Once upon a time, there was a girl who didn’t know what kind of cake she liked. It was her birthday and a friend wanted to make her a cake and asked what her favorite was. The girl had never thought about it. She didn’t think her preferences mattered. She didn’t know how to voice…
I really love the way Shauna Niequist puts words together and the lessons she learns that she shares with us, her readers. And the message of her latest book, Present Over Perfect, that we can let go of our frantic lives to take hold of something more meaningful and simple, is one my heart/mind/soul needs to hear. (Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of the book in exchange for my review.)
There are some writing gems in this book, like:
“The inciting incident for life change is almost always heartbreak.
“It seems to me that Christians, even more than anyone else, ought to be deeply grounded, lying a courageous rhythm of rest, prayer, service, and work.”
“In season of deep transformation, silence will be your greatest guide.”
So, there are some great take-aways from this book. However, I just wasn’t excited about the format. It’s set up as a series of essays, somewhat connected to a theme, but I couldn’t get into a flow when reading. A lot of great writers and books use this collection-of-essays format, but it just didn’t work for me here. I like a book I can’t put down, and this one almost begged you to set it down and walk away. Although now that I think about it, maybe that’s the best way to read this book and let its message sink in.
Overall, I was encouraged by the book and challenged by some of the questions about how my life is lived and what I might need to say no to. It’s a good read for the fast-paced world in which we live.
The tears pooled as I handed over my debit card to the receptionist in the dentist’s office. Sure, I was a bit hormonal, but it was, as they say, the straw that broke the camel’s back. I, of course, was the camel.
It had started days earlier when the office called to reschedule my son’s 6-month cleaning. We’d had to reschedule in July when we unexpectedly left town to attend my grandfather’s funeral. An appointment two months later, in September, was the best they could give me at the time, so I took it. Now, they were canceling due to a lack of dentists in the office.
When I called back trying to reschedule for a time when I didn’t have to take my son out of school, I was met with resistance. The earliest available appointment that fit my parameters was the day after Christmas. Nope. So, I hung up and called back a few hours later, fuming that an appointment that fit our schedule was being canceled by the dentist’s office and they couldn’t accommodate us with anything new. When I called back, I found a sympathetic ear, and she found a Saturday opening at a different branch of their office for just a few days after I was making the call. I wasn’t thrilled, but I took it because why not?
A day later, the office called asking me to update our son’s insurance, which we had switched earlier this year because of an income change. “Or else we’ll have to cancel the appointment,” the caller said. “No! Please don’t cancel the appointment!” I practically shouted into the phone. I’m not usually one for outbursts but I was going to hang on to this appointment, whatever it took.
Once the insurance was updated, I breathed a sigh of relief. Until the next day, when I got another call saying they would have to cancel the new appointment because they couldn’t find a hygienist to cover for another hygienist who had a family emergency.
I was so very close to losing it. He offered me a Sunday appointment which I refused, then a Monday evening appointment that I took without thinking because we were on our way out the door and running late and this was not a hassle I wanted to deal with any longer. (Icing on the cake: this practice is the only one within 20 miles that takes our insurance. Ugh.)
As I thought about it later, there was no way we could make that appointment because of my husband’s work schedule and our one-car-family situation. I dreaded calling back for a new appointment, but it had to be done. I swigged some coffee before dialing the office. Again. The offered appointment times kept getting later. Six forty. Seven. No. Not interested. Sorry.
“I’m sorry to do this to you, but the next available I have is in November.”
I sighed loudly and explained to her that I was very frustrated because I was not the one who had canceled this appointment in the first place. Or the second. When she understood the situation, the receptionist put me on hold and called the office where our appointment was scheduled and found us another Saturday opening. Same day I was calling. Mid-afternoon. Yes. Great. We’ll take it.
Problem over, right?
Let me remind you of the tears.
We checked in at the new office and were immediately told that we would need to pay for sealants. Eighty-four dollars, thank you very much, an expense I had not anticipated. So, the tears. But I pulled myself together and we got my son into the chair and his exam and cleaning went smoothly. Until the dentist saw him and told us he wouldn’t need the sealants I had just paid for, and the hygienist explained to me that to get a refund I would have to call the billing center so they could issue me a check.
O. M. G. (Please understand, I do not say this lightly.)
I get that some of this is my fault for not being flexible about availability, but when my kids have school, I want them in school.
And maybe none of this would have been a big deal if the catalyst hadn’t been a sudden death in the family.
Grief is an uninvited guest who lingers, sometimes tucked away in the shadows or just out of sight, until one unexpected moment when it jumps out and yells, “Surprise!”
It’s been two months, and while I made space for my grief that week we went home to be with family, life has been busy and full these past two months. It’s not that I haven’t thought about my grandpa; it’s that the grief hasn’t been pervasive.
Until I ran into obstacles related to scheduling that started with an emergency.
And then there’s our son, who is obsessed with sports right now. He’s six-almost-seven and spends most of his free time bouncing a basketball in the driveway or tossing one into a net or practicing some kind of baseball skill or setting up “stations” in the driveway–the kind he’s seen his gym teacher use in class.
One night at dinner, we asked if he wanted to be a gym teacher because then he could play sports every day. His eyes light up when he realized that gym teachers teach sports every day. Yes, he said, that’s what I want to be.
It is the same thing my grandpa did for decades before he retired, and the kind of thing that never left his soul after he retired. He sat in the stands for every basketball game at the local high school, even if he didn’t personally know any of the players. He was a sports enthusiast, to say the least.
I nearly cried typing out that story on Facebook, especially when my grandma commented: “Great-grandpa would like that.”
These black walnuts nearly triggered another bout of tears.
A large walnut tree loomed over my grandparents’ house, and every fall (and probably more), we grandkids were tasked with picking up the nuts out of the yard before Grandpa mowed. We filled bags with them. We probably invented games with them, too, but all I remember is hating that tree. We had to rake its copious leaves, too.
The house no longer stands, the victim of a fire a few years ago, but I’m pretty sure that tree is still there.
One glance at these fallen fruit and I was a kid again in my grandparents’ yard.
I am no expert on grief. Two months does not even feel like a qualification to talk about it, but I know this is the current that runs beneath the surface of my responses this week.
I don’t really want to invite grief in, but now that I know it’s still here, and will be for a while, I think we might have to sit down over coffee and have a chat. I’m learning from others who have traveled this journey longer that it’s okay to keep grieving. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to acknowledge the sadness. Nobody gets to tell the grieving one that it’s time to move on. Nobody.
Besides, November is coming. And December. The first “Grandpa’s birthday” without Grandpa. The first holiday season from which he is absent.
Grieve now. Or grieve later. Or both.
I don’t think I have much choice.