The Never-ending To Do List

When I’m sick, I turn into a horrible conversationalist because nothing sounds good anymore and all I can seem to focus on is that my body and I are two separate entities and I (my brain) am losing to it. This is wrong, of course. We cannot separate ourselves from our bodies, even though we may sometimes – or rather, all the time – wish to.

It’s the same with writing. All I can focus on is the stuff that’s happening to me without my conscious control which I have to endure and learn to cope with. That doesn’t sound like a good story, and so I don’t write it. But I can’t write anything else either because there’s nothing else that either my brain or my body can focus on. I become consumed by what’s happening to me because I try so hard to process, package and put it away.

I forget and have to be reminded, every single time, that I can and probably should use writing to work through what’s happening to me. Because I’ve done it before, and it’s a coping mechanism I should be familiar with. Every time though, I need to learn again because it doesn’t sound like a useful or meaningful way to spend time. It’s not great entertainment to read about someone else’s woes, especially when they’re not life-changing or terrifying or filled with wisdom and life lessons.

Still though, I write to process all of my life, and an inconvenient amount of that life for the past year or so has been all about illness and exhaustion – for a variety of reasons that are being worked on. I work in a high-pressure environment where deadlines are constant and I often choose to function on less sleep so that I don’t have to sacrifice other things I enjoy like speaking to friends or reading something that makes me laugh or… just nonessential things. I choose those over sleep which leads to me being tired and therefore grumpy and then my allergies inevitably act up and then I lose time at work and then… you get the picture.

I have so many goals, so many line items on my to do list that I don’t want to relinquish because if only I had the time, I would be ecstatic to accomplish them. I am an all over the place person. I want it all – not everything in the world, but everything that I am interested in and think I’d have fun trying to accomplish. It’s a difficult thing for me. I love my job, but I’m often immersed in it to the extent that I can’t then socialize with the amazing and interesting people I know or I can’t dip into the box of novels I have waiting for me to read them or I can’t script exactly the show I want or pitch to the publication I want to write for or any number of other things.

Failure’s been something I’ve struggled with for a long time, and I’ve written about it before. I’ve learned to think of failure as a natural part of any process, but when I taught myself to think of failure as fine, I never thought I needed to learn that sometimes not even making the attempt is also okay. It’s always been attempting the thing and failing is far better than not attempting it at all. That became part of my repertoire, a way to motivate me into doing things.

But now, I don’t have the time to devote to attempting all those things I want to attempt.

Not attempting the thing – whatever it is – has become the new detested action for me and I find that instead of feeling down when I try and fail, I instead feel horrible when I look at all those well-meaning to do lists I’ve put together and have to keep carrying things over because there just has not been time to accomplish even half of them.

I joke about a never-ending to do list, because it’s funny. It’s a comical image, the long sheet of paper that just keeps growing until it’s coiled around your legs and you can’t move for fear of tripping. But it’s not that funny, really. There is a rope coiled around my legs and it’s made of all the expectations I have of myself. I need to let go so that I can be untangled – otherwise I’m going to fall. But how can I let go? These things have remained on that list for so long because I want them so badly. It’s easier to just wish for more time and cram my days full, full enough that I can’t sit down and really think about how tired I seem to always be and how often I try to wring out a few extra minutes.

I can pick them up in the future, these goals and dreams that I don’t have time for right now. It doesn’t feel like it, it feels like I’ve dropped treasures over a cliff and they’re gone forever. I find it incredibly difficult to remember that everything happens at the right time, in the right place and for the right reasons. I’ve written almost a hundred thousand words on taqdeer and the lesson that what is meant for you will find you, no matter where or in what state you are. I’ve written it, and you’d think that would mean I’d know it.

Just like with writing, I need to relearn it every single time. And maybe that’s just a natural part of the process.

7 thoughts on “The Never-ending To Do List

  1. It’s so true: easier said (or in this case, written) than done. And sometimes it takes a crash for us to go back and internalise the lesson we tried to teach others.

    We forget again after a while, though…but is that not the inherent nature of humans?

    Your words remind me of a chapter in “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” – about how a to-do list will never be completed.

    And another quote I read today: “You can have it all. Just not all at once.”

    Remember the hadith about our bodies having rights over us. Balance… always.

    Liked by 3 people

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