Have you ever started a really good book and then stopped, not really knowing why? That’s exactly what happened when I started reading Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist several months ago.
I started reading this book last fall when I was still in the middle of an extremely busy season. I had weddings every weekend and had scheduled way too many sessions during the week. In my head, I was doing my family a favor by saying “YES” to every opportunity to make money so that we could take a family trip to Disney World, which we did and it was amazing! But, in my heart, I knew this wasn’t a sustainable pace for my business and, most importantly, my family. I was exhausted, behind in editing, and crabby. I wasn’t taking good care of myself, my family or my clients. So, when I picked up this book and started reading, tears just flowed down my face. It was resonating so deeply within me. I knew this book was going to really hit home for me, but I put it down after a couple of chapters and let it sit on my bedside table where it mocked me every night for months before picking it back up again when our little book club decided to read it for the month of March.
Why? Why did I set it aside? At the time, I wasn’t quite sure. I probably would have just told you that I didn’t have time to read it. Looking back, though, I think I just wasn’t ready. I was too fragile and too tired to let it speak to me. At that point in time, I would guess that I had about 5 weddings and 15-20 sessions to edit and deliver. I couldn’t stop, yet. I still had a lot of hard work and late nights ahead of me, and reading the book at that time would have left me feeling resentful and hopeless. I couldn’t afford to outsource my editing or get outside help for things like housework. All of the work was mine to handle, alone. So, I did the work. There are really good reasons and seasons where you just have to hustle and do the work! It’s good to work hard at something and see the fruit of your labor. But, it’s so important to see that it’s not a sustainable, healthy pace to live when your most important people are getting the crumbs of your life. For me, nobody was getting the best of me! It wasn’t me pouring so much into my clients that my family was left behind. I was spread so thin that nobody was getting my best. So . . . a change was necessary.
In January, I picked up Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up from my sister’s house. I’ve become intrigued with the idea of less, of a simpler way of life with less stuff to manage, less clutter to dust, less choices to make. I read that book with such excitement! Now, I didn’t totally agree with some of the ways the author describes stuff, but I knew this was going to stir up something in me that would make a difference in our home. It also set the stage for reading about a simpler life in terms of my schedule, relationships and business.
Fast forward to February. I had made it through this crazy season and knew I couldn’t do that again this fall. I was ready for change, but had no idea how to make it happen. When my book club friends decided to read Present Over Perfect for the month of March, I knew I was ready! I set out knowing that I needed to take my time and really let Shauna’s words sink in and simmer a while. This wasn’t a book I could race through and, at the end, expect to really have tasted this new way of life that I so desperately wanted.
The thing I’ve always loved about Shauna’s writing is her transparency and “real-ness”. She is honest, authentic and makes you feel like you could be her friend. She also shares the BEST stories on Facebook about her adorable sons.
As I was reading the first few chapters, I was starting to get a glimpse of hope. Shauna shared her own struggles with proving herself, over-working, constant hustle and busy schedule. She shares her breaking point and her “aha” moments that then led her own journey toward a life of more peace, connectedness with those most important to her, rest and simple joys.
My favorite chapter was the one on legacy. This is a word that has been showing up in my life over and over again in the last few months. It’s made me think long and hard about my job as a photographer and my calling as a mother. In this chapter of her book, Shauna shares a very raw story about an interview she was doing for a friend when the topic turned to legacy. Shauna’s words seems hauntingly familiar,
“I don’t want to miss the actual fabric of the interior of my life and the beautiful children growing up right this second in my home because I’m working to please people out there. I’m afraid I’m missing it. I’m afraid I’m doing it wrong, and I want to know that I can change.”
None of us plans to miss our kids’ childhood or neglect our marriages while we are building a business. In fact, the reason I started this business was FOR my family. I wanted to be home with my kids most days and make enough money to be able to travel a little and go adventuring with the ones I love the most. The thing is, time marches on. Kids grow up. Relationships suffer. Life passes us by, until one day we either wake up and make some changes or it’s too late. Unless we become intentional about a different pace of life, it won’t happen.
Are you feeling exhausted, disconnected and worn out? It’s not too late. If you need some encouragement toward a simpler, more whole life, I would highly recommend reading Shauna’s book.