Friday, June 5, 2009

Letting go

I've mentioned on a number of occasions, that I'm your typical type-A personality. Even now that I don't have paid employment, I'm always "on the clock." I tend to wake up with a to-do list and can't rest until it's complete - is it ever really complete?

But a new friend of mine has been an amazing inspiration. She's wonderfully relaxed, easy-going, and seems always to be "living in the moment" - to me, she's the epitome of "zen" and a wonderful example of a life well lived. If only I could live that way, right?

A couple weeks ago, in a conversation with the Voluntary Simplicity discussion group in which we both take part, she told us about a time in her life when she had no job, no money, and no home; and what a wonderful and liberating time in her life it turned out to be. Somehow "the universe," she said,  "just has a way of taking care of us."

Her words struck me. They stayed with me, laying heavy on my heart that night. And as I reflected on what she had said, I realized that the whole experience, which could have been frightening or deeply depressing for her, turned out to be incredibly liberating. And here I am with the perfect opportunity to live freely, letting the experiences of the day lead me along adventure after adventure... and what am I doing? I'm micro-managing myself to death. Way to go, Heather! Hmm. You know, my friend also says that people tend to find their way into our lives when we most need their kindness and guidance. Message received, my friend. Message received...

I woke up the very next morning and deleted every single to-do list from my laptop dashboard. Granted, I have a general idea of what I'll do each day based on visual cues (i.e. if there's a pile of laundry on the floor, it must be time to do laundry), but more than ever, I'm letting the day take me where it will - whether than be in my garden, housework, reading, baking bread, or wandering around town on a bicycle (or a little of everything). 

Without my to-do lists these last couple weeks, I still get most things done. There were a couple times that things fell through the cracks, but strangely enough the world didn't fall apart. Go figure. 

Now 10 months into my "retirement," I'm finally learning to be at peace; I'm learning to be free; I'm learning to let go... It feels REALLY good!


Sue said...

Hi Heather,
I really enjoyed this post. I struggle with to-do lists to. If I don't write them, I forget to do a lot of things, but yet, I turn down fun things to do, because-well, my list of things to do is long!! Hope you have an easier time of it!
Have a great weekend.

The Cooking Lady said...

I can see both sides to this discussion/argument. I am somewhat of both types. I use a to-do list, but it is not super-compartmentalized (Is that even a word?)

But if I do not have a list in front of me, it simply does not get done. Granted, the kitchen and clothes always get done, but it is my non-chore list that needs some inspiration other than my own wanting to do these things.

Hence, the list. There are anywhere from 1-6 items at a time. Some a big chores and others are just gentle reminders. It is there staring me in the face. And with 2 older children and a husband, gently reminding me that 'I' put that list up there, things seem to get done in a more orderly fashion.

Do I still have paper piles (My BIGGEST demise)? Darn tootin'. Are dishes some times still in the sink..uh duh!

But it is a work in progress. And I think you have to step back from the big picture and weigh out which is more important. The dishes in the sink or the bed that has not been made in 2 days. I think we all know thee answer to that.

And that is how everything we do should be approached. Is it reeeally that important that it needs to be done right now...right today...right this week, or even at all.

Going Crunchy said...

What a wonderful post! I can relate.....for as much as I want to be Zen my life just seems to take over otherwise.

Heather @ SGF said...

Sue - I have the same problem. Lists seemed to be the only way to remember to get things done. But truly, the lists were running my life as I'd wake and anxious about all the things I had yet to do. I'm not completely list free - I have my grocery list on the fridge and I have a google calendar with appointments, but the lists on my computer dashboard? There were 8-10 of them at any given time. It was nuts!

Cooking Lady - In our Voluntary Simplicity course discussion last night we talked about this very thing (for people who still want to have lists). The suggestions were pretty similar - to have a list of things that must be done right away, things that are important, but not urgent, and a third list of stuff that you'd like to get to eventually. This way you've prioritized and are not so overwhelmed by the one long list.

Get Crunchy - That's it exactly. Then after talking to my friend, I realized I had the perfect opportunity to be that person I want to be - free flowing, unencumbered, zen-y (ok, so I'm making up my own words now too). I've noticed too that my health has improved some because of it. I still have pain, but it's not as bad or long lasting. Ah, the stress we put ourselves through for nothing...

Donna said...

I'm most like the cooking lady -- I have a list of stuff I'm afraid I'll forget if it's not on the list. The item might remain there for months before it gets done, but there's a reason it's there. Every now and then, I'll take a day and clean a bunch of jobs off the list by actually doing them. The other way I use the list is to write down stuff I have to do that I know I'm going to do that day, so I can cross them off. Sometimes, I even write down stuff I've already done so I can cross it off. Hey, I just like crossing stuff off my list!

sharli said...

I definitely love my lists. I like being able to cross things off. But, I have made it a point to put fun things as a priority. I think I get more panicky if I don't have a list, then I'm constantly thinking of everything I need to do. If I write it down, I can stop thinking about it! Of course there are lots of things on my list that I never actually do...sometimes I will sit down and go over the list to decide if there are things on there that just aren't important. That is helpful to me.

Beany said...

I have trouble letting go even though I think I'm a type B+. I read this essay last year and it helped me tremendously in learning to let things be. For example, I noticed that our apartment may not be perfectly spic and span...but it's fairly clean and I love that. So many strangers have offered me and my husband help at the time when we needed their help..I mean it's been almost a miracle.

Heather @ SGF said...

Donna - If only I could be so calm about my lists. I can't seem to relax if there's a list to be done. You sound much more healthy about it. Me, I was only trapped by mine.

Sharli - Look at all you healthy list people out there :) It's true for me to that writing things down means I can clear my mind up a bit, but then I go into list mode and it's all business from there on out :) Glad to hear your better about lists that I am...

Beany - What an AWESOME essay! I love it and will be sure to pass it on. Thanks for sharing!

ttammylynn said...

To everything, there is a season...and a time to every purpose, under heaven.
Balance- in a single word, it is about finding a balance between chaos (aka zen), and order. There is no simple universal rule that applies to everyone on this. We must each find a way to balance out our own life. The factors are too numerous to mention--spouse, children, jobs, responsibilities, personal goals, entertainment and enrichment are but a few.
Stray too closely to chaos and you could potentially lose in any of the factors, ie- a mother who does not care for her children because she would rather do other things stands to lose them (just an example), or, if you neglect your job in favor of other things, the rule applies also.
On the other hand, large doses of order could potentially have the same effect. If you stress about every little thing, you could lose sleep, fall asleep at your desk and lose your job or, your stress could affect your health or your ability to be nice to others and the same applies. Lists are helpful, but if they take over your life, you probably aren't enjoying a million moments that aren't listable.
So, I think that the key isn't on the left or the right on this, but straight down the middle. If you make a list, use it as a guideline not a law. Give yourself time to enjoy life, but don't neglect your responsibilities. If things are overwhelming, then fix your list or just take a day off.
I can't compartimentalize my time too much because there are too many unknowns. What if I make a wrong turn, or get caught waiting, what if I remember something I've forgotten or get called for jury duty? Hey, it happens. Life happens. At some point, I call it a day, I tend to myself and my family because the bottom line is that the people you love are the most important thing in your life. So, they should be at the TOP of your list.

Heather @ SGF said...

Tammy - Wow! Very insightful. You should have written this post :) Thanks!

Jena said...

Ugg, I wish I could "let go". I'm the same way with the list making. A friend of mine recently shared her theory: she sets a time, say 7 PM, and after that she does no more work. No dishes, laundry, etc. She takes time for herself and a good book or whatever. I've tried to implement that rule with myself but it is so hard. It seems like I'm always up until 9 or 10 trying to get things done. I tell myself that once the home improvements are done (hopefully this year) that I will be able to relax a little bit. Unlikely! :)

Heather @ SGF said...

Jena - I know it seems daunting, but little steps help. I'm not leaving my laptop in the living room when I go to bed and making sure to close it when I'm doing other things so that I'm not constantly checking mail. Just sit down, think of a thing or two you'd like to change first and then take baby steps toward the goal. It really works!

Anonymous said...

I can so relate to your frends comment that somehow 'the universe' just has a way of taking care of us.

I was bed ridden for 2 months a while back - and although it was a scary time it was also very liberating and rewarding. I learnt how to stop. Before that I was non-stop. I think some how 'the universe' new it was going to take something drastic to teach me how to slow down. It worked - and it is a good reminder to me what can happen if I don't slow down.

Enjoy your freedom from to-do lists :-)

Heather @ SGF said...

littleecofootprints - it sounds like we are on similar paths. Thanks for the encouragement!