they can do that here: http://tinybuddha.com/love-book.
Note: You can also find Dr. Hall and information about coping skills for emotionally sensitive people at the below sites: