When I read Marie Kondo had “kind of given up on tidying”, I felt vindicated. The author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up made her fortune telling us to toss anything that didn’t spark joy, limit our library to 30 books, and fold our socks with precision. After the birth of her third child, she had a change of perspective (“changed her tune” was my more cynical thought). Now her teachings are said to focus on “what matters most”.
Kondo’s book—one I promptly added to my collection of a couple hundred—shared wise principles order, beauty, and simplicity. My eyeballs still rolled. My to-do list told me what mattered more if not most.
3 years later, then Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg published Lean In, encouraging women to pursue their ambitions by focusing more on what that can do than what they can’t. Really? You think I’m not doing enough already? Married to a Silicon Valley CEO of a multibillion-dollar business, she was going to give the rest of us advice?
When Sandberg’s husband died suddenly at 47 while they were at a private villa in Mexico, I suspected she’d see the world differently. I’d been widowed 4 years before. I knew better.
Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert was another casualty of my critique. She was financed by her editor to travel childfree to explore pasta, sex, and spirituality after heartbreak. The women I know ate plenty of pasta post-divorce, but it wasn’t in Rome. Instead of gelato at San Crispino it was more like a pint of Chunky Monkey in bed alone. (Or was that just me?)
These writers brought hope and joy to millions, but mostly brought annoyance to me. If instead I’d been more curious about my arrogance, I might have examined my own life. My messiness. My unwritten next book. My not spending more time doing what makes my soul sing.
I don’t have plans to go to Bali, but I do hope to find more humility and honesty. Perhaps if I clear my desk I’ll magically find them, keep writing, and eat more spaghetti with pancetta.
Do you ever find yourself silently criticizing someone experiencing success?
How do you allow others to be your teachers, even when you have judgments about them?
Which writers have inspired you throughout your life?