If there was a theme to my life, it would be looking elsewhere. Looking ahead, wishing for what's to come, instead of enjoying the moment. Looking past, wishing things were as they once had been, instead of living joyfully in my current circumstances. I did this a lot, especially, when I was a newlywed with an infant. I'd look back to my fun fresh-out-of-high-school years, and wonder if I had done it all too soon.
Along the same lines, it is another attribute of mine to make goals, or lists, and leave them incomplete and undone. For years, I've wished I was an early riser, but I'm not. I'm a night owl, and after the kids are in bed and I am enjoying my first quiet moment of the day, I find it hard to have the self-control to put myself to sleep when my body tells me I am tired. I've been wanting to eat dairy-free and factory meat-free for a few months now, and I will do great for a couple weeks or so, until my dad calls me up and says, "Hey, we're going to our favorite BBQ place for lunch! Want to come?" It is incredibly difficult for me to make changes, even when I know they are best for me. It's like I don't think I will be able to succeed, so I don't even try.
I have this idea of the person I want to be, and I can't keep my gaze off of her. In my mind, she is the perfect mother. She is organized and patient. Lighthearted and wise. Full of energy and always equipped with glue stick, construction paper, and a book full of educational craft ideas for her well-behaved, well-mannered children (who eat all their spinach).
I want to do a lot of things, I have plans to eventually do a lot of things, but I've not succeeded in actually transforming myself into the person that does these things (with the exception of having successfully given up soft drinks) and I'm not sure I know how. I believe that my life would ultimately benefit from these things, but apparently that is not enough motivation for me to just do it already.
And then I had the thought -- what if I just accepted myself, my life, my habits, as enough? What if I gave up every attempt to change myself, and became content with who I am now, and threw out the lists, the plans, the currently unattainable goals. What if I simple lived life as it came, and made decisions and choices that I felt were best in the moment? What if I just chose whether or not I want to go back to school this fall, instead biting my nails and dreading the process and going back and forth about it in my head? And then, if I say, Okay, yes. I am going back to school and will take it one step at a time, then I really, truly do that without a second thought, without a worry, and just trust that it will work out, because I AM capable. And if I choose not to, then I forget about until next spring, when I have to decide again. This doesn't mean I would loose all ambition or that I would just lie around all day, watching Netflix and giving up on going back to school. But what if I just accepted the Whitney that is, instead of focusing so much on the Whitney I intend to be? (
My first instinct when I thought this was that is not okay. After some pondering what life would be like if I did stop the lists and goals and expectations, I realized not much would change. My lists can sit there stagnant, with duties uncrossed and rewritten a million times, switching from crumpled paper to fresh, clean pages to make me feel better and give myself more motivation, but if I'm not actually doing anything on the list, then all I'm doing is adding extra stress to my life by wishing I were different. And wasting paper. If I stopped trying to always be better, or if I'm honest, trying to be perfect, would I be happier? Would I make wiser choices in the moment, because I didn't feel the pressure of trying to please... someone. Who? Myself? My children? John? My mother? My friends? I don't even know.
I can't even really answer these questions, because the thought of not having The List is almost unimaginable to me. I've always had The List, since I was a young girl. I've always wanted to be better. Do better. The problem is I so rarely follow through. I never change. I remain very much myself.
Night owl. Relaxed. Hates cooking. Loves cheese. Eats excess amounts of sugar.
One thing I've wanted to do in the past that just happens to fall into place when needed is getting myself off the computer. I often found myself lost in Internet world, debating parenting styles and politics with angry people on news websites and message boards, playing mindless games that took up way too much time, scrolling through social media sites and liking and retweeting and hashtagging and whatnot. And I realized I hated this. It took up my time, it made me feel lazy and unsatisfied and negative, and so I decided to stop. It wasn't ever on The List: Stop spending so much time on the computer. It was just simply a part of me that I wanted to be different. I wanted to read more. I wanted to be more present for my children. And now, if I spend a day on Facebook and am feeling tapped out from the rest of the world and need a break from a screen, it's not difficult for me to sign off for a few days, or weeks, or even months. I don't freak out when I leave my phone at home.
I wish other choices could be this easy. Maybe they would be if they didn't hang over my head with so much authority and disappointment and negativity. Maybe I need to stop looking at them as tasks, forget about them for a while, and just live the life that comes to me moment by moment. And maybe they'll fall into my life gently, without a fight, without expectations.
That's almost a scary sentiment. I don't even know who I am without The List, much less, if I will be able to accept that person as Enough. Part of giving up on this idea of who I want to be will have to be okay with failing, once I make the decision to do something. And not failing in the I-give-up way, but failing in the I-tried-everything way.