“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
~ Annie Dillard
I’m a great list maker. Lists are my secret to success in a lot of areas:
Getting ready for a dinner party list
Packing for a trip list
Planning a wedding/birthday bash/ family reunion list
Costco/Trader Joes/New Seasons/Target run list
Christmas shopping list
Preparing for a keynote address or retreat list
Book off to the publisher list
Cleaning the garage list
As you can tell, I love me a good list. Which is why I was intrigued by Dane Anthony’s recent essay to consider making a new kind of list. A To-NOT-Do list.
While the name of the list alone was enough to pique my interest, the name of the person who wrote it sealed the deal. Dane has a Spiritual Direction practice in which he seeks to create a peaceful and safe space for the soul to emerge, which he does by listening without agenda. Having engaged him as my Spiritual Director, I can tell you that this is exactly what he does. He is one of the most gifted listeners I’ve ever met, and because I’ve come to deeply trust him and our work together, I decided to trust in the wisdom of creating my own To-NOT- Do List. Dane’s work is rooted in the belief that we are meant to live an undivided life, with ourselves, others and God, and if making a To-NOT-Do List can help me get a little closer to that…well then sign me up.
Here are a few things that showed up on my To-NOT-Do List as soon as my pen hit the page:
Wake up and check ANY of my devices until after my morning ritual of quiet, reading,
meditation, AND of course, my first sacred cup of French press coffee
Get lost in the menial at the expense of the meaningful
React out of fear
Make it all about me
If you are intrigued by the idea of a new kind of list too, read Dane’s thoughtful post below, and then see what words come out when your pen hits the page.
(Oh, and if you are intrigued by the idea of pursuing a Spiritual Director…think about putting that on your To-DO List.)
I was taken recently by the question of what my “To-Do” lists really do for me? I’ve made them and crossed things off for years. There are seasons in which these seemingly helpful lists prove a profitable exercise; a place to deposit the endless undone things I must attend to. Certainly, they can be helpful in acknowledging things that are necessary and need my attention. In other seasons, these lists, or at least the propensity to create them, feel more like a perpetual exercise in all the things that are undone. It is as if they are frantically waving their arms to point to what I’m not accomplishing.
What do my “To-Do” lists really do for me?
In conversation with someone the other day, I came to consider what would it be like to make a “To-NOT-Do” list – a list of the things I do not need to be doing. What on earth would a list like that contain? Might this list be one that offers me some needed permission to care for myself; to see myself as more than what I accomplish or cross off? Am I able to allow or consider things I don’t want to do apart from my inclination to be productive? Can I approach this list without a shame-motivation but from a desire for space and freedom and creativity?
Might this list be one that offers me some needed permission to care for myself; to see myself as more than what I accomplish or cross off?
A quick flash of what this list would look like might be something like:
I don’t know what this would look like for you, but my list came to me pretty quickly, so I’m aware of my need for the gifts that not doing each of them would offer. It also seemed that I could find a lot of other things to put on this list that don’t appear here. What has kept me from making a list like this, I wondered?
It seems that the messages we receive culturally, and those we create internally, are often driven by shame that we need to accomplish or perform to be accepted, to be worthy, to be enough.
It seems that the messages we receive culturally, and those we create internally, are often driven by shame that we need to accomplish or perform to be accepted, to be worthy, to be enough. That sure feels true for me when I look at my “To-Do” lists. I do NOT sense that when I look at my “To-NOT-Do” list above. This list feels like it has kindness present in it; an open space for me to engage with my desires and intentions, and with others as they are.
What might you have on your own “To-NOT-Do” list?