I’m trying to slow down. It’s not easy. I have some Type A.
I love efficiency. I love crossing things off lists. I like to hoe the row all the way to the end, preferably without interruptions. I make SuperWoman to-do lists despite the fact I know they’re way more heroic than I am.
Sometimes busyness works. Hustling gets things done. But wrestling with that list day after day makes me want to run away.
Except not really. I love my life. I want to love it even more.
I’ve come to suspect that my SuperWoman lists have an insidious little thread invisibly woven in. A thread of belief that if I do more, maybe I’ll actually be more.
Most of the time, doing more just makes me busier.
And busyness can become a bossy, obnoxiously righteous state of mind. Don’t stop now! There’s still so much to do!
No matter how many things I cross off, the Busy Bully isn’t satisfied for long. Let’s face it—there’s always more to do. And, the truth is that right up to my very last day, this will be the case.
What is enough?
I believe the adage that less is more. And know from experience that even when you subscribe to this, it’s still easy to keep piling on more stuff, more obligations, more activities, more food, because we feel obliged, deserving, needy, unsatisfied.
In our culture, afloat with opportunity and inducement, it’s actually easier to believe satisfaction lies in the next ‘thing’ than to be content with what we have. The net result of this is buying into the pursuit and selling out on contentment.
But contentment is patient. Abiding. Only requiring I be genuinely willing.
When I stop rushing, I experience a richer texture of life. I find more meaning when I nudge aside the pushy thoughts from my to-do list to give a conversation with a friend the time to unfurl and fruit. When I focus my awareness, the lilting flight of a butterfly can land me gently into gratitude.
Moments of choice like this are embedded with power. Neuroscience is proving this. Each time I purposefully focus my attention beyond my harried mind, mental strength and flexibility develop and build, exactly like biceps respond to resistance training.
My ability to do this usually doesn’t make an appearance when I need it most. I hyperventilate about meeting the work deadlines marching toward me, getting the car in for service, the tomato plants into the ground. But, when I catch myself, each of these is an opportunity to practice, to build those muscles.
I take a breath. Feel my chest rise and the oxygen flow in. I observe my anxiety, reminding myself there’s more to me than the stress that feels so overbearing. And that larger part? It doesn’t need much. Most of what it wants is connection.
Like taking in the beauty of a sunset while I’m waiting at a stop sign. Or, watching the kindness of the checker who’s clearly weary on her feet as I stand in a grocery line. When I offer her a smile, we both feel better.
Am I giving up lists? Probably not. In fact, I’m trying to figure out how to include this mindfulness on my list. Something like:
Five times today, draw in a deep, centered breath. Notice something new on my daily drive today. Taste, really and truly, that first sip of your afternoon latte.
I like all these, but actually when I envision this intention on my list, what I see is a transparent overlay that softens the insistent words and burnishes the pages of my life with a lively glow.
What would it look like on your list?