I find myself saying “I do this new thing” a lot. Usually on Monday mornings I shout from my bed: “I do this new thing where I sleep until like noon then get up and read for class is that okay?” And from upstairs my sister yells: “Me too!” And we feel really good about getting a solid 12 hours of rest as well as actually making plans to try to attend our one class of the day.
On Monday nights I like to whisper as I yawn into my warm and cave-like room: “I do this new thing where I go to bed early and wake up early and get some work done.” My roommates nod from the couches, the kitchen, my sister from her bed upstairs: “Good idea! Maybe I’ll try that!” Doing new things is usually a great way for me to do all my old things tomorrow, when they’re a bit more pressing.
I do this new thing where I make a list of things to do. I’ve been making lists since I figured out that crossing things off feels really, really good. My lists started to look like: “1. Wake up. 2. Go to class. 3. Eat lunch” and with each accomplishment I got to scratch away at those burdens, those tasks. Things like papers and “studying” were always at the end of my lists: 9s and 10s. Who gets past 6 on a good day?
So I realized that my lists were too long. I wasn’t taking things, as Anne Lamott (author, good) suggests, bird by bird. Who can corral a whole flock in one day?
So now every day, I have birds. And what’s even better is that the previous statement is false. I don’t have birds every day! I have them some days. When I sit down and write ____’s birds. Tuesday didn’t have birds. But I went to all my classes, ran a few miles, fought and made up with my boyfriend. I accomplished some shit. Wednesday night had birds. I read scary emails (from professors about all the things my papers are not). I took notes on said emails. The mundane remains mundane! It’s all conquerable.
I hope I’m not killing any birds. Maybe I’m just setting them free. Oh, yes, that’s nice. In making lists we gather our birds. In crossing them off we set them free. Bird lists cannot exceed five tasks. Task number 6 is always to gather more birds, but only when you’re ready.
I never know how hard I should be on myself. Do I call myself fat for not working out, or do I call myself beautiful for even considering it? Most people would scream: “The latter! The latter!” But if you don’t hold yourself accountable, who will? How far will you slide into apathy, how far into neurotic self-control?
I cannot always trust my brain. But I think I can trust my birds. I can keep them for as long as I like, or set them free as fast as I can.