How many of you have a daily life list that looks like this: keep up with laundry, feed the children, feed the husband, feed the pets, go grocery shopping, make sure the toilets are not disgusting, be a good neighbor, keep up with the yard work, vacuum, dust, make the windows sparkle, chauffeur kids to lessons, get the oil changed, stay in touch with friends, call your mother, pay the bills…
If you’re a Mormon like me you might add: prepare a lesson, go Visiting Teaching, research your family history, go to the temple often, have daily personal scripture study, pray, pray, pray, have family prayer, family scripture study, meaningful family home evening, plan an activity, go to a meeting, go to church for at least three hours in one shot, go to Scouts, stay on top of Scout requirements, remember where the Scout book is, help a child prepare a talk, prepare a talk to give yourself…
Maybe your list includes: go to work, prepare a presentation, write a nice e-mail in response to a mean one, train someone, deal with customers, deal with your boss, love your annoying co-worker, look for a job…
And don’t forget: take a shower, exercise, eat healthy, read something, learn something, build relationships with spouse, children, and friends, do yoga, meditate…
A lot of us add: live up to what I think others’ expectations of me are, look a certain way, do things a certain way…
What’s on your list? I’m sure you could go on and on and on.
How do you feel about your list? Are the things on it a burden? Do they feel like a weight to drag you down and keep you from doing what you really want to do?
I remember one particular day driving a van full of kids somewhere feeling particularly bogged down by all my to-dos. I was hashing and rehashing through a never ending list of “I have to’s” and “I should’s”. I have to figure out math curriculum, I have to get the trees trimmed, I have to get the cars washed, I have to read out loud to my kids today, I have to figure out what is for dinner, and since I’m spending so much time driving these kids around all over creation to do the things they want to do, how on Earth will I have time to do all these things I have to do?
Then something pulled me out of my thoughts, a cute voice asking a question or making an observation most likely, and I looked in the rearview mirror at my gaggle of children and was hit with the realization: I have my dream job! I get to spend day in and day out with the coolest kids I know. I get to teach them, I get watch them discover talents and abilities, I get to create an environment where they can be creative and develop those talents and abilities. This is really what I’ve always wanted. It really is.
I once heard Bonnie Parkin say something along the lines to, “The things on your list are gifts to open, not sticks to beat yourself with.”
There are two ways we can be in the world– we can be self absorbed, or self aware. We can be arrows in– everything is about me, or arrows out– everything is about all of us. We can see the tasks, trials and people that need our attention as weighty obligations, or we can see them as opportunities for connection, for growth, for meaningful contribution. Or as my yoga teacher this past Friday said, we can see our practice and everything we know we need to do either as an obligation, or as an invitation to live in our connection with the divine.
We have the choice.
But how do we choose the invitation, opportunity, and gift side of the coin over the weighty obligation side of the coin?
The only thing I can come up with is this– PRACTICE. Practice noticing your internal dialogue. It is incessant and unless you intentionally practice choosing what those inner voices say they will inevitably turn negative. Notice all the “have tos” and “shoulds” that go on in there, and then do your best to stop should-ing on yourself!
Can you change “I have to chauffeur these kids all over the place” to “I have my dream job”?
Can you change “I should scrub the shower” to “I’m going to treat myself to a sparkly clean shower”?
Can you change “I have to practice yoga for an hour so I can exercise” to “I get to enjoy my breath and body for a whole hour!”?
Can you change “I should really eat a salad instead of this bowl of ice-cream” to “I’m going to nourish every cell in my body with living food and feel great”?
And then, when you forget, because you will over and over, can you change your stick of judgement into a gift of acceptance and say,
“I get to remember who I really am. I am a being of light, goodness, and infinite potential.”?