Have you ever heard of Shauna Niequist? She’s one of my favorite authors ever, and she wrote a book called “Bittersweet”, that is SO GOOD. I read it several years ago, and was super intrigued by one of the chapters titled “Things I Don’t Do”. In the chapter, Niequist describes a lunch date she had with a friend of hers….an older friend, with grown children. She was asking this friend for advice…how she had managed to successfully juggle kids, career, relationships, grandkids, etc…and her friend replied with this statement (oh, it’s good)….“it’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard, is figuring out what you are willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about”. This bit of advice inspired Shauna to go home and make two lists. The first list was, “Things I Do”. On that list, she listed out some of the things that she was passionate about and committed to doing. Things that basically made up the core of who she was, and that weren’t ever going to change. Here are a few of hers:
“I do everything I can to make my marriage a deeply committed partnership”
“I give the best of my day to raise my son”
“Our home is a place of celebration and comfort for people we love, so I cook and entertain a lot, because it makes me feel alive and happy”
You get the idea? Go make one of your own….it will really help you to prioritize and simplify your life.
But now onto the second list she made. The second list is the list that will be SO freeing to you, if you make it. This is the list of “Things I Don’t Do”. These are the things you are willing to NOT do…to be OKAY with not doing..in order to DO the things that really matter to you (the things you wrote on your first list). I thought this idea was genius, so I made one of my own. In the spirit of being transparent, and for the sake of giving you some examples, I will share a BIT of my list with you….
“Things I Don’t Do” (Or, “Things I Am Not”)
I don’t do Room Mom: I want to be that mom SO BADLY. I have entertained the idea for three years in a row now. But the fact of the matter is, I’m simply not organized enough, creative enough, cute-sy enough, or thoughtful enough to be a room mom. I’m just not. Done. Decided. Crossing that dream off my list.
I don’t do “logical”, and I don’t do “common sense”: My husband is the most logical, analytical, strategic person I know. I admire him SO much. His brain fascinates me. Me, I try really hard to just summon up a shred of common-sense, but folks, I’m here to tell you, I don’t have any. I remember in the first or second grade, I was nominated to be in the “gifted program” at my school. I was smart..I AM smart (I swear, I am), so my teacher thought I would be a good fit for this program. I took this test to determine if I was, in fact “gifted”, and guess what? I failed the “common-sense” portion. I probably still would, and…I’M OK WITH THAT. I’m creative, I’m philosophical, I’m a dreamer, I figure things out as I go, and go about things in a way that most people would probably find bizarre. I’m like a mad scientist. People are smart in different ways, and I don’t have to be smart in a logical, analytical way. I’ve tried to make my brain function that way for a long time now, and it just doesn’t. Crossing it off my list.
I don’t do “24 Years Old”: 3 kids + 35 years old = LOOKING LIKE 3 kids+35 years old. I’ve found myself a lot lately examining my face in the mirror and thinking, “Ok. Ok. This is still workable. I can just start putting eye cream on the puffy eyes, a really great face lotion on the smile lines, maybe change to a makeup with a bit more coverage, remember to take my vitamins and drink a BIT more water, and I could totally still look the same as I did when I was in my 20’s. And then the other day, I thought, “No you can’t”. So….that’s that.
I don’t do Pinteresty birthday parties (or anything pinterest-y): I tried. I tried for the first three years of my first sons life. Every pinterest-y thing I attempted looked like the “Pinterest Fail” pictures that you see on Facebook. And what’s more? I didn’t enjoy doing any of it, and it all just seemed incredibly silly to me. My son was turning 1. He had no idea it was his birthday. Why do I need a “theme”? What interest did he even have yet, to turn into a party theme? He liked milk. That was about it. I let Pinterest-y parties go a loooooong time ago, and I’ve never looked back.
So there’s four, for you. I’m feeling better already. I have so many more. I don’t do gardening, or keeping plants or flowers alive at all. I truly have wasted a good portion of time and money trying to be a person who DOES garden and keep plants alive, and I’m DONE.
I don’t need to waste any time, energy, or angst on room mom-ing, stressing out that my brain isn’t wired the way I wished it was, trying to look some way that I don’t, or scouring Pinterest. I’d rather spend my time playing with my boys, going on dates with my husband, building into relationships that matter, and curling up with a good book, because reading is what I enjoy doing more than just about anything else.
Niequiest ends this chapter of the book with the following paragraph, that I thought I would share with you:
“I’ve discovered that the list sets me free. I have it written in black and white, sitting on my desk, and when I’m tempted to go rogue and bake muffins because all the other moms do, I come back to both lists, and I remind myself about the important things: that time is finite, as is energy. And that one day I’ll stand before God and account for what I did with my life. There is work that is only mine to do: a child that is ours to raise, stories that are mine to tell, friends that are mine to walk with. The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be. It gets us somewhere, certainly, but not anywhere worth being.”