If I ever change my name, I want to go by √ – if what’s his symbol can do it, so can I. A checkmark has got to be the most satisfying symbol in the world. It conveys approval, progress, and completion, and for a girl who can’t live without her ‘to do’ list, I look for every opportunity to collect them. But when is too much checking a bad thing? For me, it’s when I added, “go love Mom and Dad” to the list last week. Over the last few months, I’ve piled activities, tasks, and commitments onto my plate as if they were selections at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and now they’re weighing me down just as much as my saddlebags.
You’re probably wondering, ‘How busy can she be? She lives on her own. She must have oodles of time on her hands.’ *Sigh* I’ve got some ‘splaining to do. Please join me as I walk you through the I LOVE LUNACY episode that got me into this conundrum in the first place. It all started by the conveyor belt at the chocolate factory – cue music.
A few years back, I became an empty nester for the first time. Up until then my house was Union Station, people were coming and going: my girls, their boyfriends, my boyfriend, his kids, family and friends – I knew how to live in that madness, and if there ever was a moment to myself, I savoured it. The first month sans offspring wasn’t so bad, but then Tiffi, my four-legged, furry daughter’s health took a turn for the worse and I had to put her down. Three days after that, my boyfriend and I broke up. Both losses were sudden and unexpected. Dazed and confused, I found myself sitting in an empty house holding nothing but Tiffi’s ashes and the memories of those I loved who moved on to the next chapter in their lives. But what was mine? I only knew how to do one thing well – nurture – and with no one around to take care of, I wandered around aimlessly.
I didn’t know how to live on my own – I never had. From the day I was born to the day my kids moved out, I lived with others. The wise philosopher, Mr. P. Diddy, once asked, “Is a house really a home when your loved ones is gone?” The answer is: NO. It just becomes the address on your driver’s license, and I didn’t want to spend time there anymore. That’s when I started busying myself with checkable activities that kept me out of the house. Work became a happy distraction, but it wasn’t enough, so I joined a boxing studio and worked out a lot of my pain on the punching bag. It helped, but that still wasn’t enough, so I sped up the conveyor belt and added: art classes, Cross Fit, volunteering, scriptwriting, cooking classes, Bible study, etc., until I was out every night of the week. (This was the period in which I lost 70 lbs.).
When I was at ‘home’, it reminded of what I no longer had, so I sold most of my furniture and created a new atmosphere that held no memories. It wasn’t a decorating project, it was my soul restoration project.
Needless to say, when my youngest asked if she could move back in after my year-and-a-half of solitude, I was thrilled. Yay, somebody to smother… err, I mean company! I slowed my pace down and enjoyed having a roomie for the next 2+ years. However, as soon as she graduated from Teacher’s College, my daughter announced she was heading to South Korea for a year to collect checkmarks of her own.
Although it’s was a wonderful opportunity for her, I braced myself for the emotional storm I knew was coming. Instead of boarding up the windows and stockpiling supplies, I revved up the conveyor belt once again, and signed up for umpteen activities and projects before she even boarded the plane. If anyone asked me for anything, I’d blurt out, “YES!” before they finished their question. If it kept me busy, I committed to it.
What I didn’t expect was how different Empty Nest Take 2 would be. I didn’t crumble…. Did time keep its promise and heal my old wounds? Perhaps. I think the first time around, I lived outside of myself. It was crazy-making! Everything I did was for the wrong reason – I kept myself busy to avoid my pain and to prove something to other people – that’s probably why the weight loss didn’t take. This time around, I’m daring to delve inward and search for meaning along with my after.
So what do checkmarks have to do with being overweight? Overindulging in ‘yeses’ and busyness are as detrimental as empty calories – they’re going to tip the scale, and not in our favour!
Let’s be kind to ourselves and slow the pace down so we can savour what’s meaningful, like spending time with our aging parents, or making healthy choices instead of grabbing something processed as we scramble to collect our next checkmark. Busyness does not make a life, it just makes a life busy.
There’s nothing wrong with acquiring checkmarks as long as our ‘to do’ lists are intentional, point us in the direction of our goals, and include a little self-care.
Let’s leave the conveyor belt antics to the pros… take it away Lucy and Ethel.