Before cancer, I was addicted to lists and the high of checking things off it.
I’ve had a P-L-A-N in motion with an epic checklist since the first time someone asked me “what do you want to be when you grow up?” To me it seemed like whatever I wanted to be would determine how happy I would be. That’s a lot of pressure for a kid! But I was up for the challenge.
Over the years I considered my options… I loved animals, but I nearly fainted while observing my first surgery. Next! My other love was writing, so I settled on pursuing a journalism degree with hopes of being a big time editor or producer one day. But in the process of chasing my dream, I was really just checking all the boxes I thought I was supposed to if I wanted to have a good life:
- Graduate college
- Marry a hunk
- Buy a house
- Use my degree at a “real job”
- Have a baby
- Get a Costco card
- Climb the corporate ladder
- Have it ALLL!
But the box I wasn’t expecting to check was being miserable at my “real job.”
So I stopped trying to do everything in perfect order, and for the first time I thought about what I actually wanted out of the day-to-day in my life.
Come to find out, it wasn’t a corner office or a bigger paycheck. It was personal freedom.
It was time to rip up that stupid life checklist and live!
So I created a new list, you know, so I could live (totally being sarcastic):
- Co-found a company to do work I’m actually passionate about
- Have another baby
- Be available for my loved ones whenever needed
- Have as much fun as I can afford
- Sell our house and live in a travel trailer to get out of debt (true story!)
- Buy our forever home to raise our kids and grow old
Then brain cancer changed everything.
Everything was uncertain. I couldn’t even pretend to plan for what would come next.
So I stopped trying to plan everything.
Just like that – cold turkey! Something inside me changed when I was given a new chance at life. I finally woke up to the fact that life was not a checklist! There is no perfect order! What’s expected and what I want can be two different things!
I was so committed to this idea, that I stopped making lists all together. I figured that if it was truly a priority I wouldn’t need a list to remind me! I mean, lists are like laundry… they never end!
You don’t need to have your life threatened to know what it’s worth.
Because I am telling you right now! Your life is important and purposeful and how the heck can you be the greatest version of yourself if you’re controlled by what “needs” to be done?! Stop trying to be done with everything and start enjoying the doing instead!
You will never find the ultimate high of a fully crossed off list because (spoiler alert) the list never ends! If you’re like me you might add to the list more than you cross off and feel utterly defeated -OR- you’ll skip all opportunities for fun in your life to “finish” your list only to start a new one the next day (I’ve done this too). Both options totally suck.
To this day I resist lists like it’s my job.
Living isn’t about looking ahead at what’s next or all the steps to get there; it’s about the actual moment you are in right now.
When we are thinking ahead, we checklist. When we are present, we live.
If you have a hard time staying present, you just have to start noticing when it’s happening do these 3 things instead:
- Remind yourself where you are. You are not in the past or in the present where your mind likes to wander.
- Notice all your senses. Go ahead, try it! What do you see? What do you physically feel in or on your body? What do you hear? What do you taste? What do you smell?
- Bring your mind to something good about this particular moment you paused to experience.
The more you do that, the more you’ll likely trade your addiction of lists for an addiction of living. Life is too damn short to not live the journey.