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present over perfect: throwing candy

July 21, 2017 , , , , , , , , ,

I am re-reading “Present Over Perfect”, by Shauna Niequist. Her simple, direct, honest writing is a joy to read, and I find myself surprised at how differently I am reacting to different chapters.

The chapter titled, “Throwing Candy”, I read this morning tucked away in a little side street cafe with a cup of coffee. It transported me.

Shauna describes how one of the playful traditions of a retreat she went on was throwing candy into the river where people were kayaking. She describes her reaction:

As I watched from the deck of the lodge, I put my head down on the wide railing, and I began to sob. 

Because I used to throw candy, right in the middle of it all. I used to throw candy no matter what. I used to be warm and whimsical. I used to believe in the power of silliness and memory-making and laughter. 

And then I became the kind of person who threw candy as long as nothing else was going on – as long as it didn’t get in the way of being responsible. I threw candy at approved and sanctioned candy-throwing time, after all the work was done and things were safe and lunches were made. 

And then I got so wrapped up in being responsible that it was never the right time to throw candy. 

And then, the worst thing: I became the kind of person who made fun of candy-throwers…please, who has the time?! What is this, kindergarten? I’ve got a list, people, and a flight to catch. 

What a loss – for me, for my family, for our community, for all the joy and laughter and silliness we missed out on because I was busy being busy. 

…I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back and realise that the best thing about me was that I was organised. That I executed well, that I ran a tight ship, that I never missed a detail. I want to look back and remember all the times I threw candy, even when it didn’t make sense. Especially when it didn’t make sense.

…And that’s why I’m throwing candy every chance I get. 

Me too. That’s why I’m throwing those Freddos and Allens Jelly Beans with all the guisto I can muster. Bring on the Scratch ‘N Sniff stickers in my Year 12 Musicianship lessons, because they bloody well remembered to raise the 7th in a harmonic minor harmonisation! And believe me, the excitement that comes with those stickers is on par with finding a clean fork in the Centre for Senior Learning kitchen. Because in my job, students may be developing adults requiring all manner of respect, boundaries, and healthy challenges, but they are also human beings. They should never have the opportunity to stop being playful, and I need to model that optimism, that joy, that freedom, and that sense of forward thinking. At best, it is pure joy. At its most honest, it is the ability to adapt and fit to a changing world in a healthy way. Those little pockets of silliness and joy keep us human, keep us open to life and learning, keep us vulnerable to both grief and joy, and are absolutely essential.

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