Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Favorite quotes from Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist.

This book resonated with me so deeply. I have long had the monkey of perfectionism on my back, and it is a daily struggle to cope with it. There were so many quotes in Present over Perfect, Shauna Niequist's new book, that I wanted to group all the ones I loved best here.

:: "Years ago, a wise friend told me that no one ever changes until the pain level gets high enough." p. 24

:: "Part of the magic of the lake is that it isn't home-- it's away, and away allows us to see the rhythms and dimensions of our lives more clearly." p. 57

:: "And so I began to peer into the darkness, that plunging sense of deep inadequacy. It's always been there. Frankly, I didn't know other people didn't have it. I thought that at the center of all of us was black liquid self-loathing, and that's why we did everything we did-- that's why some people become workaholics and some people eat and some people drink and some people have sex with strangers. To avoid that dark sludge of self-loathing at the center of all of us." - p. 71

:: "He has all the time in the world to sit with me and sift through my fears and feelings and failings. That's what prayer is. That's what love is." - p. 76

:: "In more fundamentalist strains of the faith, there's great value on happiness, constant kindness, selflessness above all else. These are wonderful things... that, over time, make it really hard to say things like, "I need help." Or, "I can't do this anymore." Many Christians, women especially, were raised to be obedient and easy, to swallow feelings, to choke down tears. This has not served us well. This has made it far too easy to injure our bodies and our souls in the name of good causes-- there are enough good causes to go around." - p. 85

:: "My crazy brain has always been my gift and my challenge, and I've tried everything to lower the volume in my head, because things really do get a little loud in there." - p. 94

:: "Brave these days is a lot quieter, at least for me. Brave is staying put when I'm addicted to rushing, forgiving myself when I want that familiar frisson of shame that I've become so used to using as a motivator. Brave is listening instead of talking. Brave is articulating my feelings, especially when the feelings are sad or scared or fragile instead of confident or happy or light.
"Brave is walking away from the 'strike while the iron is hot' mentality that pervades our culture. Brave is being intentional about taking your marriage from 'fine' to 'can't live without you.' Because fine is not fine at all. Fine is like a mesh sieve, enough space for all the important things to slip through, and all you're left with is to-do lists and resentments.
"It's easier to be impressive to strangers than it is to be consistently kind behind the scenes. It's easier to show up and be a hit for an hour than it is to get down on the floor with your kids when you're so tired your eyes are screaming and bone-dry. It's easier to be charming on a conference call than it is to traverse the distance between you and your spouse, the distance you created.
"Sometimes being brave is being quiet. Being brave is getting off the drug of performance. For me, being brave is trusting that what my God is asking of me, what my family and community is asking of me, is totally different than what our culture says I should do.
"Sometimes, brave looks boring, and that's totally, absolutely, okay." - p. 126

:: (John Steinbeck quoted in the book) "And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good." - p. 127 (I should note that this principle is applied to the character Cal in East of Eden, who, you know, my Cal is named after, so you'd think that I would have figured that out by now).

:: "I'm drawn to music that's more earnest than tidy, art that's more ragged than orderly, people who are just a touch more honest than is strictly appropriate for the situation. I'm finished hustling for perfect. It didn't deliver what they told me it would.
"And so instead: present. If perfect is plastic, present is rich, loamy soil. It's fresh bread, lumpy and warm. It's real and tactile and something you can hold with both hands, something rich and warm. Present is a face bare of makeup, a sweater you've loved for a decade, a mug that reminds you of who you used to be. It's the Bible with the battered cover, the journal filled with scribbled, secret dreams. It isn't pretty, necessarily-- it isn't supposed to be." pp. 129-30

:: "Writing is such good training for the rest of life, if you allow it to be, because it forces you to get comfortable with failure, with the wide range of impossible-to-meet expectations and standards." - p. 171

:: "There are lots of conversations right now about how to do everything better/faster/smarter, how to streamline, multitask, layer, balance, flow, juggle. How to monetize, strategize, and on and on. This is good stuff. Necessary stuff.
"But my jam these days is wasting time, playing, becoming aware of that internal engine that always wants to go faster, faster, faster. That engine is not the best part of me. My heart is the best part of me.
"And I'm finding that my heart loves to play. My heart loves to color and draw, loves to dance in the kitchen, loves to shoot baskets, loves to do cartwheels with my nieces in the front yard.
"What would our lives be like if our days were studded by tiny, completely unproductive, silly, nonstrategic, wild and beautiful five-minute breaks ,reminders that our days are for loving and learning and laughing, not for pushing and planning, reminders that it's all about the heart, not about the hustle?" - p. 175

:: "I remind myself what is true: that God loves me, and that there's nothing I can do in this new day to earn more love-- nothing. And also that there's nothing I can do in this new day to ruin or break that love-- nothing." - p. 205

:: "I have the energy to live well, to dedicate myself to the things that matter to me, and that God has called me to. I have the security to truly rest, to truly enjoy this extraordinary world and all its offerings-- books and art and meals and people and conversations and cities and beaches and night skies. And while I am deeply appreciative of the charms of this glittering world, I feel a sense of patience where I used to feel slight anxiety about the beauty of it: will I see it all? What if I miss something?" - p. 227

Saturday, August 20, 2016

That's the way this wheel keeps working

When I was fifteen or so, I fell in love with this song by John Mayer. We all love to hate on John Mayer these days, with his string of relationships and a Taylor Swift ballad devoted to him, but if his lyrics are any indication, the guy gets me. I found the song "Wheel" at a season in my life when I was saying goodbye and desperately hoping that it wasn't forever. John's refrain that "you can't love too much one part of it" comforted me -- the idea that good things come to an end, and there will be hard, painful experiences, but that like a wheel, life will cycle back to happier days. 

I thought of "Wheel" again yesterday as I was walking on the trail behind my house. For four years, I've lived in Los Angeles, where the change of the seasons is subtle at best. Despite the 97-degree weather this week, I can tell that autumn is coming soon, and the change means more now than it did. For one thing, the weather will change enough that I actually will need to wear warm clothes and may not be able to walk outside or take my kids to the park whenever I feel like it. But on a deeper level, my heart is also clinging to the fact that this is the only time. I've really fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest, and I hope we come back after our nomad days in the Army are over. But of course, there is no telling if we will. The fact that I only have one year here makes me want to savor and cling to every moment, to soak every beautiful moment into my bones. I don't know where I will be next year -- if I will be in a foreign country, or another seasonless climate, or somewhere I love even more. I just know that I love where I am now, and that I only have one chance to experience the slow fade to fall in the Pacific Northwest. 

Of course, the beauty of the wheel is that it comes back around. The beauty of the seasons is that they return. Mayer says, "If you never stop when you wave goodbye, you just might find if you give it time you might wave hello again." I've repeated that phrase throughout my life like a talisman against loneliness. Our impulse is self-preservation -- why fall in love, whether with a person or a city, if you know for sure that you will say goodbye soon? It's easier to hang back, keep to yourself, stay safe. But I believe if we have faith in the seasonal nature of life, everything we miss will come back to us someday. "I believe that my life's gonna see the love I give returned to me." 

People have the right to fly
And will when it gets compromised
Their hearts say "Move along"
Their minds say "Gotcha heart"
Let's move it along
Let's move it along

And airports
See it all the time
Where someone's last goodbye
Blends in with someone's sigh
Cause someone's coming home
In hand a single rose

And that's the way this wheel keeps working now
That's the way this wheel keeps working now
And I won't be the last
No I won't be the last,
To love her

And you can't build a house of leaves
And live like it's an evergreen
It's just a season thing
It's just this thing that seasons do

And that's the way this wheel keeps working now
That's the way this wheel keeps working now
And you won't be the first
No you won't be the first
To love me

You can find me, if you ever want again
I'll be around the bend
I'll be around the bend
I'll be around,
I'll be around
And if you never stop when you wave goodbye
You just might find if you give it time
You will wave hello again
You just might wave hello again

And that's the way this wheel keeps working now
That's the way this wheel keeps working now

You can't love too much, one part of it 

I believe that my life's gonna see
The love I give
Return to me
I believe that my life's gonna see
The love I give
Return to me
I believe that my life's gonna see
The love I give
Return to me

Monday, August 8, 2016

Let's talk about books, baby.

Let's be real for a second -- if you know me at all, you know that my great passion in life is reading. It has been for as long as I can remember, and it is so much a part of me that I can't really tell you why I love it so much. Maybe someday I will swan-dive into some heavy self-analysis and figure out why exactly I can't resist a good story. But for now, just know that I love -- LOVE -- books. 

For a long time, I wrote a book review blog. It was so rewarding. I was never a "big time" blogger -- I've never had the interest or energy in really promoting myself to actually make money blogging -- but I did get some books from publishers before they came out which was really all the payment I needed. My book blogging seriously slowed down after Cal was born, although I did post sporadically for about two years after. Then, I started wanting to focus more on this blog, and writing about topics other than books (motherhood and writing, for the most part). Sometimes I write about books on here, but I'm not very consistent. 

This long and possibly unnecessary introduction is just to say, I love talking about books. It's hard for me to find people that want to talk about books quite as much as I do, and book blogging was a really fantastic outlet for that. Now that I don't have the hour or two a day I used to spend working on the blog, I have channeled my energy into book clubs. Guys, it's kind of crazy. It's like if you say book club, my ears perk up like a cocker spaniel and I run panting to the source. My goal for my time in Washington was to find a book club -- when you aren't going to live somewhere long, it makes sense to join a club to make friends, right? 

I found two in person book clubs right away. The first one is at Browsers Bookshop, and it really was just exactly what one would want a book club to be. The bookstore is gorgeous, and we met in this loft above the shop. We read a bizarre and intriguing book that left plenty to discuss, and all of the members -- all of whom were very different with unique perspectives -- liked and disliked very different things. It was such a good discussion and I felt like a real PNW hipster, talking about literary devices. 

Another one I joined through total serendipity. A man from church invited our family over to dinner our first Sunday here, and I was eyeing his bookshelves (as one does). We started talking about books, and his daughter-in-law mentioned a book club that some women in my ward at church had started. I told her I had been hoping to find one, and she invited me. Hooray! I don't know most of the women in it, so it is maybe a bit awkward that I bulldozed my way in. But I can't wait to get to know some new friends and talk about books (and the book they chose for this month, Cold Sassy Tree, is awesome and I need to finish this post so I can go read it before bed). 

I am also part of four online book clubs, because NERD. Whenever I hear about a book club on a blog or website I like, I usually at least follow along with the pick. I don't always read the book, but if it is a book I am already interested in, I try to read it that month because then I can discuss it with some people. So, House of Lars is reading Wildflower by Drew Barrymore, the Yoga with Adriene group is reading Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda Paramahansa (I will have to write more about him some other time, but he has been a figure of fascination for me for a long time), and the Warrior Moms book group from Postpartum Progress is reading Baby Fat by Pauline M. Campos. (Warrior Moms is a group for women who have had postpartum depression, and I think it is awesome because reading stories of women who have struggled with the same thing I did has been so helpful for me). 

I also started an online book club with some of the women in the writing class I just finished. We were talking about books in the class, and several of us thought it would be fun to discuss books together after the class had ended. 

I'm laughing at myself because it is a little bit out of control, but it also makes me so happy to have "book friends." 

Friday, August 5, 2016

5 things {8.5.16}

1. I would really like to get my groove back with blogging. Right now I am feeling all at sea with being in this new, much bigger house and being responsible for all the cleaning. (I had a cleaning lady when I was working, and I miss her so much). The kids still are a little off with their sleep schedules, and Scott is home a lot right now because his residency hasn't officially started, so we aren't really in a routine. But I would love to spend some solid time writing and blogging.

2. We went to Portland yesterday and it was amazing. I had an existential crisis in Powell's City of Books ("the biggest bookstore in the world" sing it to the tune of "Schuyler Sisters") and almost burst into tears in the aisles because so. many. books. I wanted to buy them all, but I realized the real thing I want is to read them all, and money can't buy time. I really hate that sleeping is a thing I have to do.

3. I know I haven't experienced the rain yet, but I am obsessed with the Pacific Northwest. I have probably said this on Facebook and Instagram and in any other blog posts I've managed to eke out over the last month, but I am obsessed. I told Scott that we could live in Portland and he responded that we need a three hour drive buffer between Powell's and myself at all times so I don't spend all of our money. Busted.

4. When Nolan is really, really tired, he lays his head against my chest and collapses against me for just a moment, and it is literally always the best part of my day.

5. Also in Portland, there was this piano near a fountain that said "Please Play Me" across it, so I did, and it was so fun. I rarely play in general anymore, although I am trying to rectify that, and especially not in public. I whipped out "Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum" by Debussy because that is the one piece that seems to stay permanently memorized in my brain, and it was a blast.
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