Like so many woman in North America right now, I just recently read Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton. And as I was buying it on Amazon, I chose to also purchased Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist when it showed up in the suggested related books. So the last week and a half, I have been immersed in these women’s lives. It’s an honour I think, to get to know their deepest worries, fears… to go along with each of them on the journeys that transformed them and their families.
The books are written very differently – Love Warrior is a true memoir whereas Present Over Perfect is a collection of essays. What the books have in common with each other, and no doubt the reason why women have pushed them both onto the bestseller list, is the deeper WHY underlying both authors’ need for personal transformation. It is the same why that is so ripe in my own life and that I see repeated again and again by the women around me: the struggle women face in their determination to be “enough”, to be the woman they think they are supposed to be.
Although my actual reading experience has been wonderful with both of these books (think nights spent up too late, snuggled on the couch with a cup of tea), I have also been saddened by my realization that this is reality for so many women. The striving. The never enough. The absence of real joy, of true gratitude, of meaningful moments.
Yes, I too write of the busy-ness I experience. I too have lamented over the “never enough-ness” of me in my life… but for me that intense self-judgement only came once I became a mother and even still, I don’t strive for clean floors or perfectly dressed children or a magically blemish-free face (I’m #makeupfree on the best of days), or any of the many other things that seem to take women down these days.
In fact, as I’ve shared my own stories and immersed myself in those of other mothers (and especially entrepreneurial mothers), I’ve realized that I’m different from the women who have been fighting this fight long before babies and businesses came along. I’m fortunate that the pressure both authors felt to become something they weren’t wasn’t a pressure I faced as a child, teenager or young adult.
My childhood was not typical. I grew up in a big old farm house in the country, in a community of homesteaders and draft dodgers. I went to a one room schoolhouse and spent summer days at the local lake. Our family, though not without its problems, spent almost every evening around the dinner table together, spent afternoons walking through our fields to visit neighbours, we camped, cross country skied and played board games. I remember countless evenings watching the sunset and Saturdays were spent on the big porch swing with a pile of books and a blanket.
But once motherhood and entrepreneurship took over my life, and I found myself living far away from my country paradise in a city filled with over-achievers, I started to buy into the busy. I started to accept the “never enough-ness”. I started to compare myself, horribly, to the picture-perfect social media profiles of women living lives I thought I wanted. Despite the very different values I was raised with, it was easy to fall into the trap of constantly striving for more, for better, for perfect.
I began to feel frustrated that my parents hadn’t demanded more of me, that I wasn’t pushed to have a big career, that nobody sat me down to talk about life choices when year after year in my twenties I quit jobs to go bum around the beaches of Central America. I felt like I had missed important things when new friends would talk about the crazy corporate career they left behind when they chose to start their business. I worried that my skills and knowledge were lacking, that I would never be able to catch up and master the business smarts they’d already gained.
Very quickly, the dreams of self-employment that I had had since childhood seemed like they too were “not-enough” and I got caught up in the bigness of it all – the 6-figures dream…
The dream that was never actually my dream.
But the drive for more, for bigger, is everywhere. Rampant really. Last week my wonderful, whole-hearted business coach asked me if I could double the numbers of the intimate program I’m creating for next year. A year ago if she had asked me that I would have reluctantly agreed to try, thinking that if I didn’t I wasn’t trying “hard enough”, that I wasn’t a real “business owner”. But last week, with so much more clarity about what I truly want out of life, I said “No. I want the program to be small. The “more” that I am striving for is not a financial more. It is an expressive more.”
An expressive more. Yes. That.
Because my dream is to write, to have meaningful experiences, to create a playful and present childhood for my children, to love extremely well in my most important relationships, to show up for LIFE, not business and money. I’m not here to make myself crazy chasing the 6-figure goal.
Now don’t get me wrong, if while going along living my meaningful writer life I end up with a few bestsellers and making some bigger bucks, I won’t complain. But pushing my bank account balance beyond what I need to live a comfortable lifestyle isn’t a goal I’m going to spend my precious time working towards. I want weekends off. I want to go to bed early. I want to spend holidays and summers with my kids.
I want to go back to my roots of watching sunsets without external expectations tearing me away just so I can pursue some messed up version of the bigger, better life.
The bigger, better life IS the sunset.
So Glennon and Shauna, thank you. Thank you for being brave enough to explore your depths and write about them for us. You can know that your books are out there doing good work in the world. Thank you for showing me that I have everything I need inside me to live life a little differently, that I was taught the way of life that truly is present over perfect. This is a truth about myself that I have been waiting to rediscover ever since getting lost in the life of mom and biz owner. Now that I am reconnected to that truth, I can show up in this life the way I have always dreamed of: as a writer, as a mother, as a lover, friend, daughter and sister, as a sunset watcher and collector of meaningful moments.
If you haven’t read them yet, you can check out these two beautifully written and incredibly moving books here: