Sunday, November 2, 2014
Book Review: Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Author: Greg McKeown
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Content Alert: nothing I remember
Every once in a great while, I will read a book that really shakes up the way I see the world. I have lived most of my adult life trying to cram as much as I can into every single day, to never saying "no" to anything, to keeping a tenuous grasp on every ball in the air. I've thought that was a virtuous position-- that it was good to be busy, to have my fingers in every pie, to be accommodating inasmuch as I was able, even if that meant lots of frenzy and swearing behind the scenes.
Essentialism made me rethink all that. McKeown introduces the revolutionary (to me) idea that we might be better, more productive, more effective when we cut out the fat and pare our lives down to the essentials. He has lists of characteristics of "nonessentialists" (basically me) who are bad, and essentialists, who say no and are good. The book blew my mind and I have pared down a little bit. But one of the things I've realized is that as the mom of a big family, some of the things McKeown would probably consider nonessential to me are essential to others in my family, and therefore I get roped in. Or, in other words, I don't have the liberty to be completely ruthless in cutting out the nonessential. Reading this book happened to coincide with two things-- a PTO carnival at school in which I got asked to make some phone calls. I wasn't invested in it, and eventually I put forth a minimal amount of effort for a minimal result. A few days later, I was talking with a friend, a former PTA president, and I said something to her about how I couldn't believe she had consented to take on that job when her personal life was so busy. "Nobody wants to do it, Shelah," she said, "but it's a job that has to get done." And then there was that Mormon Messages video about the poor overwhelmed mom, and I doubt any SAHM got through that without shedding a tear for that poor woman. Mine was a hot, angry tear that she didn't just order pizza and stand up for herself, yet I see myself repeating her actions or dozens like them every day. So the book was important, eye-opening, and a very complicated read for me.