We like to live according to lists. We women, at least.
Let’s admit it, as women we like to plan ahead, prepare and be proactive about the things we want in life. It’s called a To Do List. We have lists for everything; lists for work assignments, lists for what to eat, lists for clothes to buy, lists for what to clean, lists for what not to eat, lists for anything and everything.
There is something to be said about a female’s endless To Do List. As Nick Dunne says to Amy in Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl, “It’s like you make sure you’re never satisfied, that there’s always something to be perfected, instead of just embracing the moment.” Now, I’m not endorsing the New York Times Best Seller (soon to be movie this Fall), but I’m certainly not condemning it either. (But, be warned: Read at your own psychotically-bent mind’s risk.)
Without diving into this insanely-concocted story, Amy grew up living in the shadow of a children’s series her parents wrote called “Amazing Amy”. You could pretty much say Amazing Amy is the equivalent a modern day “American Girl”. Amazing Amy just might be the ideal stereotype of what every American woman desires to be; to be perfectly pretty, to be liked by everyone, to want for nothing... to be freak’n amazing! In Gone Girl, the girl who is “gone” – a.k.a. missing - is Amy. (And... we’ll just leave it at that.)
So what else are all these lists for, outside of “getting things done” and “having it all”? Oh, so many things! (At least, we like to think so.) To be accomplished successful career women. (To be amazing.) To be the most healthy version of ourselves, even when it means tallying up our daily caloric intake (another list) or even claiming some allergy *ehem, gluten* (and another list: what not to eat). (To look skinny and crazy-amazing, you bet.) To be an Instagram-worthy sight to behold from sunrise to sunset. (Well, none of us want to admit exactly how Instagram has increased our already self-absorbed preoccupation of how amazing or how not-so-amazing we appear to be moment by moment.)
Being amazing, by our own standards, can be mentally exhausting. Although in most of our efforts to escalate our less-than-amazing selves to what we think is noteworthy, we become amazingly skilled at one thing: worrying. But we don’t call it worry, at least not here in the US. We call it anything else; “self-aware”, “ever improving”, or, my favorite, “personal-growth.”
If we’re honest, some of us wouldn’t know how to function without worry, without some daunting list of do’s and don’ts hanging over our head. Call it what you will, but I’ve come to find this incessant preoccupation with being amazing to produce nothing but an of ooze pure worry from my life. And worrying, I find, does anything but improve me as a human being. It derails me, distracts me, disturbs me. It sets me off. It stunts my growth. It keeps me unnerved, from enjoying life, from freedom, from people. It stunts me from becoming the unique individual I am, because I’m so consumed with meeting everyone else’s standards of amazing; some carbon-copy variety of “amazing”, that is.
If any of this sounds familiar you might know what I’m talking about. It’s no mere fleeting thought. It is a very specific kind of worry that seeps into your blood stream, makes your heart race, makes you eager for a quick fix of I’m-amazingness and ultimately makes you feel continually below status quo; ever a disappointment, mostly to yourself. Yet, some of us don’t know how to live without it – worry, that is; this bitter enemy, but frequent companion that we love to feed, often more than 3 times a day. So much so that we can’t even see how precisely we program our lives to analyze, compare and rate our existence, on a daily (if not momentary) basis.
When my mind starts wandering again, it turns my eyes back on myself and I am consumed in worry and constant comparisons. While my efforts at self-comfort fall short, there are few things that can bring my blood pressure down and my perspective up like these words:
“Has anyone by fussing in the mirror even gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion - do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. Have you ever seen color and design quite like it? If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving.” Matt. 6: 27-32
This is no easy struggle to tackle and harness for good. But, if only for a moment, lay down your list (all of them) and consider the metaphor. And...
We have to start somewhere.