One of my goals for 2017 is to read at least one book per month, ideally more. So I thought I would start sharing my recaps when I finish each one! Preface: nearly every book I read is my “favorite” right after I finish it… it’s the same with new songs, movies, etc.. And this last one was no different!
Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist was exactly what I needed starting this new year and season of life! Last year I chose the word “hustle” as my word of the year - more on words of the year later, but a full year of hustling hard left me 100% frantic, overwhelmed, and burned out. I knew I needed a change. So that’s what I set out to do in 2017! And this book was the absolute perfect way to kick it off!
So what is the “Present” Shauna is talking about? “Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem. Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairytale. Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.”
That’s what I’m seeking. To live each day focused on being present. Investing deeply in my own life, and in the people and things that truly matter. And to let go of the things that have been killing my soul.
“What kills a soul? Exhaustion, secret keeping, image management. And what brings a soul back from the dead? Honesty, connection, grace. Many of us, myself, included, considered our souls necessary collateral damage to get done the things we felt we simply had to get get done - because of other people's expectations, because we want to be known as highly capable, because we're trying to outrun an inner emptiness. And for a while we don't even realize the compromise we've made. We're on autopilot, chugging through the day on fear and caffeine, checking things off the list, falling into bed without even a real thought or feeling or connection all day long, just a sense of having made it through.”
Do you relate to that at all? Because those words hit me like a brick wall. Hard and fast. I found myself crying, and re-reading those words over and over. That was where I’d been, and I didn’t want to stay there.
“In my rampant yes-yes-yes-ing, I said no, without intending to, to rest, to peace, to groundedness, to listening, to deep and slow connection, built over years instead of moments.”
I’ll leave you with 2 more excerpts from the book - a couple of the ones that resonated with me the most deeply.
“Sometimes brave looks like building something big and shiny. Sometimes it means dismantling a machine that threatened to overshadow much more important things. We’re addicted to big and sweeping and photo-ready, crossing oceans, changing it all, starting new things, dreams and visions and challenges, marathons and flights and ascending tall peaks. But the rush to scramble up onto platforms, to cross oceans, to be heard and seen and known sometimes comes at a cost, and sometimes the most beautiful things we do are invisible, unsexy.
We love broad strokes, cross-country moves, kickstarter campaigns. But brave these days is a lot quieter, at least for me. Brave is staying when I’m addicted to rushing, forgiving myself when I want that familiar frisson of shame that I’ve become so used to using as a motivator. Brave is listening instead of talking. Brave is articulating my feelings, especially when the feelings are sad or scared or fragile instead of confident or happy or light. Brave is walking away from the “strike while the iron’s hot mentality that pervades our culture. Brave is being intentional about taking your marriage from “fine” to “can’t live without you.” Because fine is not fine at all. Fine is like a mesh sieve, with enough space for all the important things to slip through, and all you’re left with is to-do lists and resentments.
It’s easier to be impressive to strangers than it is to be consistently kind behind the scenes. It’s easier to show up and be a hit for an hour than it is to get down on the floor with your kids when you’re so tired your eyes are screaming and bone-dry. It’s easier to be charming on a conference call than it is to traverse the distance between you and your spouse, the distance you created.
Sometimes being brave is being quiet. Being brave is getting off the drug of performance. For me, being brave is trusting that what my God is asking of me, what my family and community is asking of me, is totally different than what our culture says I should do.
Sometimes, brave looks boring, and that’s totally, absolutely okay.”
And last, but definitely not least:
“Here it is. Here’s the love. Here’s the love: it’s in marriage and parenting. It’s in family and friends. It’s in dinner around the coffee table and long walks. It’s in the hands and faces of the people we see every day, in the whispers of our prayers and hymns and songs. It’s in our neighborhoods and churches, our classrooms and living rooms, on the water and in the stories we tell.
And let me tell you where it’s not: it’s not in numbers -- numbers in bank accounts, numbers on scales, numbers on report cards or credit scores. The love you’re looking for is never something you can calculate. It’s not something you can buy or earn or hustle for.
It’s something you discover in the silence, in the groundedness, in the sacred risky act of being exactly who you are -- nothing more, nothing less... The world will tell you how to live, if you let it. Don’t let it. Take up your space. Raise your voice. Sing your song. This is your chance to make or remake a life that thrills you.”
This book is definitely one to add to your list if you’re tired of living a frantic life! Shauna will draw you in and leave you in tears with some really hard truths. But you’ll be so, so thankful for it. Here’s to being the boring kind of brave, living for the present, remembering where the love is and isn’t, and bringing our souls back from the dead.