This is the intro post to the A Gutsy Girl virtual book club.
You will heal. I will help.
I skipped over “On Disappointing People” (sorry!) in order to quickly get to the next chapter in Present Over Perfect, “What the Lake Teaches.”
Even though I have been done with the book for quite some time, I will continue to write on the chapters contained in it because I believe they are so valuable for me to revisit and because, if you have not already bought the book, perhaps it will give you the extra nudge to finally grab it.
But first, rumor has it that Shauna was Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday this past Sunday. Just kidding. It’s not a rumor, it’s true. I didn’t actually get to watch it live (hello 11 am in the morning means a 1, 2, and 3-year-old obviously need 7 million things all at once), but I found it online, and now I can watch it whenever. So can you. Click HERE to watch. Can’t wait!
If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you know that all the sudden, this book has kind of helped spark a shift and change in my life for which I feel extremely grateful by.
I believe that Shauna wrote this book for people like me. Those who would begin reading it and say, “Nah, this isn’t me.” But then, sooner rather than later realize, “Wowza. This is totally me.” Once I saw myself nearly in every single scenario she described, I was able to finish the book immediately.
I saw myself in so many scenes of what the lake teaches, and currently in some of the most excitingly yet bizarre ways (which eventually I’ll be able to share with you)!
If you follow Shauna anywhere online you know how much she loves the lake. It’s her retreat, her safe place, and the one area where (I believe) she is able to just be and just let go. Through these lake experiences, she writes about the correlations between the lake and life.
I underlined many sentences on almost every page of the chapter. It screamed to me in a gentle and brilliant way.
But there was one thing that kind of stuck out and stayed engraved in my mind.
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Lake life has those invitations to rest and slowness woven right into the fabric of our days – rain showers that send us inside, nightfall that lays us down. But so many of us, myself chief among them, have forsaken those natural rhythms and stayed at full speed, through the night, through the storms. (p.62)
I felt like the chiefette among them, right along with Shauna.
Through every single night and all the storms, rarely have I backed off. In fact, when we first got Samarah, she didn’t sleep more than a couple hours for many months. Instead of keeping with the natural rhythm of early motherhood and sleeping when she slept and taking better care of myself to counteract all the chaos that was, I dug myself into a deeper hole.
If Samarah woke up between 2-3 am (AM ladies, NOT PM), I would get up for the day. My mind told me, “She will be up and she will be demanding all day today, so if you want to get anything done, you better do it now.”
I would go downstairs, brew coffee, and get to work.
Guys, 2-3 am – frequently!
This was anything but natural, and because it was so unnatural, I ended up getting extremely sick again. Shortly after, my Perioral Dermatitis reached its height and I was finally diagnosed with SIBO (and a whole host of other things).
It’s funny how as I reflected on this chapter and then on the decision I made at the half year mark to do less via my blog, I was taken back to something Shauna said earlier in the chapter,
A friend of mine told me I was pulling the ripcord on my career by being so outspoken about how badly I didn’t want to travel and speak anymore. Didn’t I realize the people who were asking me to speak might read my blog, and then not invite me? Exactly, I said. That’s the plan, I told him. I’m a writer, not a speaker, but I’ll never write another book again if I can’t get out of this constant cycle of output and exhaustion. (p.59)
I thought about this, too, on a much smaller level of course.
I have thought about writing, working, photographing, pro-bono-ing, all of it. The expectations from others that are there because I have always done it, because I always do it, and because everyone knows this about me – I have always stayed full speed through the night, through the storms.
But what if I didn’t anymore?
What if, instead of always doing the expected, I did the unexpected?
How would that impact some else’s life for me to heed what the lake the teaches?
Or maybe the question I really should be asking is, how would it affect Ryan, our children, and myself if I were to heed exactly the things the lake teaches?
Question: Did this chapter speak to you? Tell me how! Also, did you watch Shauna on Oprah? Thoughts?
Spoiler alert: The word that changed everything in Present Over Perfect was “no.”
So let’s just talk about this word, “no” for a few minutes.
I am confidently arriving at my right number of chairs because I am learning the power of no.
Mamas, I’m sure you’ve been told that you should not tell your child “no” so often. Articles like 10 Ways to Say “No” Without Saying No are common. The authors argue that ‘”using “no” too often can desensitize a child to its meaning, so save the word for life-threatening situations instead.”‘
While the word “no” does, in fact, carry a negative connotation, I’m not sold on the idea that we need to make daily attempts with our children, and ourselves, for not using it.
Somehow prancing around the word with alternative words just doesn’t make sense to me.
When we prance around the word “no,” we keep all the carabiner’s attached, weighing us down, making the climb harder.
I used to be that person. “Well, I really want to help you with that, but, hmmmm….let me think about it and decide.” Or, “I’m not sure if I have enough time to….”
No just means “no,” and if I would have learned the power of saying the 2-lettered word with confidence earlier in life, I could have avoided so much stress and hassle because today when I use it, I still feel guilt.
The difference is that now I just say it and move on, “Unfortunately no, I cannot help with that right now.”
And trust me, I’m not just talking about saying no to helping people, “pro bono,” or any other I-should-do-this-because-it’s-the-right-thing-to-do” things. What I am learning is that sometimes we also have to say “no” to things that make us money, and bring us joy as well.
There will always be someone or something, a cause or an event, who really needs your help – paid or pro bono – it doesn’t matter.
But you will never be able to do the things in your life that matter if you don’t use the word that changed everything.
Question: How do you feel about the word that changed everything? Do you use “no” frequently? Do you feel bad when you do?
The next chapter in our book club book, Present Over Perfect, is Dethroning the Idol. It was another short chapter, but I didn’t feel a whole post could come from it, so I’m skipping that one and onto the next chapter today which is titled, You Put Up the Chairs.
And this chapter could not have come at a better time.
Background (page 45): With “you put up the chairs” Shauna was referring to a Pastor whose church was rapidly growing. He continued saying, “We had nothing to do with it.” Another Pastor said, “Well, not nothing. You kept putting up more chairs.”
The idea is that the more you do and the faster you do it, the more you are aiming for growth. Hustle, work, grow.
Shauna argues that, while these might be the “fun” things to do, they are not always the most meaningful.
Her words (page 46),
Being good at something feels great. Playing ninja turtles with two little boys for hours on end is sometimes less great. It’s so easy to hop on a plane or say yes to one more meeting or project, to get that little buzz of being good at something, or the pleasure bump of making someone happy, or whatever it is that drives you.
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Since going back to work full-time, I’ve been thinking a lot about the chairs in my life. I feel zero guilt for going back to work full-time, and I also feel zero guilt for enjoying that feeling she describes – being good at something.
In the real world, many families have to have a dual income in order to make ends meet, and so this idea that being a stay-at-home mother is somehow superior to working mothers solely from a “priorities” standpoint is ludicrous.
My children and my husband mean no more to me now than they did a few months ago.
I didn’t have to work by any means. I chose to, and with that choice, I’ll tell you what it gave me…..
Shauna’s last statement of the chapter stated (page 47), “I’m going to take down some chairs.”
You might have read this whole post and thought, “She wants to keep putting up more chairs.” Not so fast.
I’ve almost arrived at the right number of chairs, and I believe the secret to present over perfect is knowing that just right amount for you, which, by the way, is not the right amount for anyone else.
On the whole, I don’t want to put more up (I mean, unless they are unique and old farmhouse chairs, which is another conversation :)). I only have a couple more to take down.
But I refuse to let anyone tell me which chairs should be there, which should be taken down, and how to arrange the ones that do exist.
You put up the chairs. How are yours arranged?
Question: You put up your own chairs. What are you going to do? Put more up? Take more down? Keep them as-is? Re-cover them? Rearrange them?
I can’t tell you how many people reach out to me privately wondering “how I do it all” or “how I appear to be so calm with everything put together?”
I don’t. Well, some days I might, but rarely is it the case.
Instead, it’s more like what Shauna described on page 36,
A friend and I recently talked about how deeply invested we both are in people thinking that we’re low maintenance – we both want to be seen as flexible, tough, roll-with-anything kinds of women. And this ends up keeping us from asking for what we need, for fear of being labeled difficult or diva-ish. But what good is it doing me to have people think I’m laid-back and flexible….when really that cherished reputation keeps me tangled up, needs unmet, voice silenced?
People don’t know because I don’t tell, I don’t ask, and I simply go about without ever showing the gap for needs.
I don’t think it’s because I’m worried anyone will think I’m difficult or diva-ish, but instead perhaps that the people I’m most comfortable with asking for help in the whole world are 1,500 miles away.
We have lived in California for ten years now, so I couldn’t help but think, “Why is this?”
But then she described something that left me kind of without words. On page 38 she states,
You can make a drug – a way to anesthetize yourself – out of anything: working out, binge-watching TV working, having sex, shopping, volunteering, cleaning, dieting. Any of those things can keep you from feeling pain for awhile – that’s what drugs do.
Furthermore, she states,
Most of us have a handful of these drugs, and it’s terrifying to think of living without them.
Being busy, staying productive, and always being “on” by filling our lives with something. This is what Shauna meant by running laps.
And I had to wonder. In my own life, is that something a real thing, and is it taking away from the important thing?
So I never ask for help, and I ultimately fill my life to a degree with “other” things….am I, too, running laps? Am I so dizzy from spinning in circles that I’m out of touch with the here and now?
Honestly? I don’t know the answer.
I feel happy, and I truly believe it’s real happiness, but is it real or is this just what the drugs Shauna described do?
Question: Do you feel like you’re running laps in your own life?
Stuffed was just a 5-page chapter. Short, like the chapter word, but it made complete sense.
In this chapter of Present Over Perfect, Shauna talks about being stuffed, about hitting the place in her life where she was so physically tired, missing friends, and sleeping terribly. She recalls her greatest dream of simply just being left alone.
There was a section of this chapter that I loved. It went like this (page 32),
I feel like I’m driving a car 100 miles an hour with music blaring out of open windows. I screech into a parking lot, the car in park, sprint into 7-Eleven, and race to the back of the store. I throw my head back under the Slurpee machine, and I fill my mouth with red Slurpee, tons and tons, running down my face and neck. I just keep gulping and gulping, sticky red corn syrup-y sludge, more and more, until I stand up, smeared and dripping, and race back for the car, to the next thing, jamming the car into reverse, music at mind-numbing volume.
That’s how I feel. And what I want is one strawberry. In total silence. No 100 miles an hour, no music, no fake red mess all over my face and neck. I want one real strawberry. And I don’t know how to get from there to here. I am stuffed.
I read those two paragraphs a couple times. They struck a chord with me. Not because I feel like that today, but because I was there, I have been her, and I know those feelings all too well.
I recently read an article that a friend shared called 16 Habits of Highly Sensitive People. You may or may not yet have gathered this about me, friends, but I am highly sensitive. I read the article and number 11 (the silence Shauna describes) is me to a “T,” “That annoying sound is probably significantly more annoying to a highly sensitive person.”
I also recently reflected on how far I have come during this past year. About a year ago I wrote, “Put Your Oxygen Mask on First.” If you want to know the truth, when I wrote that post, during that time period (in fact up until almost very recently), I was stuffed and miserable, but yet in so many different ways than what Shauna describes.
Being stuffed doesn’t just have to mean (page 29) “pushing and rushing, cold pizza at midnight, flights, books, and houseguests.”
A year ago I didn’t fit into any of those categories, and today I don’t either.
But I still felt stuffed and it all became very clear to me recently during this season of sea-change.
In the depths of it all, I realized I was drowning because I was trying to be a 24/7 at-home mom like I thought I needed to be.
For me, feeling stuffed was trying to play “perfect” mom when I already knew that while I was an amazing mom, “playing” one was all fake for me. I felt stuffed trying to cram all the right things for motherhood into my days where I wasn’t really feeling them. Like, at all.
As my sea-change was happening, I answered the question Shauna asked (page 30), “If someone gave you a completely blank calendar and a bank account as full as you wanted, what would you do?”
Shauna said she would stop, rest, sleep, and do nothing.
I couldn’t be further from that.
I would, instead, do it all, but with meaning. I would stop pretending to enjoy, love, or be anything I am not. I would indulge where meaning existed. By the same token, I would stop telling myself that I only have meaning where I believe the outside-in thinks I have meaning.
A year ago (up until very recently), I, too, was stuffed to the max. I know I’ll find myself stuffed throughout my life, but right now, right here, at 5 am today, Sunday, April 2, 2017, I don’t feel it at all.
For the first time in a year, feeling un-stuffed is totally exciting. (But don’t think those “sounds” don’t still get to me. They do. Every single day. They always have, and they always will.)
Get un-stuffed, friends.
Question: Do you currently feel stuffed? If someone gave you a completely blank calendar and a bank account as full as you wanted, what would you do?
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