Doing and Being

Most week nights when I get home from work,  I don’t feel like doing anything I don’t want to do.

Oh of course, at 4:45 when I’m sitting at work, I make grand plans for the evening: go grocery shopping, work out, do laundry, clean the apartment.

But then, I get home, and I realize I just want to do whatever I want to do. Does everyone feel this way?

Like last night, I planned to go work out, but I scratched that plan because it was really cold outside. Granted, I would be working out in a heated building, but I decided I didn’t want to be outside for the 30 seconds it would take to walk from my apartment to my car, and then my car to the gym, and back again. LAZY! I KNOW! It sounds bad when I write it out like that, but there it is.

I also didn’t want to do laundry, even though I’m very close to the Liz Lemon wearing-a-swimsuit-as-underwear territory. Nope, I would rather wait until the very last possible day before going to do laundry. Again, yes, I know… I’m so lazy.

Instead of going out and doing these things, I stayed in and read. (And, in the spirit of full disclosure, also watched Revenge and Happy Endings)

This decision made me feel kind of bad about myself. I mean, it made me feel good – physically and emotionally – because I’d be laying in a warm bed and not folding clothes. But it made me feel like I was wasting a night – like in that moment, I would be happy about my choice, but the next morning when I was scrounging around, looking for something clean to wear, I’d be upset that I hadn’t “done anything” the night before.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about doing vs. being. And how I tend to measure myself – and subsequently feel good or bad about myself – based on what I’m doing and how much I’m doing, rather than who I am and what kind of person I’m being. Maybe this is because I like to quantify things, and it’s much easier to measure what I’m doing than who I’m being. For instance, all of the goals I set for myself for the first seven weeks of 2013 (one of which I blew off last night) were concerned with little things I should be doing, which I think is OK, but it does show my preference for measuring myself in very tangible ways.

So, last night, I consciously avoided “doing something” by working out and doing laundry, and instead read part of the book I was supposed to finish last week, per my goals. In my mind, this act of reading was going to be passive. I wasn’t going to be doing anything active – I was just going to take something in. As I was reading, though, I started thinking about how this act of reading (not reading just any random thing, I guess – but reading something really good) was, in fact, doing something. That so many things I’ve read in my life have changed me, and so, I have to consider reading a good book as doing something. And maybe it won’t have the tangible results I feel like I need (like a stronger body or a stack of clean, folded clothes) but that doesn’t mean I should view it any differently. So, I wonder, why is it that I see reading as passive, and as not really doing anything?

So, it was very apropos that, after feeling bad about “doing nothing” last night, I read something that affected me deeply – that showed me that reading may seem passive, but can also change you. I know it’s may be a little soon to say that certain words have changed me, because of course, I only read them 12 hours ago. But you know sometimes, you read something or hear something or something happens to you, and you just know it will affect you? That’s how I felt when I was reading Lit by Mary Karr last night.

This theme of doing vs. being is running through my life right now – last week in small group, we were discussing the purpose of our group – why we go, why we think it matters, what the group is supposed to do in our lives. We had also been asked to provide a goal for the group, which none of us were very keen on. Tangible goals just don’t really equate to spiritual growth or change in any way. I mean, I guess they can help, but our group decided we didn’t want to make a goal like that, because, just, no. So as a group, we decided that the “goal” (if we can call it that) for our group would be, that we would understand things more deeply and treat people with more love, because of the way that the group changed us. Because I spend time listening to someone who is different (and in many cases, so much wiser) than myself, those words and experiences would change me and in turn, make me treat people differently.

So, this is an idea that I’m still very much thinking through, but between my small group leaders and Mary Karr smacking me in the face with beautiful wisdom, it’s something that’s been on my mind for the past week and I wanted to share.

More to come when I finally finish Lit, I’m sure.

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2 thoughts on “Doing and Being

  1. i love this!! i so, so relate to this. which explains why i spent my evening not re-organizing the bathroom and living room like i planned, but watching the mindy project and extreme cougar wives. not quite as good as reading mary karr…

  2. Is Extreme Cougar Wives a real thing?!? I honestly can’t tell. And I definitely think reading, especially a book like Lit, can be considered productive. I think you’re totally right, it’s so easy to focus so much on checklists and “getting things done” and in the process lose something of who we are as people.

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