Favorite Tidbits from Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

I recently came across this book on one of my thrift store adventures. You know how something leaps out at you and you just grab it without really thinking about it?

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Well, that happened to me with this book. And it wasn’t a big risk since it was, like, $1.98. #bonus #guiltfree

Of course, the cover text caught my eye:

Leaving behing frantic for a simpler, more soulful way of living.

#talkingtome #goals

This was a few weeks ago before I declared April to be a month of abstinence (I’ll update you on that endeavor soon…) and I’m pretty sure reading this book influenced my decision to purge – curate, donate, sell, toss…REPEAT.

Present Over Perfect is marketed in the Christian Life/Inspirational category which may either attract or repel you. I mentioned the book to a friend who hadn’t read it because it was too much for her.

While I am not Christian by a long shot, I don’t mind the religious overtones and discussion of prayer or God. It is not constant, and if it got too much I just skimmed over that part. So now you are warned –  if that is an issue for you.

I thought I would share with you my favorite tidbits:

I love this one as a tool to get really clear on what is important to you: 

…a way to get at your desire or dream is to answer this question: if someone gave you a completely blank calendar and a bank account as full as you wanted, what would you do? 

Even if the answer is you would sleep for days (as the author’s was) that tells you something. Like you are doing too damn much. And I know – you may think there is NO WAY you can let ANYTHING go, but trust me, you can.

Really, you can. Sure, there may be sacrifices or discomfort, but I know that if you let go of the tightly held notion of what you believe you “absolutely must do or have” life will surprise you.

This is a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald shared in the book:

I hope you have life you’re proud of. If you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again. 

I want to memorize this and have it be my go-to toast for the rest of my lives. Yes, I said liveS – because if you know me at all, you know I have lived many, many lives and show no sign of stopping.

PS: starting all over again doesn’t have to mean you leave your current life (kids, spouse, family, house, job) behind and take up a new identity in a Mexican port town.

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I mean, I guess it could, but it doesn’t have to be all that. Because wherever you go, there you are and the real changes, the meaningful shifts, those are an inside job.

Remember, one small pebble in a pond sends out larger and larger ripples.

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In fact, the next tidbit goes into this exact point:

…we get to decide how we want to live. We get to shape our days and our weeks, and if we don’t they’ll get shaped for us by the wide catch-all of “normal” and “typical” and who wants that? 

You can live on a farm our out of a backpack. You can work from your kitchen or in a hig-rise…you can wear slippers or heels, eat steak or kale, read poety or spreadsheets…You get to make your life. In fact, you have to. And not only can you make it you can remake it.  

Isn’t that just the best news? Sure, you may not believe it. I can hear the cries of “yeah, but…” loud and clear.

But I believe it to be true. I know it to be true.

Many of us stay busy because it anesthetizes us from our interior lives. It’s scary to sit still, in silence, and let our feelings wash over us. We can feel like we are going to drown in them so we jump up to start dinner, or the next load of laundry, or to pour another glass of wine, or go for a run…

My whole life was an elaborate attempt at never having to be alone with myself….we cling to these structures because we think they are what keep us safe…

This one really struck me:

What would our lives be like if our days were studded by tiny, completely unproductive, silly, non-strategic, wild and beautiful five-minute breaks, reminders that our days are for loving and learning and laughing, not for pushing and planning, reminders taht it’s all about the heart, not about the hustle? 

The Hustle

Ahhh…yes, my friend the hustle. For the last two years, the hustle has been my constant companion. Sure, I get to spend my days in my PJs if I want, doing what I want when I want for the most part. But the hustle is always there, curled up right next to me, asking what’s next? where is the next job coming from? how much does that gig pay? when will you get paid? will that cover the bills? what can you sell to make some money? 

I’m on my laptop or my phone constantly – from 8 or 9 in the morning to 9 or 10 at night – 7 days a week. Writing, looking for writing gigs, applying for writing gigs, listing stuff…trying to make something happen, something that looks and feels like success. 

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Apparently, I am not alone. #nosurprisethere

I find myself confused…if the white-hot fire to be heard, to say something, to put something beautiful and honest out into the vast silence isn’t fanned by fear or desire to be respected or need to be seen, then what’s left? Do I have anything left to say? Or should I close my laptop and stop this endless chattering, this endless need to say something, anything? 

Another way to say it: what powers our work when it’s no longer about addiction to achievement? 

Have you been listening? Have you noticed this is what I have been grappling with lately? How I keep talking about this ennui, this vacuum where my desire for achievement used to live?

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I guess that’s why this book spoke to me so much – because it summed that feeling up for me.

And let me know I am not alone.

I’ve had a sneaking suspicion since last summer that the whole ennui, lack of drive thing has something to do with a sudden lack of ego. A letting go of feeling as if I need to prove something.

That I’m not just a dumb jock.

That I’m a writer.

That I’m a good mom.

That I am perfect just the way I am, in whatever shape I am in.

That what I have been and done and am is enough. 

I know I owe a lot of the letting go to my late friend, Dee. The recurrence of her cancer last summer and her death a few months later impacted me profoundly.

Luckily we had many opportunities to talk about it together and I continue to slowly piece together what I learned from her.

In the meantime, books like Present Over Perfect  help me process this new stage of life I am on.

Yes, I said on. 

It’s a stage, isn’t it!?!?

Love,

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