I just finished the book Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist and it really got me thinking. Her book about “leaving behind frantic for a simpler, more soulful way of living” hit me like a ton of bricks. Unlike Shauna I don’t have ample career opportunities that I have to turn down. The problem for me is that sometimes I wish I did.
There is a chapter in the book called “Must Be Nice” where Shauna recognizes that she is struggling with jealousy toward a friend. She picked up on it when she realized that her constant refrain about her friends’ life was, “Must be nice”. It’s funny because as I read about Shauna’s life I think to myself “must be nice”. It must be nice to be able to hop on a plane and get away. It must be nice to speak with other women. I am not even talking about on a platform or a major conference! I’m thinking it must be nice to have an uninterrupted adult conversation on a regular basis or to be a paid blogger and a writer. Or to have a babysitter. That MUST BE NICE.
The irony of my envious thoughts is that the book was mainly about Shauna shifting her priorities to make her life more like mine! She wanted to stay at home with her kids more. She wanted to spend less time obsessing over the perfect condition of her home. She wanted to place her career in the backseat so that she could really focus on being a wife and mom.
As I read about her desires I recognize that as my world. I am a full-time wife and mom and I live a very simple life with the focus being on our home and family. I don’t resent it, but I do feel like I could be doing MORE. If only I could contribute more financially. If only I could be a better house keeper. If only I had time I would focus more on my dream career. The book really convicted me about my wishful thinking and allowed me to see that what I am doing is not only enough, but it’s priceless. Some of the most successful people in the world can’t buy what I am giving to my kids and that is a childhood that is rooted in a solid faith filled home with a loving family who are deeply connected.
It sounds really aspirational when I say it that way, but now back to the part where the grass is always greener on the other side.
You see, I have a little obsession. If you have a chance to speak with me in person for any length of time you will hear me talk about the NPR podcast “How I Built This”. I love that podcast and second to that is Shark Tank. I’m the first to admit my fascination with entrepreneurs, business launching, and rags to riches stories is a little random. I think it’s my form of escapism. Most housewives watch the Bachelor or read romance novels to escape. I think all that stuff is gross. Instead, you may catch me reading about how to hustle your way to success while downing a bowl of ice cream and signing permission slips. To each their own.
I get so inspired by entrepreneurs that beat the odds! It’s my dream to launch something that could be revolutionary! I have so many ideas, but here I am in bondage in my own home, a slave to nap time and carpools. Melodramatic tone aside, sometimes I beat myself for not being able to accomplish more.
This book really helped me to see the value in what I am doing right now. I felt like it let me off the hook for not hustling enough while being at home with my kids.
Yesterday I listened to the latest episode of How I Built This. It was about the guy that started Edible Arrangements. It is an incredible story. Tariq Farid came from a family of immigrants. He worked three jobs at a time as a teenager and turned all the money into his family to make ends meet. When he was 17 he invested in a rundown flower shop and the story goes from there. I was blown away by his vision, drive, and success. “Must be nice”. But then there’s a part of the show where the host asks Tariq about his family and some of the sacrifices he made. Tariq says “There is a price that you pay [directly referencing his divorce and children] I think the biggest thing that you look back at and you wish you did it differently is probably the children because I don’t think they understand.They don’t care if you’re rich or poor. They just want your time and they want your love” That part really convicted me. I was already feeling like there was confirmation through the book validating my personal choices as a stay at home. As Jesus said in Mark 8:36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, but forfeit his soul.
The tagline for my blog is “Making the best of what looks like a mess” and this quote from “Present Over Perfect” is about that very thing.
Shauna says “I was faced with a dilemma- one so many of us face quite often: I could either wrestle my life and my kids and my house and our Christmas into something fantastic, something perfect… Or I could plunk myself down right in the middle of the mess and realize that the mess is actually my life, the only one I’ll ever get, the one I’m in danger of missing completely, waiting around for fantastic.”
I choose mess.