I’m taking a quick departure from my usual health and fitness posts to talk about something more personal (and related, in a way). The cornerstone of good health is mental. Not just the foods you’re consuming and the exercise you’re getting, but how you feel inside.
Have you ever read a book and felt like you just experienced a seismic shift in thinking? I went nearly four decades without this happening. Not the Bible, not any self-help text I had ever picked up in my life. And then, my personal development book group started reading Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist. I can’t say enough about how much this book resonated with me.
First of all, it’s an easy to digest book. Present Over Perfect is written in bite-size essays. For someone who is on-the-go and regularly interrupted, the format made it much easier to stay in the book and absorb what Shauna wrote about feeling soul-sick and tired and how she transformed her own life.
And Shauna had a lot to say about letting go of perfect. In a way, I envied her. She has the luxury of letting go of the big things that plague her, from doing too much. She has a lake house to escape to with her family and a strong faith in God. I don’t have that; I run my own business, don’t own a lake house, and struggle mightily with my faith.
Even without those things, I could see what I could do right now to let go of perfect. I am caught in a perpetual cycle of busy: client work, my family, training runs, and all the little distractions of life. Some days, I struggle to stay upright at my keyboard. There are even moments when I’m filled with dread at the idea of another commitment.
My biggest takeaway was that I didn’t need a lake house. I didn’t even need to let go of everything, although I did spend an entire weekend purging my closet of the things that I felt weighed me down. (That included a lot of shoes that I no longer wear, that remind me of my past life working law firms. What I need to do is remember to be grateful. And I am. I took some time just to read outside, to sip iced coffee and enjoy my backyard. I snuggled with the kids. I removed social media notifications from my phone.
I’m still caught up in the perpetual cycle of busy, but it seems to have slowed down. I said yes to a camping trip that I’ve been dreading ever since it was brought up because I desperately want to try to be in nature somewhere outside of suburbia. I said no to a project that would potentially suck out my soul. I said yes to a regular Taco Tuesday lunch date with a friend. I took my laptop to a coffee shop and did some client work there, savoring the busy slowness of the moment. Most importantly, I have said a definitive NO to running a marathon.
Is my life easier? Only a little. I think, at this point, I can’t eliminate all the busy-ness in my day. What I can do is remove distractions (bye-bye, social media notifications and email popups), block off time where I’m free of electronics, and enjoy small moments. Let’s face it, most of us are always going to be busy. But we can say no to things that will just make us miserable and yes to things we love.