Last summer I read a book by Shauna Niequist called Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. It came at a time when I really needed to hear parts of its message. I follow Shauna’s blog now, and I’ve enjoyed hearing about her life in real time, but certain thoughts from her book have stuck with me. One was her discussion of things she doesn’t do. In fact, she has an entire chapter on the topic. She writes,
I love the illusion of being able to do it all, and I'm fascinated with people who seem to do that, who have challenging careers and beautiful homes and vibrant minds, and well-tended abs. Throw in polite children and a garden, and I'm coming over for lessons.
She, like me, keeps a running to-do list, and as her list grew and grew, she found herself one day frantically writing, “DO EVERYTHING BETTER.” Oh, sister, I know that feeling. But she had a moment of clarity one day when a friend told her “it’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.” So she made another list (of course) not of things to do but of things not to do. Hers included major home improvement projects, making the bed, baking, scrapbooking, and blowdrying her hair on a regular basis. It also included deeper elements such as not spending time with people who make her feel small or who complain a lot. Her list of what she does do included beautiful things like making her marriage stronger, raising her son well, and entertaining.
For some reason lately I was thinking about this chapter. As we settle into Atlanta, more things are pulling at my time, and I’m even starting to wonder how I used to do everything I did in Huntsville while working a full-time job! I love working part-time and STILL sometimes feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. As I wrote last week, I want to be more intentional about blogging and reading blogs to make sure I fit in that pleasure. And I’m making exercise a priority, as well as cooking dinner and having people over as often as possible. Andy and I are continuing our quest to find things we like to do together, and I want to start hiking more. I still want to volunteer somewhere and maybe have a touchstone with kids again. These are all good things, but I love that reading Shauna’s book gave me to freedom to admit that I don’t do some things (although I do make the bed every day, and I take great pleasure in it).
I haven’t fully fleshed out my list, but here are a couple that came to me off the top of my head.
- iron. In fact, I just put a shirt and a pair of shorts in my thrift store bag that I realized I never wore because they need to be ironed and I never remembered ahead of time to do that. And I don't want to.
- garden. Sure, we only have 2 small planters on our balcony, but I thought this one counted. I want to have plants, but I can't say that taking care of them or planning for them brings me much pleasure. (Sorry to break your heart, Mama, but I think you knew this about me!) They need to be replanted for this summer and every time I think about doing it I feel overwhelmed. So maybe I can ask Andy to do it.
- buy the most organic or local food to cook with. I love the idea of using the healthiest ingredients, but really, there are SO MANY elements to take into account. I shop how I shop, and I'm okay with that right now.
Those are all I can come up with today, but I’m going to keep mulling this over because I think it’s an important conversation to have with yourself. There’s freedom in admitting you can’t do it all, and when you’re free from trying to force yourself to do small things like iron, you can truly embrace and enjoy the things that make you come alive, be they big or small.
So what don’t YOU do, or what should you stop doing?