Book Review: “Loving My Actual Life”

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This book kept popping up in amazon searches I’ve done for books in the past, all within the “self help” or “parenting” genre.  (I’m a real fun gal to hang out with on the weekends apparently!)

I was ordering another item and needed to buy something else to get the free shipping, and I’d been eyeing this a while.  Doesn’t this title look great??  Right up the alley of Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!, y’all know I’m obsessed with that.  So, I ordered, and I’m very happy I did!

Alex, the author, is a mom like many others in our culture, myself included.  She was feeling overworked, rushed, stressed, overwhelmed.  She has 4 daughters, so you can imagine the kind of schedule she is living.  It sounded like she already had her priorities on pretty well straight to begin with, but was finding herself just wanting more out of life.  So, she decided to conduct an experiment over the course of nine months where she worked on one specific area in need of improvement each month (hoping it would make this experiment doable).  Each month’s goal was to help her enjoy life better.  All you HFM fans are noticing the parallels right away.  However, Alex’s story is different and I am glad I read it.  I definitely was able to take away certain things from her book, with the main theme, “do what only you can do.”  So, yes- do only WHAT you can do, but also, do what only YOU can do.  Don’t stretch yourself too thin giving to the world, and make sure you are there for your most important people in your lives.

Alex’s book is very cas; it is easily readable and relatable, and non-threatening.  I think moms tend to get defensive about our choices, so reading mom-lore can make me feel like I’m not doing enough or that the author is judging me; basically it’s a good experience to be reflective but I can make myself nuts doing so.  Anyway, Alex is very approachable.  I could be friends with her 🙂  She tells it like it is, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  She openly writes about what worked and what didn’t, and I really appreciated that as a reader in a similar boat, just trying to do the mom thing and life thing and make it all work as peacefully as possible.

One actually funny thing I realized pretty quickly is that this is a Christian book.  Which is fine, I’m Catholic and I don’t mind, but it was funny because I may not have bought it had I known.  There’s some bible verses that she quotes as she’s reflecting.  So that ended up being a nice surprise, since I don’t typically read Christian books.  I wouldn’t say it was too much, not for my level of churchy-ness anyway 🙂  On the contrary, I did enjoy the Churchy element.  Now, I probably should mention that coincidentally, the purchase that I needed to supplement to get the free shipping was a St. Mary lawn statue.  I’d been wanting to put one in our backyard of our new home since we moved in, and I finally decided to just do it, since it was May and all.  At that time, I had also recently made a big decision that will impact my family life in a big (and good) way.  So these three things converged at the same time, this book, my new St. Mary statue, and this decision.  Perhaps divine intervention!!!

So, back to the book:  her experiments included working on improvements to her mornings; spending time with her most important people (as she calls them, “dates”); her own personal health; adding adventure to her busy, mundane life; home organization; improving the meal situation in her house (gah I hate dealing with meals!); giving time for her own personal passions; etc.  I guess I shouldn’t give the whole thing away 🙂  I enjoyed reading each month’s trials to improve the specific area assigned to that month, and appreciated trying to learn from her mistakes.  She makes it a point to say that “fails” really are actually helpful, because it helps you see what works (p. 204).  She says:

All those lessons about what won’t work for me point toward what will.  What will offer me more quiet.  What will allow me to have quality one-on-one time with the people I love most.  What will help spur some creativity in my life.  So I’m grateful for that learning along the way.

(p. 204)

Of course, we all know that we should learn from our mistakes.  But her analysis of how her experiment went each month, what didn’t work, helped her learn what will work for her and her family.

In our culture, Moms (and parents in general) are asked to do SO much.  Hold down a career, volunteer at school, be a taxi to activities, exercise regularly- there is so much pressure to keep up with the Jones’s.  I am very guilty of trying to do this myself!  Motherhood has a way of making you feel unhinged.  If you are finding unfulfilled with an extremely full schedule, and wondering why that nagging feeling is still there, I suggest you check out this book.  Every single word may not have been life-changing pearls of wisdom, but it was a positive experience for me to read Alex’s story, and I am walking away with new insights on what matters most.  Her experiment delved into just that- how do I fit in what is most important, and keep my sanity, so I’m able to give love all day long to the people that matter most to me, and the world.  Some of it is just practical stuff:  p. 56 she decides she’s keeping the practice of having a “uniform” that she can rely on as an outfit to wear that will enable her to feel ready to take on the world.. as opposed to yoga pants all the time!; p. 167 she explains how “liberating” it feels to know what is for dinner by her 10am deadline every day.  Some of her lessons are more conceptual, abstract perspectives on life; including things that sometimes get pushed aside by moms:  passions and creativity.  In the introduction, she explains how she got to a place where she knew real change was needed:

When I started speaking to people in bullet points rather than complete sentences to maximize efficiency, I knew I wasn’t living as I should.  And yet when I considered all the elements of my life, all the things that took up time and attention, I recognized they were all good things…  On their own, all good things, but compounded they became more than 24-hours’ worth of commitments.  It was simply impossible for one woman to do all the things I was attempting.  I was not living a sustainable life.

(p. 14)

Anyone else feel like they are not living a sustainable life???  That definitely struck a nerve with me.  “Something drastic was in order.  A recalibrating of my days.  Of my time.  So I could appreciate this one life that I’ve been given” (p. 15).  Ah!

If you are sensing this same need for recalibration, for a newfound sense of loving your actual life, check out this book:  Loving My Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What’s Right in Front of Me.

Have you read this?  What are your thoughts?  What strategies help you maintain a sustainable life as a mom?  What other authors have helped you live a happier life?

**Affiliate Disclosure:  this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link.**

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