I make a checklist every day of tasks that need to be accomplished, it allows me to stay focused and remain accountable to my commitments. I find it helpful for my mental health to be able to visualize my goals and practice gratitude when those goals are achieved. However, I have become more sensitive to the reality that we live in a society that is hyper focused on productivity, and we can often be quite cruel to ourselves when we are unable to meet those expectations.
A couple weeks ago, I sat down at my desk with an extensive to-do list, a chest cavity full of anxiety, and half a cup of coffee. It was a Tuesday. Around 10:00, I got a call from my father:
“Hey.” “Can you talk?”
“I have a lot to do, but I have a minute.” “Nana died this morning.”
Each of us, in our own unique way, have felt our capacity to handle loss relentlessly tested lately. This derailed me. I couldn’t do anything. I closed my laptop, pushed away my books, put down my pen, ignored the impending deadlines, and walked away.
I sat by the lake in my neighborhood and wept, when it hurt too much I wailed. I thought of the immensity of the water, of the harmony and the chaos of creation. I watched the water ebb and flow like the waves of my grief, colliding with the beams of the pier like fists against the walls of my chest. I wondered if perhaps the Divine, ever present in creation, was sharing in my pain.
I cried until my head was swollen and aching, and I thought about the conversations I often had with my Nana, when she would ask if I was eating properly. I have been known to be so wrapped up in my work that I forget to eat. So, I got up, I took time to cook something with color and texture. I sat down, undistracted, to eat my food. I drank a lot of water. I took a nap, and when I woke up, I cried some more.
Eventually, I returned to my to-do list and the aching vulnerability in my soul looked down at every single unchecked box and felt shame and disappointment. I accomplished nothing. You accomplished nothing today.
No, Brooke. Honoring your grief is an accomplishment. You weren’t afraid of your pain; you didn’t run from it. You listened to your body when you needed food and water. You rested when you felt too heavy. You loved yourself today.
Since that day, I have adapted my to-do lists. Amid the deadlines and commitments, I now add boxes that say, “Do something that brings you joy,” “Listen to your body,” “Say ‘no’ to something.”
Friends, we are imperfect beings. Thanks be to God. We are limited, may we learn to be uncompromisingly, and unapologetically, gentle and kind to ourselves. Love yourself today.