My essential eight

Illustration by  Linzie Hunter

Illustration by Linzie Hunter

After about 44 years of living, I've realized that sometimes my good intentions aren't paving the way anywhere. They just sit there on the kitchen counter, sighing and rolling their eyes at my outright neglect next to the pile of envelopes I've been meaning to mail. I mean, for instance, I know I'm a happier person when I get out and move in the fresh air every day so you'd think I'd get around to doing it more often, right? Nope. Instead too often I let the triage of my daily to-do list dictate what's urgent, bullying what's nourishing or essential to the bottom of the list.  In fact, somehow over the last decade or so, my to-do list has evolved to be a kind of stoic, humorless Calvinist taskmaster, judging and intimating that if it doesn't feel self-sacrificing and stressful, I'm not being productive. ("Do this. Now go here. Call this person. Clean this. No! you can't go on a hike. That'll put you way behind schedule.You have to do the next 19 things first.")

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling frustrated at the end of a terrible, no good, very bad day. What would have made this a better day, I wondered? I thought about Sarah's three things philosophy and I jotted down a few things that I know consistently shine up my day. They were remarkably simple and yet too often neglected:

  1. hiking 
  2. sunshining (i.e., bringing some kindness into someone else's day--in the family, neighborhood, writing a letter or email to a friend, etc.)
  3. drinking enough water
  4. sleeping (both quantity and quality)
  5. meditating (scriptures/prayer)
  6. creating 
  7. reading
  8. working (i.e., putting aside some guilt-free time to get some studying/writing done)

Now, I'm not claiming I'm able to do all of these every day--I'd say hitting four or five would be doing pretty great. And I'm definitely not suggesting these are or should be your eight things. But:

insight #1: I've noticed that when I give myself permission to focus on these eight things I'm in a better zone than when I'm not.  You know the old object lesson with the rocks and the pebbles and the sand? These, I've learned, are my rocks. They go in first. So obvious in theory but, in practice, such an epiphany!

insight #2: Hmmm, mindlessly surfing the internet/Facebook/instagram isn't really on the list. Interesting. 

I'm curious: Does your daily list include things that nourish you or is your list as grumpily withholding and allergic to pleasure as mine had gotten? What would be on your daily nourishing essentials list?