[The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The End of Fear Itself, from a chapter on the Fear of Inadequacy. For a full explanation of how To Do Lists relate to such a Fear, you’ll have to wait for the book.]
You could hear the heat. I mean, it sizzled, and buzzed in your ears.
I was standing on the back lot of the church. The year was 1982, I think. I was 16 years old, lean and mean, and sweating my butt off. It was summer. I don’t remember what month, but in central North Carolina, Burlington to be exact, it dosen’t really matter what month of summer it is, it’s hot as hell.
In front of me was about a quarter acre of lot, behind the Salvation Army Boys Club, which was right behind the Salvation Army church. The lot was swamped in weeds and grasses about three feet tall, at least, probably four feet in some spots.
Next to me was an old push mower, with a Brigs and Stratton engine, covered in old grease, oil, gasoline, dirt, and ancient grass clippings from the Pleistocene Epoch, I think. On the other side of that mower, was my dad: Captain Sam Bivans.
My dad had decided that this particular job was mine to do. He volunteered me to do it, one might say. And I don’t remember if he had promised me any money for it, or not. It’s most likely that he hadn’t. I was his son; this was one of the perks. Yay me.
“Do I really have to do this, dad?” I asked.
“Of course not, son, you GET to do it!” he said with a smile, and not a disingenuous one, either.
He really meant it, even though he chuckled a bit when he said it. It is, to this day, one of his favorite sayings, and he has a lot of them, trust me on that one.
You see, my dad is the world’s biggest optimist. I’m not sure how he became one, though I reckon it stems from the fact that his father, my grandpa Bivans, was also an optimist, and a Salvation Army officer, and it rubbed off on the next generation somethin’ fierce.
It probably didn’t hurt, as well, that my dad was the 7th, and final child, and the only boy. Yes, my dad was the baby, and he had 6 sisters who had been waiting all their lives to have a little brother. So, he was considered the golden child from day one, and as a result, he grew up with a good deal of self-confidence, self-appreciation, and positivity. Most of that is an educated guess, but probably a pretty good one.
Whenever faced with a pessimist who balks at having to do a particular task, he always comes back with “You get to do it!”
That’s how he approaches every problem: as an opportunity. Unfortunately, that didn’t rub off on me. There were other influences when I was growing up, namely, my mom, who is much more pragmatic and realistic than my father. I grew up more like my mom, which has its advantages, but being an optimist isn’t one of them.
I’m working on it these days, however, because going through life having to do things, is a depressing and frustrating way to be. And in fact, we don’t have to do anything.
There Is No Have To Do List
Yes, I said it. There is absolutely nothing in our lives that we have to do. Nothing. Let me repeat it, nothing.
Instead of making a long list of things that we think we have to do, and refuting them all with solid logic, I’ll just jump to the end and refute the base premise to begin with; We don’t even have to breathe.
That’s right. There is not law in the Universe that says we have to keep living. There’s certainly no law that can be enforced that can keep us from ending it all, right now, today, this moment. Suicide is an option. To say otherwise, is just bullshit, and it doesn’t do anyone any good.
That being said, I don’t think it’s a very good option, or one that anyone should take, unless they’re suffering massive pain from a terminal illness.
But once we realize that we don’t even have to breathe, to live, it frees us from our ridiculous To Do Lists! We can throw them out the window.
“But what am I supposed to do then?” you ask, desperately, “Do we just do nothing? Do we let the bank take our home, our cars? Do we let our children just sit around playing video games on their smart phones all day long until their little brains rot and ooze out of their ears?”
Nope. None of that is necessary. We don’t have to do those things either.
Instead, why don’t we create a NEW list:
a Get To Do List!
It’s that simple. Instead of getting up every morning, and writing out a list of things we have to do, let’s just change the title of the fuckin’ list! Let’s just call it what it really is! It’s a Get To Do List!
If we don’t have to do it, and we don’t, then it must be a list of things we have chosen to do, right? We choose to go to work. Why? Because we choose to sleep indoors! We choose to eat! We choose to keep breathing! We choose to have kids who are in 5 sports at once! (Should probably choose something different on that one, just sayin’) We choose to drive a Hummer and burn up half of the gas on the planet, and park it in a 3 car garage attached to a McMansion with 5 bedrooms for 3 people!
No one is forcing us to do ANY OF IT! It is all our choice. If we choose to live, and we choose to do the things we do, then it is not a have to do list; it is a GET TO DO LIST!
So let’s change the way we look at all the stuff we do. We’re not busy. We’re engaged in many things that we get to do.
Why? Because we have chosen to do them. Don’t want to do them anymore? Either come to realize that you’re choosing to do them, and that you get to do them, or Stop doing them! It really is that simple.