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The best book I’ve read this year is a children’s book.
It’s true. I mean, I have LOVED some of the others (head nod to you, The Big Leap, for illuminating my lifelong struggle with the Upper Limit Problem), but none of them made me drop everything and flip through pages while standing in the middle of the kitchen.
But that’s what happened when I picked up “Ish,” the latest paperback my 7-year-old brought home from school. I. was. glued. (Though honestly, at first I wondered what kind of children’s book was named after an urban dictionary word of completely different meaning. Turns out it was published well before that emerged. Of course.).
Certainly, a lifetime of experiences made the lessons about self-doubt and perfectionism more impactful to me. But Daniel already knows a little something about those as well, and my hope is that we will re-read this book and he will take the message to heart, if even subconsciously.
So, SPOILER ALERT: I’m gonna tell you how the book ends. Although I guess all children’s books tell you the moral of the story before you actually read it.
And in 2fp fashion, I will also share my 2 Favorite Parts of the book: 1. The reminder that “Leon” has gotta hit the road, and 2. A lesson on rediscovering joy.
So in the book we meet Ramon, a young boy who loves to draw — anything, anytime, anywhere. But one day, his older brother, Leon, looks over Ramon’s shoulder and laughs at Ramon’s latest creation.
You know what happens next. Ramon becomes filled with doubt. He tries to draw, and he hates everything he makes.
He loses his passion.
Later in the book, Ramon is half-heartedly drawing when he notices his sister hovering nearby.
“What do you want?” he snaps at her. She grabs a crumpled-up drawing he had tossed aside and she runs, Ramon close behind.
When Ramon gets to his sister’s room, he stops in his tracks. He is shocked to find that she has taped up dozens of his drawings on her wall. Why? he wonders. They stink. That doesn’t look like a vase.
Yeah, but it looks vase-ish, his sister replies. And Ramon slowly begins to see his drawings in a new light. House-ish, tree-ish.
Maybe “ish” is good enough.
“Ramon felt light and energized. Thinking ish-ly allowed his ideas to flow freely. He began to draw what he felt — loose lines. Quickly springing out. Without worry.”
He rediscovers his joy.
Ramon begins to draw again. He experiments. He has fun with the process, the feel, the flow.
And one day, Ramon looks around and decides he’s not even going to try to capture what he sees. He will just sit, and enjoy. It’s a very Zen kind of ending.
Screw You, Leon
Man, I’ve had Leon in my head for about as long as I can remember.
As adults, we give Leon another name: perfectionism. And we are taught that this is a source of pride, to strive for perfection, to take great pains to do something extraordinary and mistake-free.
It IS painful, isn’t it? Trying to make something perfect? Is there a faster way to kill creativity?
I’ve been uber competitive probably since birth (I WAS first, after all). When I was a few years old, my grandmother told me to be careful on the swings.
“I’ll show you how high is too high,” I shot back at her.
In a high school basketball game, I missed a shot from the wing and must have scowled as I ran back on defense. Someone teasingly yelled from the bleachers, “You can’t make them all.”
But that’s how I roll. I better dominate this thing, or else it’s not worth doing. I have to make every shot.
What crap. Get lost, Leon!
Bring on the ish
Where can we introduce more “ish” into our lives?
Ummm … everywhere?
Can I write a blog post and not obsess? (Don’t make me answer that.) Ok, I can at least try, or at least hit “publish” even if I don’t really, totally want to.
Can I just run for a little while and not pick apart the pace, the distance, and whether I lost any weight this week? Perhaps. There is joy, after all, in getting lost in the music coming through my earbuds, watching how happy my dog is to be outside, and picking a scenic route.
Can I cook without it being restaurant quality? Well, yeah. That’s a given.
Can my house be clean-ish, my holiday decorations Pinterest-ish, my outfit cute-ish?
Such a great book, such a great lesson in such simple terms. How about you? Where can you think more ish-ly? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
And to read more about embracing imperfections and showing gratitude, check out these posts:
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