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Realising that I do not have to be good.

Present Over Perfect

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Mary Oliver

Shauna Niequist had me hooked in her first stanza. I am not sure if it was because I was on a plane to Indonesia post a very busy season or the Catholic roots of my faith that echo in my loyal soul but my heart she breathed.

“Amanda, you do not have to be good.”

“It is okay to not have it all together.”

“Yes, that pain you feel sits high on your chest, let’s unpack its weight together”

Breathe, stop and heave.

The same realisation came eight years ago when I bought a Hawaiin beach shack in the little town that I grew up, running away from the pain that was so confusing in my workplace.

I stood with a real estate agent, it was the first place I had looked and I was smitten. Full of mold, carpet that reeked of cigarette smoke but it was five steps to the sea.

I had friends grieving from the deep sadness of illness that had consumed a dear friend, I was single and so very disappointed.

Quickly I said to the real estate agent, I want to place an offer on this little Oahu beach shack and my sea change recovery began. As I renovated the past from its walls, the heaviness in my heart released. Each time I walked over the road and breathed deep in the salty air, my questions were not answered but I found the space I needed.

In the midst of this massive season of loss and transition, I realised a deep theological question that had been hovering in my soul. It taunted me, it kept me awake at night and my sea change allowed it space to breathe.

The question was this;

“If I am good, then why do bad things happen?

or the opposite why do people who are bad have good things happen to them?”

In the midst of the sea change, I watched pelicans fly in formation and the tide change slowly from Summer to Spring. I needed to face these questions alone and I needed to reframe my deep beliefs that told me…

If I work harder, please more people and keep it together then I will be okay.

Do you struggle about whether you are good enough?

Shauna’s book Present Over Perfect has helped me unpack my need to keep everyone and everything ticking over so that my world doesn’t unravel.

I realised though all those years ago when I shifted away from the city, from friends who defined my sense of worth and a culture that was toxic, that it is okay to not have it all together all the time and as Shakespeare so eloquently describes in the Tempest;

A man is thrown into the sea, and under the water, he is transformed from what he was into something entirely new, something “rich and strange.”

The funny thing is less than a year ago we sold that little healing beach cave and bought a new place. It is like the journey begins all over again. Maybe that is what life is, a series of becomings.

I am looking forward to this journey of our Book Club together. February could possibly be the beginning of your tempest sea change.

Lets do this journey together.

Amanda Marie

11 thoughts on “Realising that I do not have to be good.

  1. Hi Amanda, I have just purchased Present over Perfect on my Kindle, needless to say I am “hooked” already! Love what you have shared – I’m not sure how to join the online book club? Maybe you can direct me how? Much appreciated:)

    Kind regards,
    Gerrie van Bruchem

    1. Hello Gerrie, The book club travels from three blogs (websites) Each Monday Jodie Mc Carthy posts here:https://onlyhalfwaythere.net/present-over-perfect/ and she also host’s all of our posts there. Each Wednesday Elaine posts here: http://www.elainefraser.co/blog/sea-change/
      And I will be posting here each Friday. We are going through the book chapter by chapter.

      We each post on social media and forward as well.

      All the book club members comment on each post and learn from one another.

      Thanks for joining in.

  2. Sorry. I’m still a little confused… Read the chapter and click on the links and read and make comments there?
    Kirstin

    1. Yes that is totally right.

      So we have three posts so far.
      They are all linked here each mon, wed and Friday.

      https://onlyhalfwaythere.net/present-over-perfect/

      1) the introduction https://onlyhalfwaythere.net/2017/01/30/present-over-perfect-book-club-an-introduction/

      2) sea change by Elaine http://www.elainefraser.co/blog/sea-change/

      3) this post today by me about the sea change chapter.

      Then we each ask a question in our blog that people discuss.

      Check out post one and two to see the discussion threads.

      Hope that helps Emma ??

  3. Thank you so much Amanda:)
    Looking forward to being part of this – very new for me:):)

  4. I am sitting in a far away land. I am feeling hugely thankful that, as Friday is the weekend where I am, I have managed to come into the capital where I have a friend living and so I can stay in a nice apartment with a lovely hot shower, where my friend is able to access exotic treats like cheese and wine….tomorrow I will go back to the place I am giving a training and where there will be no cheese, no wine and no hot shower….

    Do I not feel good enough? you ask….I can almost laugh out loud to that. Often, always….while I am here I’ll have missed the first two weeks of school. It turns out my daughter has had a rather big and scary decision to make and I wasn’t there for it. My husband and I have raised a strong, resilient, amazing daughter….she will not have any ill-feeling toward me for this, but I hate not being there for the big things. At the same time, in the work I do, the needs are like a cavernous pit and I never feel as though I have done enough….I even feel as though if I was better I wouldn’t have made that comment about the cold shower, I would be gracious, accepting that all over the world those of us who get hot showers ever are a minority.

    I don’t think I really relate to the Catholic imagination Shauna and you relate to Amanda, but I do sure have a very intrenched Protestant work ethic and the sense that “if you can, you should”….and I mix this inexplicably with some weird sense that if someone asks me to do something, it’s a “sign” and it’s what I am supposed to do even if it requires sacrifice. Even as I write this down, I know it sounds pretty screwed up in a way….so I read on in interest still wondering if I am looking for an excuse to escape my life or if there is something more to this for me….

    1. It has taken me a while to reply because I have been thinking about all the complexities of this context. Work, Family, Developing Nations, the things that we take for granted and in the mix of it all, our own stories and enoughness.

      Love really does changed everything. I often worry that in our pursuit of truth, vulnerability and humility that we could loose the capacity to say we are enough and that we are doing our best and that we lay it down at the foot of our lives and those walking with us and celebrate.

      1. I totally relate to this feeling Sandie. I call it my ‘good girl’ mentality, maybe it’s an eldest child thing, maybe it’s personality, maybe it’s upbringing, I don’t know.

        But I do know that doing all the things, for all the people, never helped me feel good enough. I never got there. I was always analysing each and every moment and finding where I had missed the bar.

        My only answer in all of this has been realising that doing gets me nowhere. In the end I had to try something new, so I tried being. The more I try just being, the more peace I am discovering.

  5. Many years ago I did not feel good enough but if I answer that question for today I can honestly say I do. I’m not arrogant, I just know now that I am created and loved by God for all that I am…the good and the ‘bad’, for my strengths and weaknesses. This makes me confident in whatever I do – again not arrogant but I know that my diligence and my heart attitude is enough for God (and me). I know I make mistakes but we all do and that’s ok.
    It’s a far cry from the nervous child and teenager I used to be…from the shy twenty something that didn’t feel she deserved to speak or be heard. Love really does change everything.

    1. I love that you have come to the place where you can say you are enough. I love that so much. It is brave and amazing.

    2. So exciting Keryn, being comfortable in your own skin, in who you are created to be, it’s such an amazing journey.

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