Friday, March 6, 2009

Life List

"In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."- Mother Teresa

I have been in such an introspective mood lately, so much so that I repeatedly ruminated over the thoughts in my head as I ran today. So instead of working off some stress to the sounds of U2, I pondered the meaning of life for forty-five minutes. What was I thinking?

I fully admit that I have a fabulous life, a life that many people would probably envy. I have two great kids who I spend time with every day; I work part-time from home on my own schedule; I don't worry about the annoying details of life, like fixing the sink or paying the bills; I am happily married and secure in my marriage. So what in the world am I doing pondering what I don't, or think I don't, have?

You see, I live the life I never thought I would have. Growing up and in college, I always pictured myself as a jet-setting artsy career woman, and if the mood struck me, I'd toss in a husband and maybe some kids for good measure. But along the way, thanks to my husband, those dreams changed. Now I own a life filled-to-the-brim with small things done in love, such as planting gardens and reading to my children, not the grand, exciting acts that gain worldly adoration and acclaim.

But as much as I love being with my family, there are things that I want to do just for me, just for myself for no other reason than because I want to do them:
  • Read and be able to intelligently discuss the literary classics (I am making decent progress on this by classically homeschooling my children.)
  • Visit all the grand museums of the world (I've already checked off the museums of Paris & NYC.)
  • Travel, travel, travel (I've hit much of the US, Canada, the Caribbean, England, France, Belgium, and Germany, but it's been awhile since I've left the country and I'd love to jaunt all over the world with my family in tow.)
  • Venture to Africa and Asia on humanitarian mission trips
  • Renovate and live in an old farmhouse
  • Be fluent in a language other than English (My French was pretty good for a while, but has since gone woefully downhill, and my attempts at German in college progressed horribly. I think my best chance is going to be learning Spanish with my daughter.)
  • Earn my Masters. A Ph.D. would be cool, too, but just because I'd like the Dr. title in front of my name.
  • Complete a triathlon on my own, not as part of a team
  • Be a published author (I know, I'm already published. But that's just literature guides that teachers use in their classrooms. Creating a novel or an interesting book of essays would be fabulous.)
Realistically, I know that life is all about seasons. I don't have to do everything now. I am currently in the throes of my parenting season, a time that I will never be able to regain. If nothing else, parenting teaches us all about delayed gratification- with our kids and with ourselves. Part of being a mature parent involves putting your children's needs ahead of your own wants. But here is my question: At what point is your own delayed gratification, not as a parent, but as a human being, no longer acceptable? At what point do you trade in some of your time with your family to do something completely for yourself that you want to do just because you want to do it? Where is the line between being egotistically self-serving and painfully selfless?

The dilemma comes in dreaming of having a life filled with the "great things," but sometimes feeling like you are drowning in the "small things." Small things are necessities; they provide all of us with stability in a world that often feels out of control. Admittedly, our society doesn't value full-time parenting as much as we should, often making those of us who have chosen that path feel like we aren't living up to our potential. But, that's okay, I'm willing to live with being looked down on by some people to spend every day doing the "small things in great love" for my family. I realize that before I know it, it will be just Patrick and I staring at each other across the kitchen table while the kids are living their lives on their own. Then, hopefully, I'll have plenty of time to check off the items on my Life List, the ones I haven't already completed, that is.


  1. Good post. Obviously, I have been in this mode, too, by previous entries on my blog. Have you seen "Revolutionary Road"? The movie speaks to this theme. There is a balance and I have been trying to find it for the past two years. Unsuccessfully, I might add. Maybe it doesn't exist...

  2. This is an awesome Life List! You may want to check out for a great new website that uses the power of social networking to help people achieve their goals!!
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    Bill Starr
    CEO, My Life List™