Everything you read about how to live your best life, have your greatest career, be your best 'you' is based around goals and structure and work-plans. I subscribed to this, got with the programme, read the books, did the stuff. To be fair, I did ok as a result. I had a few false starts, but by 50 I was professionally qualified, was head of department, had my own home debt-free, a 30-year relationship that worked (on our terms), had been to lots of amazing places. I was writing the kinds of things I wanted to write, and through contributor content sites sharing my view of the world. But I wasn't happy. I loved what I was doing, but I was heading for burn-out. I could feel it.
If I wasn't aware enough already that the stress was getting to me, the long days, poor food, near-zero exercise, before we even mention the unmentionable side-effects of menopause (sweats, sleeplessness) – the Universe decided to make sure I got the message. My brother got sick. Then my partner had a heart attack.
"Are you listening yet girl?" was the message I received loud and clear. I listened. I was next in the firing line if I didn't get a grip.
Only getting a grip was the exact opposite of what was needed, I decided. I decided instead to let go: to loosen my hold on my life. It is an experiment: just to see what will happen. I have decided to ignore all the rules and deconstruct my life, de-list it, un-schedule it.
Not as easy as it sounds for a serious serial list-maker like me. I grew up knowing that Mam would have left a list before she left for work, and it was a given that if it was on the list we had to make sure we'd dealt with it before home-time…and if it wasn't on the list it didn't get done. We weren't being difficult; we just bowed to the all-knowingness of the list.
I've lived by lists since I was 10. Giving them up over 40 years later isn't going to be easy. I know that, but the experiment is 'not designed' to establish two things: is it possible to live a life largely list-free; if so, what kind of life will it turn out to be?
I allow myself some leeway: shopping lists are fine (not least because I tend to write them and then leave them on the worktop), formal meeting appointments go in the diary as normal; work commitments have to be met, deadlines are deadlines…this isn't about dropping out and sitting by the pond for a couple of years. It's about trying to live a normal(ish) life, without the tyranny of the list.
Daily / weekly to-do lists are banned (that's probably an hour a day saved right there). Doing anything by the clock is to be avoided as much as possible – there are obvious limits: I respect other people's time, and turn up on time to meetings, I accept timetables for businesses, transport and all the rest. This isn't about dropping out of society, but just a wondering if I can live within it, with much less clock-watching and a great deal less stress.
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