A while back I was inspired to rethink my ‘life list.’ I’m a fan of lists, but somewhat paradoxically, they’ve always caused me some sort of anxiety. There’s so much to do, and sometimes things get in the way, and when you can’t do things exactly the way you’re supposed to, all of a sudden you’re failing.
Take my New Year’s resolutions, for example. I love resolutions. I love opportunity for improvement. I love measurable goals. But things happen. One of my resolutions was to do 100 crunches a day. Awesome, right? Well, not awesome when you manage to get a stomach bug in the first full week of the year, and then the next thing you know you’re about 700 crunches behind. Measurable goals are great for work, but perhaps life should be a bit more flexible? Perhaps a better resolution might have been, “Increase weekly exercise?” “Walk more?”
Life shouldn’t be measured by things we can check off of a list. Periodically someone will raise the question, “If you only had one more day to live, how would you spend it?” I don’t think I’d run to the life list and say, “I’m going to take a cake decorating class!” Instead, I would stay home with Neal and Tabitha, all of us in our pajamas–just the three of us all day. I would write Tabitha a letter describing how much she means to me, how much I love her, and how excited I am for her future, even if I won’t be there to see all of it. I would take an hour or so to get all of my boring document ducks in a row so that Neal wouldn’t have to search for things and worry about things when I was gone. I would kiss Tabitha’s chubby cheeks a thousand times and hug Neal a thousand and one times. I would say to both of them, “I love you. I love you. I love you.”
There are many things on my original list I hope to do one day, but I don’t feel that I have to do them in order for my life to somehow feel complete. So I have decided to rework my list with a focus on what matters most.
- Stay married for a ridiculously long time. Tell Neal I love him everyday. Make our marriage a priority and make sure he feels loved, valued and appreciated.
- Raise Tabitha to be a strong, self-confident woman who feels secure in who she is. Raise her to respect and be kind to others, and to respect and be kind to herself (a surprisingly difficult task for a woman!) And most importantly, work on creating a family of which she is proud to be a part. I want her to know how loved she is and how much she means to us. When she grows up and goes on her way, I want her to look forward to visits home. I want her to trust me and Neal, and I want us both to build solid, happy relationships with her. Wherever she goes, I want her to know that we are here for her, and we love her.
- Hug and kiss Neal and Tabitha everyday. Be affectionate with them.
- Always tie up loose ends. If a bill comes, pay it. Take care of those pesky little adult things that will only cause troubles later (i.e. finally get my name changed on the title of my car.) Get life insurance. Write a will and a living will. Check my credit score at least once a year and follow up with any discrepancies.
- Strive to be healthy, but don’t obsess about it. Maintain a good weight; if it ever creeps up, cut back on sugar for a while and increase the exercise. Take my vitamins. Get a yearly physical and be mindful of what the doctor says. Stay active, and make it fun, so that Tabitha will learn to enjoy and appreciate the things her body can do.
- Pay attention to my mental health. When the ever present cloud of depression starts creeping nearer, take a minute to consider why. Am I too busy? Do I need to cut something out? Am I not getting enough exercise? Am I not allowing myself enough time to write? Focus on what can be changed, and change it. Because Tabitha has a mother who has struggled with depression and anxiety, I know that she is predisposed to struggle with these things herself. I want to model positive coping strategies, and I want to teach her that these things can be controlled.
- Remember each morning that happiness is indeed somewhat related to circumstance, but it is primarily a choice. Resolve each day to focus on the positive. And each night, meditate on the words of Emerson, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”