Sometimes revelations arise from the most unlikely things.
I didn’t start reading fiction until I was 40, because I thought it was a waste of time. My nose was always in a book, but I only read non-fiction (because it taught me important things). Then I discovered Nora Roberts and experienced the indulgent escape that mindless romance books provide. So I began balancing my reading between fiction and non-fiction, and I’ve been doing that ever since. However, it’s come as a complete surprise how many valuable things I’ve learned from reading fiction.
At the beginning of the summer, I picked up a few novels from the thrift shop (where I’ve been buying many of my books lately – and donating them when I’m finished). A couple of weeks ago, I cracked open a book that, from the cover, looked like good beach reading material. I wasn’t expecting it to change my life.
The main character in Barefoot, by Elin Hilderbrand, is a type-A personality who makes lists about everything…she even has a separate list of all her lists. I got a chuckle out of that because, in some ways, I could relate. Then she gets diagnosed with lung cancer and the doctor tells her to stop making lists. She complies, for the most part. But as every list maker knows, it’s hard to turn off this ingrained habit. So she makes a list in her head – a list of things that no longer matter. Now, I don’t claim to know a thing about cancer, but I totally get how your perspective can shift drastically when you are faced with the possibility of dying. As I was reading this book, a friend of ours died suddenly – he was only 48. It really got me thinking about all the little things that seem to matter until bigger things come along, like a life-threatening disease or a death of a loved one. It brought new meaning to the worn out phrase, life is too short.
So I decided to start my own ‘List of Things that No Longer Matter’. And I found it to be very liberating. It released me from perfectionistic tendencies that kept me tethered for so many years.
The funny thing is when we get clear on the things that don’t matter, we zero in on the things that do. It becomes easy to let go of the unimportant. It fosters gratitude for what we may have taken for granted.
My list is getting longer because I add to it throughout each day. Here are some of the things I added today:
My List of Things That No Longer Matter
• Scrubbing pots and pans until they’re sparkling
• Making the bed the minute I wake up
• Reading to the end of a book I’m not enjoying
• A ringing phone left unanswered
• Getting less than a perfect score
• Being stopped at an endless red light
• Paw prints on a clean floor
• Wearing the wrong shoes
I could go on and on, but I want to see your list. I hope you’ve been inspired to start one. I can’t tell you how much happier this simple exercise will make you feel. Please share some of the items on your list in the comments section below.