One thing I’ve learned about myself over the past few years is that I make arbitrary rules for myself. Some of them emerge out of habit: having only done something one way for most of my life, why switch? Some rules emerge because of “shoulds”: this is how successful/smart/creative/responsible people do it, so I should do it that way too.
It sounds so silly, but showering in the morning was one of those rules. It’s something I’ve done for so long, I never considered an alternative. Most people talk as though a shower is a necessary part of their morning routine; both my mom and my husband will tell you that they need to take a shower to fully wake up and get going.
Me, on the other hand? For years now, I have hated to shower in the morning. It feels like an abrupt start, like when someone tears away the blanket you’ve been cozily sleeping beneath. The worst part, though, is that while I’m showering, I start running through my mental to-do list for the day. It’s as though the whole day looms before me, and I immediately lose any of the sleepy, unfiltered thoughts I might otherwise dwell on. My brain immediately goes where I don’t want it to. I also hate the idea that I could be using that limited time before my boys are awake to be writing, reading, or even eating breakfast without having to share it. (Confession time: I don’t like sharing food with my toddler.)
I thought about what my ideal morning would look like. I want to get out of bed before the boys are awake. I want to make a hot cup of tea or a cold glass of iced coffee, and I want to sit by candlelight with a journal and pen. I want to start my days slowly, quietly, creatively, prayerfully. I want to get my thoughts down on paper, read my Bible, and ease into the day from there.
So, I started showering at night. Admittedly, I sometimes forget and am stuck doing it in the morning, and I haven’t magically become a morning person. It’s still hard to force myself out of bed most days, But once I am out of bed, I enjoy my morning immensely more than before. I’ve broken my own rule, and my life is better for it.
This time of year, every blogger and person on social media is talking about their resolutions, goals, and words of the year (myself among them, obviously). I enjoy those posts, but the ones I love even more are the “unresolutions,” the lists of what people are NOT going to do, or the list of things they’re content to be doing already. Anne Bogel and Tsh Oxenreider both wrote posts about the 3 things they are NOT doing this year.
Inspired by them, here are 3 things I’m not doing this year:
- I’m not showering in the morning. I mean that literally, but I also mean a bit more than that: I am not going to follow my own stupid rules. If something isn’t working for me anymore, I’m ditching it. I resolve to do whatever is best for me and my family on any given day. I think this falls under what Anne Lamott calls “radical self-care.” I won’t fall victim to the “shoulds.”
- I’m not preparing for the 11 p.m. inspection. I think I first heard about the “11 p.m. inspection” on Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, but I’m not sure. As soon as I heard it described, I thought, “Guilty as charged.” Every night, I start frantically cleaning and straightening as if someone is coming to do an 11 p.m. inspection of my house. And you know what? NO ONE is coming to make sure all my dishes are done, floors swept, laundry put away by 11 p.m. This habit tends to stress me out, because I often would rather read a book, going to bed, or hang out on the couch with Evan. It also stresses Evan out, because he feels like he should be up cleaning with me. I’m moving forward differently. Sometimes I will feel better if I put the dishes in the dishwasher and put away Ian’s toys, but if I’d rather do something else? I’m giving myself permission to skip the 11 p.m. inspection.
- I’m not picking up my phone before 10 a.m. This is a new one I haven’t attempted yet, but I’m going to give it a try. I’ve fallen into the terrible habit of checking my email and scrolling through social media before I even get out of bed. On top of that, I am feeling much too tethered to my phone during the day. Right now, my phone is both an addiction and a distraction. I hope that by ignoring it in the morning, my day will be off to a better start, and I’ll be less inclined to mindlessly check my phone at other times. (I’m considering buying a regular alarm clock so I don’t have ANY reason to pick up my phone.)
When I thought about making room for joy this year, it quickly became apparent that part of the process will be addressing things that steal joy. I need to say “no” to certain things in order to say “yes” to the new, better, and more important. Hopefully, saying “no” to some useless rules, needless stress, and bad habits will make 2016 more joyful.
How about you? What are you not doing in 2016?