In this time of resolutions and good intentions and fresh starts, I thought it was only fitting to take inventory and prioritize a bit as I look forward to 2012. The first thing that came to mind was a chapter from Shawna Niequist’s book Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way. The chapter is called “Things I Don’t Do,” and I have my good friend Megan Johnson to thank for bringing it to my attention.
When I first read this chapter, only a few months ago, it resonated with me in a way that was rather jarring. I could totally identify with Shawna’s laments about trying to do everything and (of course) failing miserably, and meanwhile looking around and comparing myself to others (a dangerous game that I’m guilty of far too often) who seemed to have their lives completely and totally and effortlessly together.
The truth is, no one can do everything. This is no revelation, I’m very well aware, and yet it’s something that’s helpful for me to hear every now and then from people like Shawna:
“Everything is just a killer. Everything is the heart of the conversation for me, my drug of choice. Sure, I can host that party. Of course, I can bring that meal. Yes, I’d love to write that article. Yes, to everything.”
She knew how I felt! And so I was inspired by Shawna’s exercise, where she took a look at her interests and talents and decided how she really wanted to allocate her precious time and energy. She created two lists — “Things I Do” and “Things I Don’t Do,” — and used those two simple columns to help better define herself and her contributions to the world. “I should do that!” I thought. And so, here goes:
Things I Do:
- I am a teammate to my husband. I take my role as Kevin’s wife very seriously, and view our marriage as a partnership. With Kevin busy earning his MBA and me working full time, “support” and “communication” are at the top of our lists. I always want Kevin to know I’m in his corner, and am his biggest cheerleader.
- I bake. I love to cook, but I especially enjoy baking. There’s something about the certainty behind baking. I know that if I measure just the right amount of each ingredient and add everything together at the specified moment and monitor the oven as instructed, I’ll end up with something delicious that makes my house smell divine, and I take great comfort in that knowledge.
- I read. Though I haven’t been reading as often as I’d like lately, I am most definitely a reader. I suppose I have my mother, the elementary school media specialist, to thank for the planting of that seed. Right now, The Imperfectionists is sitting on my bedside table, waiting to be devoured. It comes highly recommended by my husband.
- I organize. I feel best about the world when everything is in its place. I’m one of those people who will wake up to straighten my room if it’s a mess, because it’s hard to sleep amidst disorder. I’m not a fanatic so much about things being clean as much as I am about things not being cluttered.
- I invest in people. Having strong relationships — both fostering old ones and building new ones — is one of my top priorities. I want all my friends and family members to feel loved and supported by me, and to know I hope for all good things for each of them.
- I work hard. It’s important to me to give my best to every task, and I’m trying to focus on only committing to things I care about so I don’t over commit. I know that if I’m participating in select things I care about, I’ll be a far better contributor, and I will feel fulfilled rather than drained.
- I explore. New experiences — whether they involve travel or finding a new restaurant or simply spending a lazy Sunday driving around a town I don’t know well — give me such energy. I’m thankful that Kevin is always up for a new adventure, too.
Things I Don’t Do*:
*Here’s where the “resolution” theme comes in. The following are things I am trying to remove from my life this year, so this is more of a “Things I Wish I Didn’t Do and Am Trying Not To Do” list. I am currently guilty of all of the below, but hope to become better at focusing on things that really matter instead. Hopefully, by the end of this year, I can definitively place these on my “Things I Don’t Do” list.
- Over committing to things is something I do way too often. It’s always well-intentioned, but I end up with way too much on my plate and not enough time, money, or enthusiasm to go around. At that point, I typically resent my commitments. Paring down the list of things I say “yes” to would significantly improve my quality of life, and it would improve the attitude I bring to things I have committed to.
- I compare myself to others. A lot. I know it’s not a smart thing to do, but I find myself getting sucked into reading blogs and checking Facebook and observing people’s lives, and they tend to seem so much more on track than mine. In reality, though, I LOVE my life, and so stopping to compare myself to others is silly, and I know it — but I guess sometimes I forget. So this year I commit to being involved in other people’s lives, but not comparing my situations to theirs.
- I need to become better at wasting time. A strange resolution, I know, but I’m not good at being still and relaxing. There are times when that’s exactly what I need to be doing, and yet I’m always itching to be doing something “productive.” I’m trying to realize, though, how beneficial wasting time can be. My dad always says that to make a good friend you have to waste a lot of time with someone, and I think there’s a lot of truth to that statement. So, 2012, here’s to wasting more time!
- Sometimes I take life too seriously, and I want to change that. Life is too short not to be able to laugh at yourself, or to be spontaneous even when you have a “to do” list ready and waiting. I aim for 2012 to be full of laughter, self-forgiveness, and moment-seizing.
What do you want to add to your “Things I Don’t Do” list this year?