“To Do” or “Not To Do”
I am a list-maker.
At the beginning of this quarantine, I made a comprehensive list of everything I wanted to get done physically in my apartment, breaking each task down into smaller, achievable tasks. I tend to make lists every day – inventories of things in my freezer, grocery lists, and the ubiquitous “to do” list that so many of us create nearly every day.
My friends have often laughed at me when I tell them that the first thing I generally put on a “to do” list is the item “Make to-do list.” That means that I can cross something off as soon as the list is created giving me a sense of accomplishment. Clever, right?
This quarantine has upped my list-making game. Beyond the inventory of things in my freezer (and refrigerator) and the grocery lists that are ongoing, I have started looking deeper into my internal world and making lists of things related to personal development.
All of this time alone has given me two choices – implode out of boredom or use the time to do some long-overdue spiritual work. I look at this as spiritual house cleaning. Like I make lists of things to do when housecleaning (vacuum living room, dust bureau, wash dishes, etc.) I have started to make lists of things that I need to do in order to start feeling more empowered and energized – things like meditate, do yoga, get outside and take a walk, journal, eat more healthy, etc. Other lists are more esoteric, dealing with things I want to do for my daily internal spiritual practices.
This morning, I looked at one such list and had a strangely depressing experience. Most of the items were things that require a great deal of effort. Some of them, I realized, were totally dependent on other people and not on me. Some of them were “pie in the sky” things that simply are not possible given my current circumstances or finances. This “bucket list” of spiritual/emotional things started to look like the proverbial impossible dream.
Although not my normal process in the middle of the day, I decided to take a long hot bath to soak and relax. During that bath, I had a gentle epiphany. My problem was partly in the concept of “to do.” All of the things I want to experience, accomplish, and feel are valid. They are important. They are the core desired feelings of my life. At the same time, I have been putting up roadblocks to them because I keep focusing on what I should be doing to get there as if action is the primary consideration.
While that’s important, it’s even more important to decide what NOT to do. So today, during one of the seemingly-endless tracts of time alone wandering aimlessly through my apartment I began to consider the benefits of “Not To Do” list.
After I finish writing this post, I am going to pour a glass of wine (yes – early in the day – don’t judge) and start to think about the things I need to stop doing. In order to feel the way I desire to feel, there are things in my life that need to go – habits, actions, patterns, physical object and (yes) maybe even people.
This seems obvious and simple now that I have thought it out – but I suppose that’s how most epiphanies work. The lightbulb flashes on and you find yourself hitting your own head and thinking, “Duh!”
At the moment, my daily gratitude posts and this daily blog post still feel important – so they are not ending up on “not to do” list yet. But I have a feeling that there will be some big old surprises for me as I get centered and really try to step outside of myself almost like an objective observer to ask, “What isn’t working? What needs to go?”
To do or not to do – that is the question (with apologies to Shakespeare).
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.