Rethinking Your ‘To-Do’ List

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rethinking your todo list

We live in a society today that values being busy and productive, even at the expense of real life. As parents we sometimes don’t fully engage with, listen to or interact with our children because we are being rudely interrupted by our own nagging thoughts, “I should be folding laundry or cleaning up?” Multiple things race through our minds about what we should be doing instead of what we are currently doing. We often look back on our day and see a big pile of all the things we didn’t get done.

My wife’s experience

My wife had no major obligations for the day and started the day with expectations to get a lot done around the house. She knew their would be the regular activities at home: finishing up home school with the boys, tidying up the house, nursing the baby, cleaning the kitchen and feeding ever hungry children. However, she envisioned that this would be the day she could finish up a project for our daughter’s birthday, and clean out the closet that was full of clutter. She soon realized the day would fall short of her expectations. The baby didn’t nap, chores drug out through the day and her “to do” list still had empty boxes unchecked. She found herself turning down invitations from the kids to come play, missing opportunities to dance in the kitchen with our little ones and putting off stories and walks in the sunshine in the name of getting things done.

That night while fixing dinner and simultaneously trying to calm the baby she began resenting the fact that our needy children had kept her from getting things done. As a last resort to calm the baby she opened the Disney Music Channel on Pandora. While listening she found herself awestruck by the words Rapunzel sings while locked in her tower in the movie ‘Tangled’.

When will my life begin

When will my life begin (Youtube) and lyrics.

7 AM, the usual morning lineup
Start on the chores and sweep ’til the floor’s all clean
Polish and wax, do laundry and mop and shine up
Sweep again and by then it’s like 7:15
And so I’ll read a book
Or maybe two or three
I’ll add a few new paintings
To my gallery
I’ll play guitar and knit
And cook and basically
Just wonder when will my life begin?
Then, after lunch, it’s puzzles and darts and baking
Paper mache, a bit of ballet and chess
Pottery and ventriloquy, candle making
Then I’ll stretch, maybe sketch, take a climb, sew a dress
And I’ll reread the books
If I have time to spare
I’ll paint the walls some more
I’m sure there’s room somewhere
And then I’ll brush and brush
And brush and brush my hair
Stuck in the same place I’ve always been
And I’ll keep wanderin’ and wanderin’
And wanderin’ and wonderin’
When will my life begin?

In this silly Disney song Rapunzel sings about all the productive things she does all day alone in the tower. My wife found herself wishing for a few alone days so she could experience the same kind of productivity. But when Rapunzel finishes her song by asking “When will my life begin?” my wife realized life is not meaningful because of the number of things she checks off her “to do” list each day. It is meaningful because of the 5 needy little kids she cares for each day. Rapunzel did all kinds of productive things every day. She probably got every last box checked off, but she knew that is not what life is about.

Break out of your tower

How often do we lock ourselves in our own kind of tower and busy ourselves with things of lesser value? Do we continue dragging ourselves through each day begging for satisfaction and happiness in busyness and productivity but continue to ask, “When will my life begin?” Life, happiness and satisfaction as a parent and as a person are found in the relationships and adventures we pursue and strengthen.

Obviously there is a time for laundry. There is a time for cleaning up. There is a time for meal preparation, projects, work and all the other things that keep our families lives moving. These tasks become necessary and valuable only because they are intimately intertwined with caring for those we love most. But, what if we could stop unsuccessfully measuring the success of our day by these things. What if we could start looking for the adventures, the smiles, the play and laughter? What if we could stop asking, “When will my life begin” and just start living. Escape the tower you’ve built for yourself and see the world, the magical world of your children and explore the most beautiful parts of your life.

What are some ways that you can break out of your “productivity” tower and let your life begin today?

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