I have a problem with lists. Not task lists, how could I go about my day without a task list. But lists telling me how to have better sex, how to feel better about myself, how to organize my life, and things of that nature. Remember a few weeks ago when I posted this? A list of suggestions for a healthy lifestyle, similar to all of those other lists being posted on popular blogs and websites. A list given to you all by an unqualified grad student studying, and working in film archives (nothing remotely close to anything related to health), and part-time film perspective writer (again, nothing even remotely close to anything related to health [maybe my own mental health because I would keel over if movies weren’t a part of my life, but I digress]). Let’s just call it a list because that’s what it is. That list is a great guideline for me. Those are healthy habits that fit with my personality, body, and lifestyle. However, in no way is that a guideline for anyone who read it to live by. It’s weird isn’t it, that we so eagerly click these lists on how to have better lifestyles, mental health, sex, etc. Like somehow that one list is going to hold all of the answers for how I can better my current life.
I too am a culprit in reading these lists and clicking those links, heck, I wrote one a few weeks ago. It’s a quick easy read, and I always feel better about myself afterward. They’re little bits of motivation boosters, soon forgotten after we’ve closed our laptops, turned off our phones, and headed back into reality where in all honesty, we will probably not take any of those suggestions into consideration. Sure. Maybe there was that one list with that one suggestion that sticks to mind. It may have influenced your life. But in all honesty, that one article is just that. One article. Amongst thousands of similar ones.
This past quarter has been particularly rough in my life. The other day I was feeling down on myself because my back was hurting. I hadn’t gone on a walk lately, and had been slacking on utilizing my standing desk (which is actually just a tall dresser). As I was sitting next to my significant other on the couch, wallowing in my sorrows and being dramatic because I enjoy being dramatic and it generally makes the two of us laugh, it hit me. I hadn’t been following any of the guidelines I’d originally written about. I knew they were there, I knew they worked for me, but I was too tired and quite honestly too busy to meet each suggestion.
I thought, “I’m a freaking fraud. How hypocritical of me.” Why did I have the right to suggest these lifestyle guidelines when I so clearly could not follow them myself? It was my partner who suggested I write a follow up to the Healthy Habits article (he is very anti-list unless it has to do with movies). And so I thought about it for a week. Specifically, what is the biggest issue with all of these lifestyle lists?
Here’s what I realized and here’s what I will tell you. Lists are not personalized. Lists do not account for off, or non-routine days. Lists do not account for our many moods. Life is not always peaches and cream. Flexibility is key (which was a suggestion on the list). A new list, something you can put together during your morning coffee, should be made each day according to your mood and how your body is feeling. These online lists are creating a lifestyle of rigidity, and we’re not always going to want to eat healthy, or exercise every day. I recently got an IUD, which has unfortunately slowed down my productivity level (blood loss), and has really been causing a lot of pain (cramps). My list, the one written for Literally, Darling, does not account for this temporary change. What I realized now was that I have to wake up each morning and according to my pain level, create a new list catering to my new needs. My afternoon cup of coffee (my quick self-care break) has now been traded for 15 minutes with a heating pad. Coffee is terrible for cramps. And heating pads are my new best friend.
What I would suggest is making your own, personalized list that reflects the type of person you are. Setting realistic goals with yourself is more useful than listening to someone else talk about what is good for them. We do not all collectively exercise, release emotion, or eat the same. I despise yoga, it’s a freaking snore, and almost every list I click on suggests I try it out.
Lists are a safety net for our own personalized well-being. We should take them with a grain of salt and keep in mind that the author of the list does not know our bodies. They know theirs. We also need to allow ourselves some wiggle room. We’re not always going to want to practice empathy, and we’re not always going to wake up at 6:00 am on the dot. Screw lists. What I mean is screw other people’s lists. Make your own. Make it in the morning. Keep it in your wallet. And try to tweak/work at is as best you can each day.
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