Monday, November 18, 2013

Let the minimum be the maximum

Hi, friends. Me again.

I did something in my life and I thought I’d share it with you.

a)Because I talk about my life even when people don’t ask.
b)Because I thought you might benefit from learning about this particular instance of something I did in my life.
c)Because sometimes I talk about my life here in a way that has some sort of helping tool attached. 

Sometimes I just talk about cats or slyly talk about boys I have crushes on.


So last night before bed I felt a liiiiittle bit like I was about to exit my relaxing and enjoyable weekend by doing some good old worrying.

So I did that thing that therapists and Oprah and other people tell you to do sometimes: I wrote down the things I was thinking about; in this case, some things I have to do.

Oftentimes I ignore this advice – psh, write things down? People, as if that’s going to get rid of my longstanding history with insomnia. Please. And as for writing? It’s extremely cathartic and, it's like, my thing, but making a list at my bedside is a little different than writing an essay midday as my vocation.


Recently I’ve done some late night scribbling and it’s kind of sort of worked.

Last night, not so much, because I had a headache that was trying to be my best bud and so sleep came more in response to ibuprofen, me thinks, than to my scribbling.

Yeah yeah, you don’t care about the details. What did I write, you ask?


As we are just around the corner from Thanksgiving, and for some, Chanukah, and for some, Christmas, and for most who use the most popular of calendars these days, New Years – we’re busy, is my point – there is a lot to squeeze in before January 1st. So I made a list. I'll tell you what kind in a sec. But first:

You know what’s going to happen on January 1st? We’re all going to wake up and we’re gonna get that racing feeling in our bods and we’re gonna reflexively start thinking about what we have to do next, what is the most pressing on our huge to do list and thus needs to happen first. And we’re gonna think, “Quick. Shower. Coffee. In the car. To work!”

Then we’ll realize it’s January 1st and that we have the day off.

Some of us will be popping aspirin, too, let’s be honest. I don’t plan to be a part of that crowd, but we’ll see.

And let me just take this opportunity to say


Taxi taxi taxi. Taxi it home, people. Be safe. Your life is precious and so are those of the other people on the road. Let’s give ourselves some respect by protecting ourselves and those around us. Thank you. Also even if you’re not driving, please be careful if you are imbibing, period. Surround yourself with trusted friends and watch out for each other.

I don’t care if I sound like a mom, I will be your mom any day and by the way moms are great.

So after we realize it’s January 1st and either take our aspirin or make coffee or, like some of you weirdos will do – do something actually productive and responsible like gardening or balancing your checkbook – we will soon realize that we really don’t have that much to do. At least not RIGHT NOW.

But until then we have a lot of RIGHT NOW in our lives. You know I'm right.

Because here’s the thing about this time of year that we're presently in. Everything just, like, gets in your face and smashes around you and everyone’s like, “Christmas presents now! We have to buy them now!” and “We must have egg nog and have ourselves some cliché moment of discussing the holidays and how much we love egg nog and cocoa.”


Also, somehow, work becomes more frantic. It just does, have you noticed this? For crying out loud, it's not like we're working for Santa Claus so what is the big rush about??

But I haven’t yet made the point that I set out to make here, so let’s get there shall we?

OK so this list I made last night.

It wasn’t just a “what I need to do, in general” list or a “this is what I’m worried about right this second” list.
It was a list of things that I need or “need” to do before the year is up.

Work is on that list, but I don’t know if I wrote it down, because it’s a given. Get to work by 8, do your thing there, leave at 5. Cool? Cool.

The other stuff is stuff I’ve already signed up for, can’t skip out on, and some things that I want to make happen in the next 45-ish days.

Here’s the key to this list: it’s pretty short, considering all the things I could heap on there.

I could, for example, write on my list: "make adorable cross stitched reindeer stockings for eight of my close personal friends. Write personal note for each stocking and place inside. Hand deliver while singing a Christmas carol. Elf outfit would be cute - might need to go shopping."

a)I would so not have the time for that, even if I took work off my list.
b)Just no. I love to cross stitch, but it is not my ambition to make the cover of Cross Stitch Living this year.

Although that would be great.


a)Not sure there is a publication called Cross Stitch Living.

Though there are other cross stitch publications that sometimes come with cute little stitch projects and I would love it if I got a subscription for a holiday gift (making it easy here, people, just straight up telling you what I want. Also: boyfriend and cat.)

The list I made last night does not have cross stitching on it at all, because cross stitching will still be there on January 1st. Needlework is not off limits until January 1st, mind you, but it’s not required.

One of the things on my list is a half marathon.

I’ve signed up and paid for the half marathon, and I’ve trained. So I’m gonna do it, if my foot holds out.

So on the list I wrote last night I included things like:
  • Running outfit [something obnoxious with a lot of green and red and tinsel, if available]
  • Get new running shoes
  • Get a massage before the race
  • Get foot worked on before the race

Honestly, all of these things don’t even need to happen. I could be totally lazy until race day and just show up, without an obnoxious running tutu, in my old shoes, with my injured foot and knots in the muscles of my upper back.


It would be more fun and more comfortable and less debilitating if I do these things pre-race.


I don’t have to do them.

But the run itself is on the list because it’s already on the calendar and it’s going to stay there. Hopefully, if my foot holds out.

I have thought about gifts for friends and family. Last night, as I drove, I imagined and started composing a charming little Christmas letter I could write to friends (because I always drive and rarely write on paper, so I write in my head). I thought of getting Christmas cards in which to place each letter. I thought of printing on green paper and skipping the cards.

It was a charming little Christmas letter. Or the start of one, anyway.

But I didn’t put “Christmas letter” on my list last night.

Because it doesn’t need to happen.

For some of you, it might need to happen. You might have the time. You might be the best and most reliable Christmas letter writer in your neighborhood, or ZIP code even. For you, this might be the thing that needs to stay on your list. Maybe baking gingerbread cookies will be taken off the list in exchange.

I’m here, first, to tell you that you don’t need to write that letter or bake those cookies (or you can bake them and skip the icing) in order to be a validated human being. I mean it. So skip it if you want to, even if people protest. Because I know what it feels like to do things because you’re afraid of what the response will be if you don’t.

The response might be annoying, or at worst, well, worse than annoying. But you can survive the response and stand your ground and come out as a validated human being who maybe enjoyed an extra glass of egg nog this year and felt like you actually got to see the holiday lights instead of experiencing them as a blur.

As the weeks move forward for me, things will very likely start to fall off my list, like ornaments falling from a heaping wheelbarrow hitting bumps. (Why I have ornaments in a wheelbarrow, I don't know). Once they meet the ground, they will smash, won’t be that pretty anymore, and I won’t really give a gingerbread cookie about their fate at that point.

If I don’t buy a running tutu for my race, whooooooo carrrrrrrres?

I signed up to do the race, not wear a tutu.

It occurred to me today:

I made a list of the minimum that needs to happen.

Yet my minimum is really what I am allowing to be my maximum.

Obviously I will eat and sleep and things, though I didn’t write those down (sometimes I do, no joke. “Lunch” has been written on many a list in my life).

So I am here to suggest to you, though you do not have to take my advice, to:

Let the minimum be the maximum.

Figure out what you really care about in the next six weeks. Do you really, really want to get a plane ticket to see your family? Do it. Figure out the details, and do it. Put it on your list.

Thinking about a 5K but haven't signed up and you're already feeling run down? Don't sign up. 

The rules are simple.

Don’t list too many things.

Why? Because work and just showing up for Thanksgiving – with the candied yams you’ve already signed up to bring – and just showing up for the company holiday party, and...all that tinseled jazz is gonna get in the way of all these other things you're trying to do in addition.

And you’re gonna be really tired.

Your friends, if they’re loving friends who love you more than the gifts you give, aren’t going to care if you give them a gift on January 2nd, or March 9th.

Just let it go.

Let the minimum be the maximum.

Pick your deal breakers, get excited that those are going to be a part of the end of your year, and for crying out loud pour yourself a glass of egg nog. Even if you hate egg nog. Because it’s symbolic of the season.

Now go! Make your (teeny, tiny) list. And walk away from it. Because there should only be like three things on it, if you're following the rules. You know what’s on your list, so you don’t need it for reference.

Today I went to work and scheduled a massage. I went to the grocery store and ate some foodstuffs. And then I came home and wrote this instead of a charming Christmas letter.

Although this is kind of a charming Christmas letter in its own right. 


P.S. I also realized this letter makes me sound kind of anti-holidays. I spent my lunch break today eating McDonald's food in my car, listening to Julie Andrews' Christmas CD. I'm not anti-fun in November and December, and I am oh so grateful for the birth of a Savior.

The point of this letter is to tell you that I want you to be able to inhale, exhale right now, not pant. And thus not miss the Julie Andrews and the Savior birth celebrating.

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