I don’t have to

I’m a list maker, it keeps me organized and helps me to stay on top of the usually many things I am juggling. You would think that is always a beneficial trait, but my list obsession can also cause a lot of stress.  I see a list and I want to complete it and check off everything. It doesn’t matter if it’s a list of the top St. Louis things to do, books to read, places to visit, etc. I want to attack it. I want to finish the list! Along with every other list. This is one of the reasons I avoided Pinterest for so long. It’s a giant list of cook that, craft this, use this tip and so forth. I knew it would be another source for my to do list. But like an addict I caved and created an account.

Slowly I have come up with ways to curb my list obsession. I make only weekly lists and limit it to the top 10 things, only adding other items as others are completed. I  created a board on Pinterest called “to try this month”, where I pick a few pins to finish by the end of the month.  This has helped me set small goals to complete and keeps me crossing things off this list – a true high for me. Did I mention I am addicted to lists?

A few years back Jake came across Modern Library’s top 100 books and decided he was going to read the books on the list. My ears perked up when I heard the word list. I thought it would be fun for us to complete a list together, I am always looking for ways for us to share hobbies. We each  have our passions but rarely do they collide into something we can do together. Plus he had even created a spreadsheet to rank the books. How fun, we could read together and talk books and cross them off the list. I jumped in thinking of how I would attack this list of 100. The thing is a lot of these books are old and long and yes boring (sorry Faulkner). I enjoy reading but some of these books were so tough to get through. I trudged on, if I kept reading I would complete the list and then could move onto other books. Jake on the other hand read a book here and there not really caring that he was leaving a list on hold and dare I say unfinished.

You might remember I wrote a post recently called I get to, as I sat looking at the stack of books on my night stand and debating which book to read, it hit me — I don’t have to read a list book.  The thought of picking up a book where I would have to reread pages or read stuff I didn’t really understand or would make me yawn was downright depressing. Then the thought of I don’t have to came again. What would be the worse that would happen if I said this list wasn’t for me. I am not getting paid to read these books. There aren’t any life or death consequences for not finishing the list. As the realization sunk further in, a calm came over me. Not following this list meant I could read what I wanted to, full disclaimer by mind shot to my To- Read list on goodreads . I am constantly adding books I want to read to that list, there are the key words “want to”. Jake has a large focus on saving for our retirement, but I often say to him that we should be putting some money toward experiencing life right now. We don’t get a guarantee that we will be able to take advantage of the retirement we are planning for, I want to create memories throughout our life.

But what was I doing with this book list thing? I was putting off the books I wanted to read, thinking I will have plenty of time to read in the future. I was being a hypocrite. So I did it, I made the decision that I was going to read the things I wanted. I walked the stack of list books on my night stand right back to the bookshelf.  Not going to lie as I re-shelved the books I had second thoughts, but I knew that I could come back to that list, this was the right move. Putting a list on hold was just fine!

This was an empowering exercise. In the past year or so I have really trying to use the word No more often. I like to volunteer for organizations and help out family and friends but sometimes that leads to me to being so busy that I am not enjoying the experience due to rushing to be at the next thing or finish the next task. This also cheats the person I am helping. I have tried to set some boundaries and not be afraid of the word No.  I enjoy planning and leading but it doesn’t mean I have to plan and lead everything. Life is short and I want to do the things I am passionate about and enjoy the time I have with family and friends. There is an anonymous quote that says ” It’s better to look back on life and say “I can’t believe I did that” then to look back and say “I wish I did that”. No regrets!

I think the i don’t have to piece also fits well with my new years resolution of being happy – I love it when that happens! Reading makes me happy so I should read what I want and not turn it into a chore to cross a book off the list. I will still make lists (cause that makes me happy too).  The point of embracing the I don’t have to is think about what I want and not the expectations of others. What will they think if I stop reading from the list — they won’t care! What will they think if I post a blog a day or two or week late – they won’t care! And guess what, I will feel better because I am not stressing over every little item on the list. This will be a process and don’t worry, I won’t turn into a person who says no all the time, I am just not going to be afraid to use it when it’s necessary.

Carpe Diem

~E

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