Blog: The New Year – What are you picking up?

Before Februrary becomes March and the year really does run away, I want to tell you something that might help how we live-out this year.

After 10 days off over Christmas and New Years, I noticed something as I drove home after my first day back.

This irritating warm knot was forming right between my rib cage, just above my stomach.

It hadnt been there at all over the break, but now, here it was. For sure there’s an element of it that’s part and parcel of returning to work/school/life after having time away, but I wanted to know why the return to Sydney and its routine had me feeling such an obvious physical response.

Paused at the traffic lights, looking at the cars zooting across the intersection, I realised it had to do with an awareness of the ‘undone’.

Returning to Sydney means returning to all the things I’m still meaning to get to, all the ideas I have about work, home, church, that are still not done yet. Opportunities that need following up on, thoughts that haven’t yet found resolution.

There’s history here.

Have you ever looked at a uni bookshelf, and wondered how anyone’s found time to read all the titles? As you scan the shelves, noticing the stale leathery edges of some, and the ridged shiny spines of others, you think, “I could. Maybe. If I got three books today, finished them by tomorrow, and then came back every Monday after that, I could do it.” The books begin to call your name, you see that one about that topic you’ve always loved, and this is going to be THE book that you must read about it. You spot ‘Vegan Life in the 18th Century: The Journal of a pre-Hispter Post-Moderninst”, and before you know it your senses are alive, your arms are laden with books, and you’ve got a pile of paper beside your bed that you won’t look at for weeks.

The thing is, not every book we see we’re meant to read. The moment you pick one up you’re saying “Yes” to hours of reading and thinking time, and suddenly that pile is not just paper, but a dust-gathering reminder of intentions.

Being back in Sydney makes me stare that pile in the face.

I see a collection of ‘books’ both thick and thin that I’ve steadily collected. From buying a new appliance and feeling responsibility to use it, or having Facebook and carrying the compulsion to check it. To bigger things like career dreams, personal projects, and family ‘going-ons’. I’ve picked these up, and invited in their ‘tugs’.

If I leave anything un-read, there comes that pang.

I think it’s Dr. Caroline Leaf that talks about the fact we’re hard wired to finish things. We’re biologically driven to find a way to complete what we set out to achieve, and until we do, our minds feel that persistent pull. It’s part of the reason when your Personal Trainer tells you to do 20 Burpees you’ll glaze over, grit you teeth, and get ‘er done even though you were dying after 5 – we have to finish what we start.

The books themselves aren’t the problem. Reading is healthy. It gives you a goal, and you learn new things and dream new dreams along the way. Facebook isn’t an issue, new appliances aren’t an issue. The problem is when we pick up 200 of these ‘books’ and fail to realise they are going to require something of us, and fulfilling those requirements causes strain. They become a pain and not a pleasure.

The question then, is “what books should you pick up?”

If you feel angst because you’ve signed up to a backload of intentions, then you have to decide what ones are important now, and let yourself put some down.

You don’t have to read them all at once. Start with one. Then put it back and pick up another. You may begin reading a couple and decide to knock them off the list completely. That’s ok.

Have a think about it, what are you picking up? What ‘tugs’ are you prepared to set yourself up for? Are they worth it? Will they drive you toward your goals?

If you want to tackle a novel, say goodbye to some of the tinier titles. Make some space on your shelf.  

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