Last week I took a shine to doing things just because I felt like it. It started with painting my toenails glittery orange. Then there was an impromptu trip to the beach with my little boy. Soon I reversed course and started skipping certain things I didn't feel like doing. I walked past the dishes in the sink and let the unfolded laundry wait for later. I deleted a few events from my calendar. Decided I'd rather do something else instead.
Gotta say, I liked where this was headed.
Some of you may wonder what the big deal is here. Aren't we all free-thinking folks with the ability to choose a course for ourselves? Sure. But something about my internal wiring has left me forever reluctant to hop on board the train to Changed My Mind. Seems like any time an activity has ever hit my To Do list, it has been cemented there.
Normally, I wouldn't have made that beach trip until all the other undesirable chores were finished first. Ditto for settling in at night to read a book or work on my manuscript. Those things feel too leisurely, as if surely some punishment must be completed first. All this stems from my responsibility gene, I've decided. The same one that has me attending social functions out of a sense of duty and obligation, even if I'd rather be somewhere else. I'm starting to change my mind about all kinds of things lately, and in most cases I don't even feel apologetic about it anymore.
It began with a comment from my friend Carrie last February. After asking me to go running with her on the upcoming Saturday, she told me it was okay to just say, "Maybe. If I feel like it." No yes or no required.
Strangely, this response would never have crossed my mind had she not put it out there. I'd have either said "yes," and honored that commitment, or I'd have said "no," and then felt obligated to offer up a really good explanation of why not. And I never would have been so rude as to remain non-committal like she was suggesting. But having her permission, I took her up on it. And I discovered that I liked leaving my calendar open to make last-minute decisions depending on whether or not I felt like doing something.
It started spilling over.
Carrie was the only person in my cast of friends to offer this carte blanche approach to planning, but I started using it with everyone else around me anyway. I said no to requests for volunteer work (don't judge me!), turned down invitations to do local races with friends, and even (yes... Mom Guilt here) set boundaries with my family.
I learned a few things. My young son can dress himself and brush his own teeth. My daughters can put away laundry and pour their brother's cereal in the morning. And somebody else around here has been feeding all the pets because I stopped doing it a long time ago and, as yet, none are dead.
What do I feel like doing instead? Writing.
For years, I waited until everyone in my family was asleep before I started to write. I made all their lunches, loaded the dishwasher, picked up toys, and did laundry--all after bedtime--and then turned on my laptop at nine or ten o'clock and wrote if I had anything left to give. I don't feel like doing it that way anymore.
I want to write a book this year. A whole book, not a few disjointed chapters spread out wide over the course of months and years. So, twice a week I've been leaving and going to my local library for about three hours at a time to write. Alone.
Do I feel guilty? You bet.
Is it stopping me? Nope.
Somewhere in here, there must be a balance. I'm still looking for it, just like everyone else. The day may not be far off that I'll decide my new M.O. is selfish and then revert to my old ways. I'm open to that possibility. But this year I'm serving others less and writing more.
Admittedly, I'm having a little rebellious streak right now. Still, I hope the Stiletto Faithful will also consider what you'd most like to do in life. Once in a while, I hope you'll pursue those things too, because you feel like it. No apologies required.