I really love my lists. I’m great at making them. I have a rule; if I think about something and can’t deal with it immediately, I put it on a master list or in my calendar; so between the two, there is a personal tickertape of what to do and ultimately who to be, at any given time. There is comfort and calm in a good list. I know all the important things are accounted for.
I have other lists too… places that I’d like to travel, books I’d like to read, quotes I want to remember. Lists of retreats I’d like to go on, good questions to ask, restaurants to try. And just in case you think that all these lists keep me too busy, rest assured, it is not all harried. I have a “lovely-things” list too… my weekly walk with my friend Sue and her dogs, times for the theatre, hours tending the garden, writing in my journal, quiet yoga all appear tidily tucked into my to do list and are a part of my full yet balanced life.
It culminates in a rhythm that suits me.
Yes, I’m good with the list. It keeps my life humming.
Then the lights went out.
No, I mean literally.
One day last month, late afternoon, the whole city was suddenly without power. A particularly nasty storm sent a couple of tornados through, levelling a transformer station. We were told to stay home and expect it would take days to get back to normal.
I reached for my list.
Everything - EVERYTHING - that was on the list, was now off the list.
Until there was power, there would be no list.
I admit, I was a bit anxious as I settled into living “off-list”. The nagging feeling that I should be “doing something” kept surfacing. Even my “relax time” was a colour coded entry in my Google calendar - For this hour I will recharge and unplug- and I would, for 60 blissful minutes, and then I would move onto the next activity (of course, after crossing that one off my list). But there in the candlelit glow of the evening, I found myself slowly letting go of the timed boundaries of my activities and just enjoying the possibility of letting things emerge.
Nothing to be achieved, nothing to be done.
I had forgotten the soft feeling of ease that comes with the absence of the pressure of a deadline. I rediscovered the freedom of a soft space around me, where I could sit quietly in the midst of nothing and just allow time and the world to gently move around me.
I remembered the quiet peace of no to-do list.
I woke up without knowing the time, ate when I was hungry, walked when the light outside compelled me, read the first chapters of a new book without even finishing the one I had previously started. I sat with the question “what do I want now?” and then ran a bath. I mused about a new retreat to design and tea with a girlfriend ended when the pot was cold and not before. In each of these I listened to what was knocking from the inside. It was a fluid motion with less staccato starts and stops.
I was disappointed when the power came back on.
I don’t know where this experiment leaves me. The reality is that I believe I need my lists – there are just too many details and deadlines to handle without them. Right? But now I know I need the gentle space of flow too. Space where there are no lists, no objectives, no schedules to coral my spirit and my thinking.
Sometimes I just need the freedom of natural time and impulse. The freedom to move at whatever pace comes, in the direction that tempts the most.
I better put that on my list.
In Celebration, Tania
Tania’s next UK retreat The Road Next Travelled is about to be launched! Join her in Canterbury where we can all contemplate what goes on an off the list! www.advivumjourneys.ca to be on the first-to-know list!