We’re in the midst of a chaotic season. Our house is rarely tidy – and when it is, it’s a short-lived phenomenon. Even though I’m active in book clubs and volunteering and teaching, I’m also in the midst of identifying mostly as a mom. Which is both beautiful and boring. While I’d love to one day clean the house and have it stay that way for an hour or so, I also recognize this fleeting stage in our life. So, when you come to visit, you’ll see a messy playroom and most likely stickiness under Elle’s chair at the table. And right now, I’m ok with that. It’s who we are.
I was drawn to Shauna Niequist’s newest book, Present Over Perfect because its title seemed to indicate our current season. I quickly realized that Niequist’s life and my life are vastly different. While I’m learning to live with a messy playroom, Niequist is finding balance by saying no to Big Opportunities and Flashy Job Offers. She’s learning to settle in at home with a cup of tea and her family. Perhaps it’s harder for someone with a lot of opportunities to say no and to find that balance. I’d imagine that the sparkle of recognition is tempting. In that sense, Niequist is open about her change in mindset and what that cost her family and her career.
However, as an average mom who doesn’t have a Big Career to say no to, I had trouble relating. The big ideas were powerful but the details were privileged and narrow. Niequist leads an idyllic life: Vacations at a lake house, travel, tons of family support, the ability to reimagine her work-from-home job to more perfectly fit her family’s needs. And I say this as a middle-class, educated woman of privilege. I wonder how people living paycheck-to-paycheck, without the ease of reinvention would relate to this message?
After reading all of Niequist’s memoirs, I will say this one has the most coherent arc of all her books. She stays on topic, to the point of repetition at times, but there is a consistent thread through her essays. She isn’t as vulnerable as she has been in the past, but she still approaches this book with her friendly style and descriptive language.
Niequist is a gifted writer, but I wonder if the era of an essay-based memoir is over for her? I’d love to see her develop depth and write a book about something she knows – she has the background and the experience to do it and I could see her voice adding a lot to any conversation she chose to engage with.
Do you find it difficult to say “no” to opportunities? How do you balance good things with the reality of necessary quiet?
GIVEAWAY! I am giving away my copy of Present Over Perfect. Leave a comment about finding balance in the chaos and I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, September 2, 2016. (United States addresses only.)