I have a compulsion that keeps my feet shackled together as I try to go about my day-to-day business. It’s a compulsion that stems from innocence, wanting to simply try things and be good at them. But in my case, this desire has grown into an unhealthy expectation that leads to disappointment. I want to do everything. And I want to be good at everything I do. It started in high school, the small-town-so-you-try-your-hand-at-every-activity syndrome which has spilled over through college into tonight. I never know how to describe myself, because I never want to fit in one category or be known as having one style. This leads to me, weary and worn-out, overexerting myself in good, but unnecessary things. In the midst of me trying to do everything and be every type of person, I’ve lost recognition of who I really am. I’ve forgotten what I’m about.
So in a desperate attempt to reclaim solid understanding of myself, I’ve made two lists, inspired by one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist. A list of things I do. And a list of things I don’t do. Through this journey of life, I will continue to add to this list, as I learn how to not do everything.
Things I Do:
I eat lemons. Yes, the yellow, sour, acidic fruit that is usually placed on the edge of water glasses at restaurants. I prefer lemon slices to lemon wedges, but as long as it’s sour, I’m happy. I eat lemons, even though I know eating lemons frequently is bad for the enamel on my teeth.
I use wooden pencils, despite the commonality of mechanical pencils.
I read. Books, magazines, newspaper articles, blogs…I love to read. Reading gives me something to talk about later. I try to read books of all genres so as to keep an open mind to all types of writing. When reading a fiction book, I always sneak a peak at the last page of the book just to be sure the characters make it to the last page. I know it spoils the story, but I just can’t risk getting too attached to the characters. Reading for me, is an active process of learning, thinking, and growing. I write thoughts in margins of books, I underline quotes that are challenging. I dog-ear pages that I want to re-read. And I lend out my books. Because I believe books are meant to be read, shared, discussed, and re-read.
I keep my planner up to date. I thought this was something I’d do only throughout school to keep all my activities, assignments and tests organized, but it has proven to be just as essential post-college. At the risk of sounding nerdy or type-A, it helps me to not miss anything important. As a backup, I have my phone calendar and sticky notes to no end.
I use Vaseline every night and every morning on my lips. Ever since I had nose surgery, I learned no fancy chapstick, no matter what kind of insect made the ingredients, can ever make your lips as moist and luscious as petroleum jelly.
I scrub my feet with a pumice stone with each shower. Who really wants nasty, calloused feet?
I listen to music. All kinds. Daily.
I stop in antique shops and spend hours looking for hidden treasures. I love the musty smell, the cramped aisles, and the little old lady who sits at the cash register cross-stitching a pillow case. I love the old pieces of china, the silly hats, the classic cameras, and the outdated chairs. And I struggle to leave an antique shop without purchasing at least one thing. Recent treasures: a teapot, a bracelet, old cameras, a vase, a treasure chest, and a head piece. The best part of antique shops…sharing the adventure with a fellow antique-lover. Antiques remind me of old memories, the promise of restoration, and the hope of second chances.
I am serious about community. I give and grow and receive and rejuvenate from community. I believe small groups of genuine friends are critical in the life of any person. Despite geographical distances, I strive to stay connected in life-giving relationships. Family, old best friends, college friends, wise women from church, these people build me up, pray for me, challenge and encourage me. Who I am today is in part, because of them.
Most importantly, the critical foundation to who I am derives from my time with my God. I practice honesty, repentance, and meditation. I sing, I cry, I scream, I hope, I laugh, I read, I sit, I question, I forgive, I promise, I write. I cannot pour into others unless I’m first filled up by the Source of all good things. It is the Lord who sustains me throughout sleepless weeks. It is the Lord who graces me with patience, insight, and peace. As I give up more of myself, ironically, I become more of who I was meant to be.
Things I Don’t Do:
I don’t use coupons. I know people save lots of money with this tedious little hobby, but I just don’t use coupons.
I don’t floss my teeth. It doesn’t matter how many times the dentist tells me I should, I will nod while saying “Okay”, knowing full well it will not happen. I have no excuse. My sister #3 and my father are religiously good about this hygiene practice. But I feel like having one cavity in 22 years means I’ve been doing a pretty good job with my teeth thus far.
I don’t write with blue ink pens. I hate blue ink for some unknown reason. Give me any other color and I’ll use it, but if I had my way, every ink pen would be filled with black ink.
I don’t blow dry my hair, unless it’s a special occasion or I’m about to go out in the cold. Why waste time damaging my hair, when I can air dry and still have fantastic hair?
I don’t snowboard. I want to and I’ve tried in the past. But after a painfully embarrassing experience, I decided I don’t need to participate in every winter sport.
I don’t swear. I believe people who swear either have a limited vocabulary or are too lazy to really articulate their feelings.
I don’t check the weather. Weathermen are hardly ever accurate. And even if it’s going to rain, knowing it doesn’t stop it from happening. After making fun of my college roommate for checking the weather daily, I must maintain my theory that only grandpas and farmers pay attention to the weather.
I don’t spend time with people who tear down others, manipulate others, or who always have the ‘right’ answer. Love builds up. Love doesn’t insist on it’s own way. And love is big enough for more than one idea.
These lists remind me of who I am. These lists remind me of who I am not. These lists are freeing. And the beautiful thing about freedom is that as you yourself discover, search, struggle, discern, question, and hope, you free those around you to do the same. So may these two lists free you to make two lists of your own. As I rediscover who I really am, what I’m really about, may you be empowered to do the same.