Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thirty Pieces of My Thirty Years #16: Lists

These days, I feel distracted, my mind filled with to-do lists, to-research lists, to-buy lists, and to-read lists - all with a looming deadline: 10 more weeks. My brain is constantly spinning, usually bouncing back and forth between several baby-related issues and questions: birthing classes, stroller options, pregnancy exercises, house projects to finish before our little one arrives. I'm not teaching, so I have plenty of time to get things done. And yet, each days seems to slip by so quickly, leaving me frustrated at how many things still haven't been crossed off on all those lists.

I'd like to blame this phenomenon on my maternal nesting impulse, but if you ask my husband and my family, they'll tell you that I am a born list-maker and organizer and that I tend to have more projects on my lists than I will ever be able to complete. In fact, even as a young girl, I distinctly remember daydreaming about how great it would be to one day complete every single task on my list and to just be able to sit back and enjoy having everything done. Now, I realize that a ten year-old making lists and dreaming about completing them is slightly (or perhaps majorly) neurotic, but I'm not making it up. I really thought that way even then.

What's worse is that I haven't stopped. Never mind that I never once in my 30 years have been able to get everything done. Never mind that I feel frustrated by my lists as many days as I feel satisfied by completing things on them. I keep trying. And I keep falling short of my own goals and expectations.

Only in the past few years have I realized how much of my identity and security is wrapped up in lists. If I complete an appropriate number of items on my list, I feel like I've had a good day, like I am sharp and smart and on top of things. If I don't, I feel like a lazy, no-good failure. On a grander scale, I've also realized that I see lists as a sort of safety net. If I think of everything and do everything, I will be prepared for anything, and life will be okay.

The problem is that nowhere in this philosophy is there space for God, the One in whom I should find my identity, the One whose goodness and sovereignty I should trust in the face of reality that no amount of list-completing can ensure that life will be "okay."

His list is a short one: repentance and faith. This is what He asks of me each day. I'm definitely not there yet, but I hope that over the next thirty years, my list will grow to look more like His.


Brianne said...

oh my goodness, abby, i could have written an almost identical post! and let me tell you that those lists get very discouraging once you have a baby (then toddler, then another one, ha) on your hands! i am still fighting against my urge to live by the list and let it dictate how i feel about myself. tim is always gently telling me that i place a lot of expectations on myself that no one else is placing on me, certainly not God!
your post has encouraged and challenged me to rest in Him and find my worth in Him no matter how much is getting accomplished on my list. Thank you, friend!

Abby said...

Thanks for writing Brianne! I know that motherhood will continue to challenge my list-making tendencies in good ways. I'm sure I'll be calling you for advice!!