Ten Things to Do

Posted: July 17, 2007 in Culture, Idle Nonsense

A friend of mine reactivated her mostly dormant blog and put up a list of 20 things to do within the next year. I thought it was an interesting idea but might be too many things. Strangely, though, none of the things on the list seem especially grand, challenging, or difficult. But they got me thinking about what sorts of things ought to go on my own shorter list of things.

The typical New Year’s Resolution is to forswear something bad one does, such as smoking or drinking, which would be in the Personal Improvement category. The New Experiences category is obvious and might include things like visit a new place or learn a new recipe. The Year Round category is probably the hardest and has ongoing things such as eating healthily or reading regularly (instead of watching TV). Almost all the categories I can think of slant toward novelty or self-improvement, so I began to wonder about worthwhile things to do that aren’t so grasping or freighted with moral charge. Aren’t there worthy goals and challenges that are simply about being human and at ease with oneself and the world? It’s curiously difficult to come up with many things that aren’t too wrapped up with some form of self-improvement or straining to improve others around us.

So I decided to make my own short list of things to do within the next year. I want at least one wholly unattainable goal, and several that aren’t treacle (making me a better person). A couple might even be subject to amendment in the course of a year. If I’m still at the blogger’s desk in a year, perhaps I’ll remember to check in a see what I’ve accomplished from my list.

  1. Forgo a night’s sleep.
  2. Host a dinner party.
  3. Learn jazz improvisation.
  4. Go camping in a tent.
  5. Take a vacation where I did mostly nothing.
  6. Somehow deal with the apparent inevitability of human self-destruction.
  7. Demonstrate more overt affection toward family and friends.
  8. Participate in some meaningful political action.
  9. Relearn the French I’ve forgotten since high school with the aim of becoming fluent.
  10. Increase the distance I can run at a stretch without walking (now only about 1.5 miles).
  1. presentpeace says:

    My ongoing list includes:

    1. Finding the beauty in the forms of common objects each day.
    2. Doing something silly, or something that makes no sense at all, just to make myself smile.
    3. taking time regularly to be conscious and in awe of that which must occur non-stop inside my body in order for me to keep existing: my breath and my heartbeat.
    4. Paying it forward and letting go of reasons why. (Being good at this one requires eventually letting go of the reasons during the payment.)
    5. Stretching my imagination to encompass several visual perspectives at once: cat’s eye view, butterfly’s eye view, ant’s eye view, cop’s eye view, etc. (good for development of empathic and win-win negotiation skills)
    6. Stepping out into the void occasionally just to remind myself that I am strong and courageous. (We all need those reminders of who we are at times.)
    7. Allowing someone to help me. (See number six. LOL!)
    8. Enjoying waiting in long lines (playing games with myself in my head while I wait).
    9. Exposing myself to things that give me goosebumps.
    10. Looking deeply into as many people’s eyes as possible when they speak of themselves.

    I have more, but for me, for now, these are more than enough to engage and challenge me.

  2. greywhitie says:

    Here are my goals in life:

    1. Get enough sleep every night.
    2. Preserve self
    3. Get enough sleep every night.
    4. Preserve others.
    5. Get enough sleep every night.
    6. Enjoy life.
    7. Get enough sleep every night.
    8. Enjoy others.
    9. Get enough sleep every night.
    10. Earn some money, pay my bills, then #1 through #9.

  3. presentpeace says:

    Hilarious! LOL. I totally understand and have those same goals.

  4. Babsy says:

    So which one do you think that you won’t accomplish (for me it would be the running)? Personally, the challenge is always quantifiable goals. I like the abstract goals, but I can never really say “yes, I have accomplished ___.” That’s the problem with all of us OCD Virgos: no ability to delve into the abstract. Asking for/allowing help, learning trust, letting go are all things that are probably the most lacking in my life, but (note the irony) probably the things I am least willing or able to change. Maybe that is a worthwhile question, is there a point to a goal that can never be attained?

  5. Brutus, since the others have offered their own list (I agree with both greywhitie and presentpeace’s aspirations), I’m probably prying by asking about your first plan. Why do you intend to forgo a night’s sleep? Are you curious about your waking dreams? Or do you crave that grainy feeling under the eyelids? My guess is that you have never suffered a week-long migraine, but if you succeed in achieving frequent all-nighters, migraines or at least cluster headaches will most likely find your exhausted brain and rearrange the nerve synapses for you.
    Perhaps you want to experience the night and resulting dawn. But haven’t you done that already? How often do you need to experience it to believe it, at least in theory?
    Here’s a plan: Why not forgo your night’s sleep, go to work, and then, host that dinner party?
    Just so you know, hosting a dinner party happens to frighten me much more than human self-destruction. In fact, after each of my pitifully attempted dinner parties, I found myself all but longing for self-destruction. Fortunately (or maybe not), the ensuing apathy due to anguished sleeplessness as each of my gaffes haunted me night after night prevented me from taking action.

  6. Brutus says:

    Kathleen wrote:

    Why do you intend to forgo a night’s sleep? Are you curious about your waking dreams? Or do you crave that grainy feeling under the eyelids?

    I had an overnight bike ride last summer, and I found it very interesting to forgo a night’s sleep. Riding along the Chicago lakefront at dawn was also a hoot. So the fully temporary drug-like effects of going without sleep for one night are a way of altering perception in a perfectly natural way. I’d probably make it a Friday night so I could go to sleep early on Sat. and recover on Sun. Putting the dinner party on that Sat. evening would be a recipe for disaster, I fear, as I’d be too irritable and unable to self-censor to be either a good cook or good host.

  7. presentpeace says:

    This is for you, Babsy:

    Asking for/allowing help, learning trust, letting go are all things that are probably the most lacking in my life, but (note the irony) probably the things I am least willing or able to change. Maybe that is a worthwhile question, is there a point to a goal that can never be attained?

    When it comes to abstractions, such as the ones I’ve listed as personal goals, over 90% of the time, the “willing” creates the “able.” Once you realize that truth as a fact of your life, you take responsibility for both. Then you roll up your sleeves and make change occur.

    The good thing about abstractions is that they can be easier to accomplish than, say, a desire to be taller, or whiter. LOL There’s an irony for you! ; )

    As an OCD borderline person, or so I was told I am, I say use that state of being to your advantage. You’re good at forming habits. So am I. Just form new ones by making a game of stalking yourself and counting each day how many times you do” X” abstraction.

    One day you’ll look up and you’ll be better at trusting or letting go, or listening, etc. It ain’t easy, but you and I have that special gift that keeps giving and can be a tool for change, if so used.

    This message is brought to you from The Presentpeace Archives of Personal Experience.

  8. Unforgivably late as often, I want to say an overnight bike ride is certainly worth the lost sleep! The *way* you might stay up never occurred to me. Other lovely ways come to light now.
    Just so you know, I haven’t neglected The Spiral Staircase since my last comment. I just didn’t think to look back at the comments.

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