photo: Anders Ljungberg on flikr

What do vacations and to-do lists have in common? Nothing. They have nothing in common. So why was my recent vacation dominated by one? Let me tell you.

First of all, I’m not a fan of lists. I think they’re fascist.

Actually, it’s not the lists themselves that are fascist. It’s what my mind does with them. My mind takes a regular, ordinary, just-minding-its-own-business list, and turns it into an instrument of torture. A benign-looking but essentially-evil device that taunts me with its cries of You must do everything on this list yesterday. Like that.

It is for this reason that I did not make myself a To-do list before I started my summer vacation this year. Well, I did make a list. But I didn’t look at it. Not very often. Not every hour.

Let me explain.

Ever since I left my county job last year and returned to school (I’m getting a Masters in Consciousness Studies from Holmes Institute), I have not had a lot of free time. I thought I would. I thought being a full-time student would provide me with way more free time than I’ve had the past thirteen years of working for the County of Sonoma.

But no.

So I thought I’d use my vacation time to catch up on a few chores. A few things I’ve had to let slide now that I’m a full-bore, hard-core studier of consciousness.

The top of the list was my kitchen cabinets.

They’re a little chipped. Given my tendency to over-exaggerate, you probably think they’re really bad. But they’re actually not. Here’s the worst of it:

Not so bad, right?

But that’s not the problem. The problem is my mind. My pesky, over-active, drama-queen of a mind. In spite of the fact that the cabinets are only a little chipped, this is what my mind tells me they look like:

photo: Kevin Collins on flikr

Aaaaaaaaargh!! Horrible, right? Needing immediate attention, yes?

So even though my kitchen actually looks like this:

My mind tells me it looks like this:

photo: Jonathan Day on flikr

It’s a fun place, my mind.

But back to the list. The kitchen cabinets were the one thing I had to do over my two-week break. The one chore that would make me feel so much better once it was accomplished. They were the star of the show, the headliner of my To-Do list, the raison d’être of my vacation existence.

Funny thing was, I found myself doing everything but the kitchen cabinets. I shopped for a new bed. I watched movies. I read. I got caught up on my finances. I meditated and chilled out. I ironed my clothes. I never iron my clothes. Meanwhile, my kitchen continued to look like this:

photo: Graham Richardson on flikr

But I didn’t care. Or I did, but not enough to do anything about it. I did manage to get myself down to the paint store and buy a can of paint that matched the color of current cabinets. But actually painting them never seemed to happen.

How do I explain this? Let me try.

I’m a big fan of my intuition. Big fan. It’s my link to Spirit, to the Divine, to the All in All. So even though I knew that I was, perhaps, not painting the cabinets out of a slight sense of rebelliousness, I also knew that it never felt like something I wanted to do.

The Abraham-Hicks work refers to following your intuition as “going downstream.” They point out that when we allow ourselves to go with the flow, we have worlds of power at our fingertips. The alternative is struggling upstream. They remind us that nothing we want is upstream. This is the simplest way I can explain my cabinet dilemma. 

And so, at the end of the two weeks, I still had my chipped cabinets. Even though it had never felt “downstream” to paint them, my mind was still disturbed by their imperfection.  

What to do?

On the last day of my vacation, I was in the kitchen getting a glass of water. I looked at my cabinets in their less-than-perfect state and started to give myself shit about not getting around to painting them.

And that’s when it hit me. 

The problem isn’t that the cabinets didn’t get done. The problem is that my mind took a perfectly-ordinary kitchen and turned it into a demolition scene. The problem is that my mind told me that the only way to make the destructive visions go away was to eradicate their source. Paint the cabinets, it said. Then you’ll feel better.

In a flash of insight, I saw the absolute insanity of this claim. Falling for my mind’s demands was a losing game, and I wasn’t going to play. You can’t fool me, I said. Back off, bucko.

And it did.

And now my vacation is over. I still have my chipped cabinets, but I don’t care. If you ask me why I didn’t paint them over my break, even though it was the first thing on my list, I will tell you this:

I didn’t paint them because my intuition told me not to.

I will paint them eventually, and when I do it will be the perfect time. Not painting them had a perfection of its own. Not painting them allowed me to wrangle with my mind. And win. Not painting them allowed me to learn to be happy even in the face of my “flawed” cabinets.

As evidence, here’s a picture of the inside of my mind, when I think about my cabinets:

photo: Paul Bica on flikr

It was a small victory, but a fulfilling one.

What are your victories?  Where have you said “No” to the Task Master?

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