Does this list look familiar? Do you have one just like it? Have you ever achieved everything on your to do list?
If you have, you can stop reading now. You are clearly a creature unknown to most humans and I cannot help you. If this is familiar to you though, please do keep reading.
I’ve been in your shoes. In fact, I borrow your shoes when you’re sleeping and dance in them, often. I have never met anyone immune to the dreaded To-Do list. They may put on a good show and seem very, very together, but underneath the very well placed mask, they’re a mess, just like me. Just like you. It’s taken me years, but I’m ok with being good, rather than perfect.
I used to dream of being perfect, of getting it all right. I imagined a day when it simply wasn’t hard anymore to do all the things I knew I really should do.
I wanted to be the perfect shape, have the perfect job, find the perfect man and live the perfect life. If I could achieve all of those things I would surely be happy. If I could just follow a plan of action, I’d get there. Slowly, over many years, the appeal of perfection waned. I never met anyone who truly was perfect. Those cool customers I thought had it all together were in fact, a bit boring. Their lives weren’t as glossy and precise as they seemed from the outside. In fact, if anything, they struck me as one-dimensional, unhappy and disenchanted. The people I admired the most were always the ones who were disorganised, scatty and brimming with life. They seemed to survive on caffeine and were oh so warm, considerate and thoughtful. They wore their hearts on their sleeves, something that terrified me. Their dangerous honesty seemed to make them more alive. They struck me as fulfilled.
Years ago, I read a column in the Irish Times by Roisin Ingle. She wrote about perfection, about good enough being good enough. She reminded me that the words go leor as Gaeilge (in Irish) mean plenty. They also mean enough. So, being good enough is plenty. It’s more than enough. It struck me then and again now as I write, that good enough can sound like a compromise. Accepting something as good enough can feel like failure, right?
Giving up on the long to-do list because you’re already ‘good enough’ doesn’t feel like much of an achievement does it?
Here’s a truth bomb for you. The universe is not perfect. Humans are not perfect. The whole notion of perfect is an ideal. Yes, an ideal…as in, not real. The ancient Greeks (and probably others) gave us the idea of perfect. Those naked, athletic statues told us what perfect was. The early Olympic games gave us an ideal to strive towards. We have been trying to be the ultimate human ever since and it is IMPOSSIBLE. The ideal of perfect can never be reached. Whatever we’re working towards, morphs as soon as we get there. We achieve the thing we thought would make our lives perfect and suddenly feel bored and unfulfilled. Where do we go from there?
Good is very different to perfect. The word good was gifted to us by the Hebrew word tov, which also means ‘working the way it was created to’. Working the way we were created to (whatever you believe about how we came to be here) means that we go through cycles; rhythms that follow the natural world. For a seed to create new life, it must first be buried. It has to experience darkness, a sort of death. This death and the birth that follows are natural processes through which new life comes into the world.
Good has a dynamic built into it. It is not static, as perfect is. It is real, it is changing and moving and flowing…endlessly. In the birth of a tiny human there is unpredictability, there is blood and messiness and fragility and drama and maybe even danger. Birth is about as far from perfect as you can get. It is a beautiful, joyous explosion of life into the world. To quote Rob Bell, “Good is sweaty, dirty, dark, light, death, birth, sexy, wine, food, friends, embraces” Good is not interested in right angles, in achieving everything on our to-do list. Good isn’t interested in shiny, glossy perfection.
There’s a balance to be found in there, between the threat of the unfinished To-Do List and being human. I’m not suggesting that we forget about the goals we have or about growing as humans. I am inviting you to rethink the path. All of the ways you’re going to fall flat on your face, all of the embarrassment, all of the the failures are part of you becoming you. That endless becoming is mirrored in the natural world, with the ever repeating cycles of death, silence, light, birth, growth, blossoming, harvest, decay and back to death. Over and over again. If we don’t get it ‘right’ this time, we get to try again tomorrow. What a gift!
My Advice for Navigating the To-Do List:
- Stop beating yourself up because your neighbour has 3 gorgeous kids and you just want one. Stop tormenting your fragile imperfect heart because your sister seems to skate by effortlessly, or because you just cannot seem to ditch the caffeine from your life. Be kind to yourself and everyone you encounter.
- If you want to bring forth change and growth in your life, start by thinking about how you want to feel, how you want your life to look 5 or 10 years from now. Then consider what single step you could take to move towards that. It might be sleeping more, or drinking less caffeine or meditating every morning. The truth is, you don’t need to do everything on your To-Do list today. Pick one thing and play with it. Experiment. Try it out for size. If it doesn’t fit, sling it in the bin and try something else. You get as many go’s as you like.
- Trust that even the tiniest change can make a big impact. Recently, I started taking a 15 minute nap in the afternoon. I work from home, so it’s a relatively easy change for me to make. On the days I remember to take the nap, I have more energy, more focus and feel less stressed. Now, that’s what I call a win. What’s the simplest, smallest change you could make this week? Hint: it can be something that requires minimal effort, like napping. Try it, see how you feel and share your experience in the comments below. (Or email me, I love a good email natter)
- Stop comparing your experiences with those of your family, friends and colleagues. It’s practically impossible to know for sure what other people are going through. Assume it’s tough for them too and get on with your life, focus on the work you’re doing.
- Join my Free Private Circle on Facebook. Sign up for my Sanity Guide to Fertility Treatment below and I’ll send you an invitation to join the Private Circle. Share your challenges, your questions and your dreams there. I promise you, there will be endless support, kindness and cheerleading for you and the journey you’re on.