Five Things

A very wise and extremely lovely mermaid recently told me about a trick she sometimes uses when she is feeling down: every night, before going to bed, write down Five Things you love about your life.

I immediately peppered her with questions. Can I cheat and just write down my kids and husband?

Answer: Yes, but the answers should be specific. Instead of writing my son’s name, for example, I should say I love how my son nicknamed himself “Jackhammer” and bounces all over the house impersonating a jackhammer (true story).

Can I repeat the answers from the day before?

Answer: If I want to. I’m not going to be judged or graded; this exercise is for me. I should do whatever works best for ME.

Then it hit me. Like so much of the writing process and life in general, there are no rules. There are just guidelines and structures that I can and should bend to accommodate my own particular circumstances. This might be obvious to most of you, but to me, it was a bit of an eye-opener. And it made me think of another Five Things I learned about, a long time ago.

In this list, a woman achieved balance and happiness in her life by doing the same Five Things, every day:

1) something physical
2) something mental
3) something that needs to be done
4) something for herself
5) something for someone else

I’d always admired the simplicity and practicality of this list, but I never felt like it applied well to my life. I was “cheating,” I thought, because I could cross off #3 and #5 immediately every day, by virtue of having kids. I don’t think a day goes by without #2 automatically happening, with all the demands of life. I always try to exercise every day, with or without a list, so that left #4 — doing something for myself. A worthy pursuit, to be sure, but now I don’t have much of a list, do I?

With my eye-opening realization, I decided to revise the list in order to challenge myself a little more.

Here’s what I came up. Pintip’s Five Things to do every day:
1) something outside
2) something productive with my writing
(writing itself, revising, editing, brainstorming, etc.)
3) something that needs to be done that I don’t want to do
This qualification takes out the routine things I have to do for my kids (feed them, bathe them, take them to school, etc.). Instead, it challenges me to do household stuff on which I continually procrastinate, such as pay bills, make doctor’s appointments, sift through my mail, etc.
4) something for myself
5) something enriching with my children
Again, this qualification eliminates all the routine things I would do anyways. It challenges me to carve out time to work on math with my daughter or writing with my son.

So this is my new list! Five Things I challenge myself to do every single day. #4 remains the same, while I have revised the other items to better accommodate my life.

What are your Five Things?