Living Beautifully

A year ago, I was uncertainly stepping into a new job. After floundering and soul searching and asking the darkness big questions (and finding myself even more afraid of the answers), I set myself a task. 

Over the course of several weeks, I paid attention. To what brought me joy, certainly, but also what brought me alive. What stoked my fires, kindled my love, ignited my ideas. 

And, as is my inner-accountant’s wont, I made a checklist. 

I had recently finished reading Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. I closed it equally inspired and depressed. 

Ah, the hopefulness! 

Ah, the blind privledge unacknowledged! 

While I am all for personal reflection and growth (I am, after all, four years into sporadic sermonizing on this very forum), the go-getter, do-everything, tightly-laced modern American mom — with heaps of money and time and opportunity — leaves me cold. I didn’t get Gretchen; found the regular use of unpaid-for crowd-sourced content/gravytrain annoying and churlish; and the systemic rules and constant Drive of Success felt forced. 


I found a great many good things, too. I love lists and schemes. I love thinking. I love, rather narcissistically, to watch the meandering path of my own thoughts and dreams. (It’s not like I can watch anyone else’s.)

And out the other side, I found my own checklist. I named it Living Beautifully. 

Spread Joy. Take Detours. Speak Up. 

A list in vague, thematic buckets and without order or rules. Categories of my life which are deserving of attention, respect and presence. 

Instigate Intimacy. Opt for Depth. Cut Slack.

A list of things to do but which can never be done. Aspirations larger than activities and bigger than To Do Lists.

Write. Make things. Breathe in the Outdoors.

A list of intention and presence, devoid of accolades or achievements, but which make me truly happy. 

There are 40 items in all. Every one of them resoundingly mine.

Hardly any require specific action — writing and yoga the notable exceptions — the rest rely on intentions. 

Choosing how I do normal things. Choosing how I respond and connect with those around me. Being purposeful in my approach to embracing life.

The little daily check-ins take seconds, but  in them I find reflection and gratitude — and an unignorable deficit when neglected. 

While I don’t get gold stars or have deadlines, good days are easily identified as those where I do several and bad days where I do less. 

I  am quite confident if I managed to do them all in a single day it would be one of the best days ever. 

But I haven’t. And I probably never will. Which is precisely what makes it so delicious. 

May you and I both live beautifully, in whatever shape that takes, in all our days.


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