The evolving list of haves and have-nots

It was the recovery time, away from ordinary routines, that created a punctuation mark…She had a unique opportunity to assess her priorities. She vowed to take nothing in her former life as given…” ~ Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic

Last month I had the idea of using the final 8 months of my fourth decade to take note of some things I’ve figured out so far. Since it’s only natural to question every decision made about everything (right?) I’ve been reconsidering. Not because I don’t think it’s a good way to evaluate a milestone. I do. More because I don’t know how to answer the questions I’m asking myself.

The initial thought was to take a cue from the novel I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb. The fact that I love the story doesn’t matter, that’s just an irrelevant bonus. The title is what does matter here. Because so many times through the years, but especially as a new decade approaches, this short string of words acts like a cushion for decisions. We base choices and action on what we know to be true with the information we have, under the influence of real time.

My 8 month topics were to be “What I”… Know / Have / Miss / Hold / Want / Lost / Wish / Forgot.

This is month #2. What I have.

I have no idea. I wish that was a joke. The magazine, The Atlantic, published an article a few months back in a small space in time when it felt like the COVID pandemic was beginning to level off. The premise of it was “going back to start over” as we collectively thought we were going back to some version of pre-pandemic normalcy.

But more than just returning to something, it was about choosing which parts we’d step back into and which parts we’d like to mull over before fully recommitting. It was about choice.

Be specific about any of your daily interactions that were toxic, relationships that were unproductive, and the life patterns that made you unhappy. Don’t settle for the easy stuff, like being stuck in traffic. Go deeper…” the writer suggested.

As I was thinking about this freedom of choice and how maybe, just maybe, we were collectively returning to “normal”, someone close to my family died from COVID. It happened this past weekend. He was too young, it progressed both slowly and then quickly and it was heart-wrenching for the ones closest to him. What I knew to be true shifted, again. Now it’s personal. So where’s that return to normal? No idea.

I have a life to live. Pandemic anxiety or not.

I told a friend the other day that when someone asks me how I’m doing, I reflexively start to talk about how and what my kids are doing. I’m working hard to not do that. If I still had messy, needy toddlers running around, it would make sense and provide a feeling of slightly more control. But I don’t. In spite of my nostalgic mommy-denial, they’re turning into self-sufficient grown ups, creating their own spaces that I have the privilege of visiting, which means the time is coming for me to answer that question more honestly.

And because of this natural progression from we to me…

I have a list of non-negotiables.

This is small but fluid list of human requirements. Everybody creates one of these lists. Things that are unacceptable and things that are necessary. It’s personal and hard-earned and requires no apologies, explanations or sharing. It’s this list-maker’s favorite list.

I have less time to procrastinate. Even if it gives me hives, math is math. There’s no denying reaching a point when it’s time to flag personal goals with a brighter highlighter. Sue Monk Kidd gifted me my favorite go-to phrase in her book The Mermaid Chair. She said, “At forty-two, I’d never done anything that took my own breath away, and I suppose now that was part of the problem — my chronic inability to astonish myself.” I have a handful of astonishments under my belt and I’m even learning to be comfortable in owning them.

Circling back, I have no idea. But I do have good coffee, some equally unsure but hopeful comrades and another list to think about for next month. For today, I know that much is true.

Written By
More from Shelley Plett
Simply missing color commentary
?Tonight before I sleep, I?ll give thanks for two fine weeks and...
Read More