Does your life feel completely chaotic? Like, you’re always running, you’re always feeling somewhat frantic, you’re always feeling like you’re not doing enough, not far enough through your to-do list, or that you’re always letting someone down? I feel like that sometimes. I guess if I was being really honest, I feel like that most of the time. And I know I’m not alone in that – many people I can think of who are in my close circle feel that way, and I’m sure many of you do too. I was recently told about a wonderful book called Present Over Perfect – it’s by Shauna Niequist and it speaks to this exact dilemma. In fact, Shauna was living that dilemma and the book talks about her journey back to peace, connection and a more soulful way of living. I’m seeing myself in the words of this book, and if you are reading this and feeling that your life is kinda frantic too, I highly recommend giving it a read.
What I love about this book is how Shauna talks about how she was the person who was always rushing, always doing more, always wanting to please everyone else, unable to say no. So caught up in responsibility that she lost the joy of life along the way.
What a loss – for me, for my family, for our community, for all the joy and laughter and silliness we missed out on because I was busy being busy.
She also talks about how so often, especially with regards our work and careers, the driving factor (or factors) run very deep. Motivations can be many, from truly feeling fulfilled and wanting to do good things in the world, to wanting to be seen as successful by family, friends and peers, and feeling the need to be constantly validated by achievement. None of these are inherently good or bad, but the mix of factors may dictate how frantic our life ends up.
It also seems that society now rewards “busyness”. It seems that now, when we ask each other “how are you”, a very common answer is “oh you know, busy. So busy.” Life that is our standard M.O. Like we’re “less than” if we’re not running at a hundred miles a minute.
I am so guilty of all of these things. I’m guilty of them today already and it’s only 6.15am.
Today is Thursday. I will get Valentina dressed, give her breakfast, run her to preschool in the jogging stroller, write 3500 words for a textbook chapter that I agreed to write (despite having just wrapped up my Lyme Brain book and swearing that I wouldn’t commit to writing again for a good while, but the textbook was “too good an opportunity to pass up” – I now have 25,000 words due in November), meet with my other naturopathic doctor to do case review for an hour, see patients all afternoon, wrap up patient emails and other correspondence, and make it home by 6pm to relieve our nanny and take over Valentina care, getting dinner ready soon thereafter and then collapsing into a heap on the couch, totally spent, drained, and wanting a nice big glass of wine to help take away the my-head-is-about-to-explode feeling.
I got up at 5am to get a jump on my day – I love the early morning quiet. Except today, the little pitter patter of feet that I usually hear between 6 and 6.30 came along at 5.30. Ruh-roh. I need to write, what am I going to do? But in the spirit of Present Over Perfect, I went to the couch, put my daughter on my lab, snuggled her in with blankets, and just sat there for ages – breathing in the scent of her hair, rubbing her feet, chatting with her, and drinking in the moment. Thoughts of “crap I have so much to do today I really need this time” tried to intrude, and I had to keep deliberately bringing myself back to the moment, in to the present, just breathing it in knowing that this particular moment will never come again – once time has passed it is gone, and you can’t get it back. It felt good. There was joy and connection, it was calm. It is baby steps like these that make up the journey towards a more calm and soulful life. But it is deliberate, and in a way disciplined – it won’t happen on its own. I know I can be very all or nothing, so for me I have to remember that I’m not going to wake up tomorrow with a whole new approach to life – it’s going to come gradually, one step and one choice at a time.
I love all the things that I do – my naturopathic practice, my patients, my essential oil business and team, writing my blog, writing books and chapters, and visioning up all kinds of other projects that will enable me to help people with their health. But because of the choices I make to spent Tuesday afternoons and Fridays with Valentina, I fit all of this into 3 1/2 days each week. There is a constant to-do list that never gets finished. That is the overwhelming part. Before I had a family I could work til 8pm if I needed to, and often did, and my days that weren’t spent with patients were mine to write, or do whatever I wanted. Now I have to prioritize my time, and fit a lot more into a much smaller window of time. That’s worth it to me to have time with my family – but I definitely feel like it’s unmanageable most of the time. I am a high achiever, I can get a lot done, but at what price?
I know many working mum’s feel this way. And it’s not just us – stay-at-home mums/dads feel chaotic; working men and women without kids feel chaotic – many of our lives have just got out of control with busyness, schedules and to-do lists.
Reading Shauna’s book has felt like such a relief to me. Look, there is another way, look, this person felt like me and now, through deliberate effort and a lot of prayer, has led herself to a different life, one that is more peaceful and connected. There is hope. If she can do it, I can. But it’s definitely a process, built one choice at a time.
She makes it clear that it’s also not about quitting everything and moving to an ashram (although maybe it will be that way for some people). I know for me, I don’t want to give up the things that I feel are my purpose in the world, I just want to be able to do them in a more sane way. It’s about getting truly connected to your purpose and your life source, and saying no to peripheral distractions and the need for other people’s approval. She states:
What you need along the way: a sense of God’s deep, unconditional love, and a strong sense of your own purpose. Without those two, you’ll need from people what is only God’s to give, and you’ll give up on your larger purpose in order to fulfill smaller purposes or other people’s purposes.
This book spoke to me so strongly because I relate so closely to the experience of life as being quite frenetic and overly busy; and to the dilemma of always wanting to do more and be more. If you relate to that too, I can’t recommend it highly enough. The foreword is written by Brene Brown, who I also adore. And Shauna writes in such a way that you feel she’s sitting beside you in your living room, making you a cup of tea then holding your hand as you read. Trusty Amazon carries the book, and there is also a workbook coming out in November. If you read it, I’d love to hear from you to know what you thought and how it impacted you.