Two Pretzels: Being present, carrels, equal and starting again. A book review of Present over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist.

October 30, 2016

Being present, carrels, equal and starting again.
A book review of Present over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist.


 "I'm not, by any means, at the end of this journey. But I have traveled this beautiful new road far enough to know that this is how I want to live the rest of my days. I'm almost forty, feeling midlife-y like crazy, and this is how I want to live the second half of my life."

-Shauna Niequist, PresentOver Perfect, Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living

And BOOM.

Yes! 
Me! 
I’m raising my hand. Sign me up. 

This is what I want.

::

Recently I read Shauna Niequist’s book, Present over Perfect. I read it slowly and purposefully, knowing that there was some knowledge in there that I needed to absorb. Present? Yes. I need to be more present. (Stupid iPhone). Perfect? Yes, I strongly vote for present over perfect any day of the week. 

I am far from perfect.

::

"I'm coming to believe that there are a handful of passages in our lives that transform us, not unlike conversions, where the old is gone and the new is come."

YES.

I love this.

So much of this book, especially in the initial chapters, spoke to me. I'm so thankful when others share their experiences. The words of others help us to feel that we're not alone; that there are others here, doing what we're doing, feeling what we're feeling. Solidarity is a good thing.

I love relating.

Like this:

"...I've always given my best energy to things outside myself, believing that I'd be fine, that I was a workhorse, that I didn't need special treatment or babying or, heaven help me, self-care. Self-care was for the fragile, the special, the dainty. I was a linebacker, a utility player, a worker bee. I ate on the run, slept in my clothes, worshipped at the altar of my to-do list, ignored the crying out of my body and soul like they were nothing more than the buzz of pesky mosquitos...

…Now I know that the best thing I can offer to this world is not my force or energy, but a well-tended spirit, a wise and brave soul."

MIC dropped.

::

YOU GUYS! We don’t have to do it all! 

We don’t have to constantly rush. 

We don’t have to enroll our children in every extra-curricular under the sun and then be the bake-sale Mom, make dinner and have the laundry cleaned and folded in the same day!

WE DON’T NEED TO STRIVE FOR PERFECT.

[This is a kumbaya moment.]

We don't have to do everything, we don't have to be perfect, we can just be us.

::

After my Mom died I felt the shift that Shauna talks about: the transition from my life before to my life after. I felt the conversion that she speaks of. I relate. I get it. Of course the transition seems pretty obvious: before my Mom was alive and after she was dead; but there was more to it. (That sounded heartless, but it's reality.) 

After she passed, I slowed down. Profoundly. I had felt the searing pain that comes with loss and I had a newfound appreciation for this life, for this day and the brevity that comes with both of them. So, I mellowed. At first, don't be fooled, that mellow/ calmness was veiled by numbness. But as the lack of feeling abated, there was a more still Kylee.

"Still Kylee?”

HA!

“Still Kylee” is an oxymoron. Ask my family. Ask anyone who knows me now or knew me growing up. Ask my husband who is privy to all of my non-stop-edness. (Is that a word?)

I am the kid who never.stopped.moving.

I am the child who was constantly re-located in the elementary school classroom because I could not hardness my chatter. Every school year was the same. The report cards would exhibit my straight A’s, but the comments would always mention, “Kylee has a problem controlling her mouth.” “Kylee’s talking continues to be a problem.” “Kylee needs to work on her conduct.”

In an effort to curtail my communication, I was moved from the table with the girls to the collection of 4 desks with the boys, until finally I was moved next to the teacher. It didn't derail me. I would talk to the teacher. I was then moved to a carrel. (It's a box for kids who talk too much. That helped the situation. No one likes a carrel.)

Carrels are lonely.



I am the kid who wasn't allowed to consume sugar. My cousins could enjoy the goodies that the ice cream man bestowed, not me. I had frozen "fruit" pop made in ice cub containers. (Boo.) And better yet?, I had "special" kool-aid made with equal. (Remember those little blue packets?)

What is this, really? It's cancer.


I am the kid who was constantly bouncing off the walls.

I am the kid who grew up to be an adult who was always busy. Always doing something. Always starting a project. Always moving. Always multi-tasking. But being busy as an adult is praised! It's productivity! It's multi-tasking!  Who cares if I am the adult who can’t sit through a TV show without getting up during the commercials to go do something productive. I am the adult who must tell myself to, "Sit. Stop. Be here. Be here right now."

::

After my mom died, the universe forced me to slow down. I simply couldn’t move because life was too heavy.

My priorities shifted and soon "busy" was a status update that I wasn't interested in.

I've never been quiet my whole life and during that time... I was quiet. I listened. I wasn't getting in the car, turning on the bluetooth and calling my Mom or a friend. Instead, it was a hushed ride. No music. 

Just silence. 

Just me.

While the silence was grievous and painful at first, with my brain constantly rehashing her death and the loss. After a while, the silence became… comforting. There’s healing in stillness. 

There's healing in blankness.

The surrender is where it's at.

You cannot heal if you fill your life with noise.

You cannot heal with the constant distractions; the ones you create.

Unfortunately, the tough stuff in life must be taken care of solitarily and most often, with thought and applied intent. And it's not easy. It's stupidly hard. (No one ever said it’s easy, but it’s worth it.)

So, my work/life integration changed after my Mom's death, too. The little things didn't rile me. 

Prior to my Mom's passing, I’d base my career energy on my environmental circumstances. Everyone else in the office is in a tizzy over something that was marginally important? I’d hop on that train.

Everyone else was stressed or upset or angry; yep, I’d meet ‘em there. Give me some of that burden! I’ll carry it. I need more crap to worry about that has nothing to do with me and that I can’t fix!

[shakes head. What a non-productive and ridiculous way to live.]

Today, for the most part, an interaction with someone who was in a bad mood? No big deal.

Some thing didn't arrive on time? It's fine.

A deadline needed an extension? We're still alive.

My expectations weren't met? Move on.

Someone gives me attitude? Maybe they’ve got something bigger going on.

I slowed down. I tapped into the empathy reserve. And I moved on.

::

Well, three years later -- I'm reporting in that I'm still calmer than I once was... but in the past year, I’ve been filling my life back up with stuff: karate lessons, coaching, phone calls, goals, more work, relationships, expectations... trying to stuff 3 days worth of self-induced obligation into one evening... working 70 hours a week… never saying “no”… thinking I could do it all...

...and the people who I love the most, well... they're getting the worst of me.

[insert sad trombone and regretful, yet sincere shoulder shrug complete with lowered head.]

::

"You don't have to damage your body and your soul and the people you love the most in order to get done what you think you have to get done. 

You don't have to live like this."

Preach, Shauna.

::

So this book.  It's about less of all of the stuff you don't need. Less rushing and less "yes's." Less obligation. Less spending time on the things that aren't the most important in your life. Less taking on EVERYTHING just because you think you need to. Just because somebody has to do it.

And the clincher: the only one who puts all of this on me is me.

[Whew. That’s a tough one.]

::

My girls are growing so quickly and I'm willing to wager that yours are, too. I don't want to miss these moments. And neither do you.

"As I unravel the many things that brought me to this crisis point, one is undeniably my own belief that hard work can solve anything, that pushing through is always the right thing, that rest and slowness are for the weak people, not for high-capacity people like me."

Right?

But we don’t have to push and work intensely all the time. Sometimes we need to sit and listen and chat and let life happen.

Just let it go.

In my area of Mexico, when you’re finished with the meal, often times the waiter won't bring the check. This is an issue for my American friends who are accustomed to the main course being served and the check coming shortly thereafter. They're in a hurry to go do more questionably important things. Here, you sit… you talk… you enjoy… no check is forced upon you until you’re ready for it. They stretch out the experience and make it exactly that: an experience. An experience you're present for.

S-l-o-w down everyone, you’re moving too fast…

Digest life, friends. Don’t jump back in the pool so quickly, lest you get a cramp. You need to wait 30 minutes after you eat or else you'll sink and potentially drown (Thanks for that #lifelesson, Gram.)

::

So lastly, there's this thing.

Imagine a circle.
In that circle draw the people who matter the most: your husband, your partner, your children.

Then draw another circle around that inner circle and in that circle add your parents, your siblings, your close family. The people you turn to in an emergency.

Then draw another circle and these are your besties, your peeps, your crew, your squad, if you're Taylor Swift.

Then draw another circle around that. These are your co-workers, your clients, your customers, the people you're trying to expand your business to, the other moms in the "mom" group, the "friends" who always seem to need something from you. There are the people you're on boards and committees with. These are the people you wouldn't invite to your house for Thanksgiving.

Next, evaluate who is getting most of your attention... 

In my world, it was my outer bands, not my inner circle. I was kind of ignoring my sweet little circle that makes me the happiest. And it's easy to do this! Why? Because I know they'll still love me, even if I ignore them. But it's time to reverse my behavior; it's time to focus on the people who MATTER FIRST, and then... with my leftover time, work on those other relationships.

See, the ones who matter should get the best of us, not the worst.

Am I right?


::

Before:

“Mommy, will you play with me?”

“I can’t. I need to put this load of laundry in the washer, fold what’s in the dryer and put away the dishes. I can play with you when I’m done.”

30 minutes later:

“Mommy, can you play with me now?”

“I’m almost done. Now I need to fold what was in the dryer and water the plants outside, they’re dying.”

30 minutes later…

"Mommy..."

You get the picture.

Now? I’m trying to play for 30 minutes with the girls BEFORE I get anything else done. It shows them that they matter and allows them to see that I put them first in word and action. And, truth? I feel like I’m Parent of the Day when I get down and play with them. I love being with them and I don't play with them as much as I should. I'm actively working on that.

When my sweet 5- and 7-year-old feel loved and like I have time for them, then I feel good. I'm not running in every direction, I'm focused on them for chunks of time. And, they’re pretty understanding when I say, “I’ve got to get some things done now, but I can meet you back here in an hour or so.”

Everyone's happy.

This is one of the small changes I’m trying to make.

This is one way that I'm trying to be present over perfect.

::

So, this is where I am in my life.

I'm not trying to prove who I am anymore. Instead, I am loved by God just as I am. Me! The one with emails to return, the laundry to do and the crumbs on the floor. Me, the one with the ridiculously over-flowing junk drawer(s) and the unorganized closet. Me, the one whose pantry is a wreck and whose car hasn't been vacuumed in ages. I'm fine and loved even though when the sun shines through my windows it shows a fine-layer of dust. Everyone has dust.

I'm choosing dusty tables and unanswered texts over chronic connection to the things that don't matter.

I'm choosing stillness over instagram scrolling.

I'm choosing reading and writing and blogging and playing legos. I'm choosing romantic dinners and unscheduled time. I'm choosing being present over perfect.

So that book? 

It was a delightful and inspiring reminder.

::

If you’re so inclined, get the book on amazon.



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5 comments :

  1. "You cannot heal if you fill your life with noise." WORD. I loved the book, too! So many good, needed reminders, especially for the too-busy among us. <3

    ReplyDelete
  2. I loved the book. I think it was awakening for me to. I'm still struggling to get to silence, but at least, I'm AWARE now. And yes... I want my people (you included) to get the best of me.

    That night we colored? It gives me the chills to think that we really don't know how many opportunities like that we have. Kids are growing up fast, this season of our lives slipping through our fingers inevitably.

    10 years ago we were having Thanksgiving dinner at T's house and I had no idea what the future had prepared for me. I got pregnant with Nico the month after... But at that moment, I was a simpler and way less rushed and complicated person. I was 24 and wiser in some way.

    I'm so happy back then I took the time to suck it all in. Everything about that night. I remember every single thing. And boom, 10 years already happened. WHAT?

    So, I tried to do the same that night at your house. I want to remember all of that. Those are the moments I want to cherish in my heart forever.

    I love you, let's keep working on beig present over perfect.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm sitting in my boys' struggling with bedtime... it's 10:25 and both have been up twice since 7:30. I was frustrated because this is suppose to be "my time" but I just read this post and it helped me change my perspective . Now I'm cuddling with one of my dearest loves enjoying him while he still fits on my lap realizing this is still my time. Thanks Kylee!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laura! HI! So nice to see a comment from you. I'm so glad that this post resonated a bit. HUG to you. What do they say? The "days are long but the years are short"?

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