Wonder List

My Wonder List

I‘m not sure whether I vacated my old life or whether it vacated me … but either way, I find myself here in this weird liminal space… betwixt and between two chapters of life, but not properly belonging in either. As I navigate this transition, it feels as though my identity has transitioned from ‘CEO and crazy busy doer of all the things’ to that person who lurks around the mailroom claiming to work in ‘organisational change’ … but no-one really has the foggiest notion of what they actually do all day (but also feels uncomfortable asking). And it’s true… the last time I had this much free time on my hands was circa 1981. Don’t worry, I haven’t resorted to colour coding my undies or alphabetising the spice draw just yet. I’ve still got ‘stuff’ to do; it just feels like I’m keeping myself busy by rearranging the furniture and plumping life’s cushions, not building the walls that will support what comes next.

But here’s the thing. The whole idea of consciously allocating time to designing and building the walls that will support life’s next chapters feels both formidable and flakey at the same time. Shouldn’t I just be ‘getting on with it’? If only I knew what “it” was. And how do I reconcile the societal script I inherited (that associates idleness with dishonour) with the unfamiliar but insatiable need I’m feeling to stop ‘doing’ and start ‘being’ for a bit? I need time to figure out what it is that I really want from the rest of my life, rather than filling it with hollow ‘fullness’ or with indiscriminate busyness. And yet, I’m so accustomed to going like the clappers and spread-sheeting the shit out of life, that the idea of just holding space for reflection and reinvention feels about as natural to me as twerking. And believe me when I say that you do not want to see me twerk!

For decades, I have critiqued my life using the crazy busy index of productivity. I wore busyness and exhaustion like badges of honour and measured my worth against the fullness of my days. Productivity was my drug and I was addicted to it. But the jig is up. The business of busyness, to which I’ve been a loyal and longstanding servant has gone bust and I am beginning to think that it was just a front all along through which I laundered my self worth and shielded myself from vulnerability. The ‘crazy busy shield’ I’ve been hiding behind has been unceremoniously ripped away, as has the identity that has defined me for so long, leaving me feeling exposed and vulnerable. I’m not ready to introduce the new me to the world, so when friends ask me what I’ve been up to, I equivocate, with an ambiguous list of tasks that have a tenuous link to the reality of my days. I’ve learnt that answering with; “admin” usually does the trick. Vague… but also believable and boring enough, so as not to generate further discussion.

A part of me is still pining for the familiarity and security that has warmed my world for the past twenty years and another part of me feels liberated and excited by the infinite possibilities of all the ‘unknowns’ that lie ahead. I feel simultaneously grateful for the life I’ve had, but also plagued by discontent and engulfed by a yearning for more. But more of what? I know that the model of midlife and beyond that I inherited doesn’t mirror the one that I want for myself and yet I can’t articulate what it is that I’m longing for other than an expansive life. To rediscover my wild heart and adventurous spirit that’s been dampened by decades of societal expectations to fit in and follow suit.

I first heard the expression ‘la dolce far niente,’ in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’ It’s Italian and translates to mean “the sweetness of doing nothing.” The philosophy behind ‘la dolce far niente’ is as ingrained in the Italian psyche as pasta is in their diet, but its significance runs way deeper than its literal translation. It’s about ‘just being’ … slowing down, observing, taking joy from small things, sitting with yourself and holding space for your inner most thoughts. And it’s not as easy as you might think. For lots of us, who have been programmed to normalise the perpetual pursuit of productivity, embracing a bit of ‘la dolce far niente’ requires focus and some serious practice. Our societal obsession with productivity, looking busy and ticking off ‘to do’ lists is so ingrained in daily life, that the concept of prioritising ‘being’ over ‘doing’ seems so bizarrely unattainable. So, where do I start with integrating some ‘sweet nothing’ into a life whose foundations have been built on doing all the ‘things’?

There’s this wonderful word – ‘Wunderkammer’ (wonder room) which dates back to 16th century Europe. The Wunderkammer was where anything that piqued curiosity or imagination was kept and displayed. This got me thinking about the intersection of sweet nothing and wonder and led me to formulate a plan (old habits die hard). As counter intuitive as it might sound, I decided to ‘redirect’ my obsession with ‘to do’ lists into creating a weekly ‘To Wonder List.’ I’m not sure if ‘structured’ sweet nothing is a thing, but as a recovering productivity addict, it’s a (baby) step in the right direction. While my new ‘rightsized’ digs might not afford me the opportunity to dedicate a whole room to ‘wonder’, I definitely have space for a ‘Wonder List’ in my life, as a reminder to prioritise ‘being’ over ‘doing’ and to make space for all the beautiful unknowns that lie ahead. My weekly Wonder List will be full of all the things I want to explore, think about, listen to, read, learn, experience or feel. Things that have nothing to do with the tireless pursuit of productivity and everything to do with an unwavering yearning to explore. As Glennon Doyle wrote; “Perhaps imagination is not where we go to escape reality, but where we go to remember it.”

Ang  x

PS If anyone is interested in exploring some weekly wonder, I’m happy to share my list!

  • Hildie Takemoto
    Posted at 21:34h, 06 July Reply

    You are so eloquent! Having hit the big 60 I’m feeling the same. Thanks for putting it into words so well.

    • Ang I Am
      Posted at 23:58h, 06 July Reply

      Thanks Hildie … Sixty suits you! As Anne Lamott said; “We contain all the ages we have ever been.” … Ax

  • Aloise
    Posted at 21:49h, 06 July Reply

    Beautifully articulated dear Ang. I found myself nodding as I read your words. Thank you for sharing. Xx

    • Ang I Am
      Posted at 23:55h, 06 July Reply

      Thanks Aloise … I think that’s the power of stories … they connect us … and remind us that we’re not alone. Ang xx

  • Laurie Huesmann
    Posted at 23:09h, 06 July Reply

    I completely resonate with this post. I am a recovering busy person and have just begun a journey to see what it looks like to stop and wonder. I have two books keeping me company on this voyage – The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and The Way of Transition by William Bridges. I’m hoping that these help me engage my mind and heart in ways I’ve forgotten. I love the idea of a wonder list and will begin keeping one myself. I look forward to your sharing what lies ahead.

    • Ang I Am
      Posted at 23:54h, 06 July Reply

      Thanks Laurie … I love The Artists Way, but haven’t read The way Of Transition. I will add it to my wonder list!! Ang xx

  • Alex Zoud
    Posted at 04:10h, 07 July Reply

    I love your writing and surely see myself in it! Please share your wonder list! I’d love to get some tips! xx

    • Ang I Am
      Posted at 05:26h, 07 July Reply

      Thanks Alex … wonder list on its way. xx

  • Vicky Binns
    Posted at 04:16h, 07 July Reply

    Articulate and eloquent as normal Ang – and oh so relevant!!

    • Ang I Am
      Posted at 05:25h, 07 July Reply

      Thanks Vicky … I might make my next 365 wonder lists the way this lockdown situation is progressing!!

  • Allayne Brown
    Posted at 04:20h, 07 July Reply

    So good Ang and I’d love to read your wonder list x

    • Ang I Am
      Posted at 05:25h, 07 July Reply

      Thanks Allayne … wonder list on its way!!

    Posted at 05:32h, 07 July Reply

    Ang – I am so on your page and love how you so beautifully articulate these thoughts. Am a big fan of your Wonder List concept and would love you to share. Keep up the wonderment!

    • Ang I Am
      Posted at 05:34h, 07 July Reply

      Thanks Caroline. I’m happy to share my weekly wonder lists (for what they’re worth) … With today’s news we all have a bit of extra time to embrace some wonder in our (lockdown) lives!

  • Sancha
    Posted at 06:27h, 07 July Reply

    Feeling the same Ang. I dropped Toby to enlistment of NS on Monday morning and came home to an empty apartment realising I have never lived alone…..I’ve been wrapped up in the busyness of motherhood for 24 years. Time to just breathe and be.

    Thanks for reminding us that we are all hitting these milestones together.

  • Julie Desmarais
    Posted at 11:04h, 07 July Reply

    This has hit the spot for me. Love how you articulated my heart so well. It is a pleasure reading you. I also would enjoy your Wonder List. Perhaps start a Wonder group where, no matter where we are, we can share and add to the list. This luminal space , this in between, who we were and who we are becoming is not always comfortable but so worth it. As you, part of me is pinning for the familiar – ego to keep us safe? – and part of me is wanting to explore a whole new world filled with wonder, joy and health. Thank you again for putting into words how I feel. Will try to practice “ La dolce far niente”.

    • Ang I Am
      Posted at 06:45h, 28 August Reply

      Thanks Julie … I couldn’t agree more. We need a “wonder wall” where we can all share and find inspiration from others. I’ll think about how to get the ball rolling. Ang x

  • Susan Potter
    Posted at 21:20h, 12 July Reply

    Ang, I love your expression….’being’ over ‘doing’. Absolutely. Allowing what is next to come up in the space. So beautiful for you to throw out the old script that we inherit. It’s no longer the way forward. I look forward to hearing about what purpose comes up for you from the space that you are allowing. Love Susie xxx

    • Ang I Am
      Posted at 06:44h, 14 July Reply

      Thanks Susie …’Being’ takes some practice … but it feels good. It’s wonderful to watch all of our ‘next chapters’ reveal themselves (sometimes in mysterious ways!!1)

  • Lynda Beth Unkeless
    Posted at 13:58h, 24 August Reply

    .I think Henry Miller once wrote that it takes a state of enlightenment for a human being to do nothing. It is far trickier than it looks. Especially in America where doing is elevated over being. Thank you for your eloquent and inspiring post.

    • Ang I Am
      Posted at 06:39h, 28 August Reply

      Hi Lynda … Thanks for your reflection and kind words. I agree … ‘doing’ is far easier than ‘being’ … but as I age I am learning to disconnect idleness from dishonour. It’s a work in progress … but I’m here for it. And x

  • Adele Martz
    Posted at 14:04h, 24 August Reply

    Your writing resonates so much with me. My whole being was wrapped up in my job and I feel like nothing without it. MEA has brought so many like minded people into my life. I am most grateful. Would you be willing to share your wonder list? I am inspired to start my own!

    • Ang I Am
      Posted at 06:41h, 28 August Reply

      Hi Adele, Yes … absolutely … I am planning on sharing my first wonder list next week. Maybe we should all share our lists … what wonderful inspiration. And I couldn’t agree more about MEA … it has connected me with a tribe of curious, like-minded modern elders. Ang x

  • Gabriella Kortsch
    Posted at 07:06h, 26 August Reply

    Marvelous! Read it on MEA. Would also love the wonder list

    • Ang I Am
      Posted at 06:42h, 28 August Reply

      Thanks Gabriella … I’m planning to share my wonder list next week. Hope you can draw some inspiration from it !

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