2020: The year our to-do lists died a fiery death. I’m still living by my to-do list, of course—I couldn’t survive a global pandemic without one. But the items look a lot different than I thought they would, they’re getting checked off slower (much, much s-l-o-w-e-r), and some things have been removed altogether.
Gretchen Rubin (author, researcher, and happiness extraordinaire) often talks about a happiness habit she calls the “Ta-Da List.” Rather than putting so much pressure on ourselves to keep up with our long to-do lists, or beating ourselves up over all the items we didn’t get done, she recommends creating a list of all the things we did get done. Ta-da!
But behind every ta-da list is a healthy to-don’t list. To make space for every single thing I did, there are a thousand unseen things I didn’t do. As the wisdom goes, you have to say no to some things in order to say yes to the things that matter most.
I think we all need a bit more ta-da in our lives right now, as well as a bit more transparency with our to-don’ts. So in that spirit, I offer you my lists. I hope these will remind you that nobody is doing it all, and that in a season where it feels like we’re living each day over and over again, spinning in place rather than moving forward, you actually have done something.
You cooked and cared and loved and hugged and surely placed at least 72 grocery pick-up orders.
You kept people alive.
My 2020 Ta-Da List
- I’ve survived a global pandemic for 6 months and counting.
- I parented two small humans while working full-time from home without childcare for 5 months and then helped them make the transition to a new daycare. (PRAISE THE LORD.)
- I launched my first book! (As stated above, without childcare, during a global pandemic.)
- I started running again, just to feel free for a few minutes each week, and I adopted a “do a little bit each day” approach to working out.
- I enjoyed my reserves of “the good stuff”: the good shampoo, the good soap, the good coffee, the good candles.
- I (we) ate dinner outside every time we had the opportunity.
- I thought outside the box and embraced partial solutions like this Enneagram 1 never has before.
- I ordered a lot of takeout. (Like, a lot.)
- I tried my best to stay in discomfort in conversations and reading.
- I let myself dream small, and it felt really good.
2020 To-Don’t List
- I don’t wear real pants. Like, ever. Some people say you should dress for your job even if you’re working at home, and I wonder if those people take sick pleasure the feeling of a waistband digging into their mom flesh. I sure don’t. On days I’m feeling fancy, I put on my nice yoga pants. On days I can’t think about even one more thing, I wear my pajamas all day and then go to bed in them again that night.
- I don’t tell myself to enjoy this time or look for any kind of mythical silver lining. I’m in one of the most privileged positions in all this, and it still sucks.
- I don’t keep up with photos like I used to. I used to have a monthly routine where I purged phone photos, edited and exported all Lightroom photos, backed everything up to the cloud and my external hard drive, and selected pictures to include in our yearly photo book. I haven’t done that since April. (I also haven’t made the 2019 photo book yet.)
- I don’t bathe my kids enough. Though I am getting better about that now that they’re in school.
- I don’t do anything productive after the kids’ bedtime. This has always been true for me—I’m braindead by 8 p.m.—but it’s more important now than ever before. It’s the one time in the day when I’m not beholden to anything, and I need it to stay that way, even when the to-do list piles up.
- I don’t watch (much) TV. Occasionally I’ll watch an episode of The Babysitters Club if I’m between books. But that time between putting the kids to bed and falling asleep on the couch an hour later is so precious that I use it to read because that’s what fills me up. (Okay, and I sometimes Dan and I watch our favorite songs from Hamilton.)
- I don’t clean my house. I tidy, yes. But I rarely clean. I have a monthly cleaning service, and I try to keep up with counters, but my floors are disgusting between visits, as are my bathrooms.
- I don’t do any extras. I know most of us aren’t going anywhere right now, but somehow there is still a lot happening? I’m not doing extra Zoom calls, meet-ups, or hangouts. I’m not learning Reels. (God help us, can they please go away now?) I’m focusing on a very narrow set of priorities right now, and everything else is getting cut.
The Enneagram 1 in me hates that I couldn’t make this list go all the way to 10, but we’ll just end this here and call it an act of grace and self-compassion, okay?