It's no secret I am a huge fan of Shauna Niequist's writing. A few years ago I picked up her devotional, "Savor," at Barnes and Noble (truth: I was drawn to it because the cover on some editions is fabric and just oh so cute) and instantly fell in love. Her writing is candid, insightful, and downright beautiful. I was so excited when I picked up her book "Present Over Perfect" and read it during my February trip to Phoenix. Just the title alone has become a bit of a mantra for me----with teaching, home life, self care, marriage, friendships. Presence is worth so so so much more than perfection. In fact, perfection really doesn't have a place. And that is a relief.
I'm a fan of planning, organizing, and scheduling. It's who I am, people!! It's what I like, what I love, actually, what I'm passionate about. That's one of the many reasons I enjoy teaching. I love having a unit end goal in mind and lesson planning and scheduling out projects and activities. And my students are in my class so they just have to go along with my plans, haha. I like countdowns and stickers for my planner and goals. I will always be like that. God made me that way and learning to love yourself means learning to love the parts that make you, well, YOU. And dang it, I love a good calendaring (yes I verb I use often) session.
I planned on having a bouncing 10 month old daughter around this time. Yikes, it's weird even typing that. But I don't have a 10 month old daughter. I have memories of my daughter who never grew beyond 6 days on Earth and a grave I visit sometimes. How is that for ruined plans? Having Hadley and holding her in my arms as she slipped from this life is obviously a dramatic example and not something most people have to encounter, but still, there were plans and hopes and dreams and then there weren't anymore. Perfect plans=shattered. It might seem odd to connect that experience with my reflections lately on being more present, but to me, they totally relate.
One, there's no such thing as perfect. There just isn't. Everyone has a burden. Everyone. That lesson is monumental to me in being more present. You never know what kind of turmoil someone is dealing with, so ditch perfection and work on being present (SO not easy, but a worthy goal).
As we extend grace and presence to others, we mustn't forget to give the same gifts to ourselves. As I worked through this book, I wrote down some quotes that really resonated with me. One of my favorites is, "Our days are for loving, learning, laughing, not for pushing, planning reminding." That one stopped me in my tracks. What if I made a list of all the verbs I did in one day's time? Eat, sleep, read, drive, workout, talk, reply, work. I don't like those verbs as much as I like nourish, grow, mend, listen, restore, energize, laugh. Niequist writes, "Hustle is the opposite of heart." and I could not agree more. I always joke and sing to AJ, "I'm a hustler, baby," (I promised I'd be honest on this blog, and that is some embarrassing honesty right there, people. I usually accompany it with a little dance, too. It's ok, unfriend me). Our world asks us to be hustlers: go, go, go, never stop, give it your all, all the time, never stop, keep running, keep doing. UGH. I don't know about you, but I want less hustle--more heart. Heart is good.
I'm writing this laughing at myself because I need so much work on this. SO much. I can overlook a conversation with a child because I'm grading a math quiz. I can neglect to ask AJ about his AP test review session, because I'm out the door, running to the next place. I can not stop and ask a friend how they are really doing and just reply with a "that's good." (One of my friends asked me this summer, "How are you doing? REALLY?" and I've never forgotten it. I've spent so much of my life saying "good," that it's refreshing when you can break down and tell someone how you really feel, how you really are.)
But the really neat part is that even though I could use some serious work on this idea of presence, no one is asking me not to be ME. I'm a planner, an organizer, a striver, and all of those "Leslie" things can coexist peacefully right along with extending grace and care to others and to myself. Somewhere in my brain I thought that tying to focus more on peace and presence meant being perfect at that. Don't beat yourself up for not being perfect at not trying to strive for perfection. I think I need this tattooed on my face where I can see it everyday. (Kidding). Oh friend, just relax. As Shauna writes, God is just "asking you to be the thing he created you to be." Breathe in, breathe out, and sip, savor, play, laugh, frolic, rest, slow down, appreciate, and reach out because life is short (boy is it ever) and "I don't want to get to the end of my life and realize the best thing about me was that I was organized and never missed a detail."
I really really hate that quote, "Plans fall apart so something better can fall together." Because those plans that fell apart meant something. Those plans were loved. BUT.....Plans, like life, aren't perfect. It's time to wake up and be present. Which verbs do you want to fill your days?
Savor Your Sparkle,