My favorite iPhone app is “Question of the Day.”As you’re well aware, I ask lots of questions and have been asking one difficult question a week since January. Though I may never ask another one again after 2011 because quite frankly it’s exhausting, I will continue to use the QotD app on road trips, during airport layovers, or even if things get really awkwardly silent at the dinner table. Why I haven’t ripped off questions from this app for every single post in this series is a good question in itself.
One of the more thought-provoking QotDs asks what you had to give yourself permission to do. I like this question because when asked on a road trip or sitting around the airport, friends’ answers make me feel less alone in the world of erasing or modifying things on my “Never Do” list. We all have that list in our heads. The list of things we haven’t allowed ourselves. That list is written one item at a time based on our individual experiences, faiths, morals, etc., and we somehow live our lives by it as if veering would cause our worlds to crumble. I think even “free spirits,” the ones who never live in one place for more than two years and work for city bike tour companies and crash on stranger’s couches (aka the types I secretly envy), have lists: “Do not get tied down. Do not take too many showers…” We write them religiously.
But every once in a while, we give ourselves permission to erase an item. Maybe a small one or maybe the number one most importantly huge one, but eventually we all realize it’s impossible to live to by our own standards all the time and we give ourselves permission to accept that, at least for a moment.
For me, I’ve had to give myself permission to quit. The first time I remember allowing myself to quit was when I was 15 and playing club volleyball. I hated it–I’m incredibly mediocre at all sports–and although the thought of quitting made me feel so guilty I got nauseous, the thought of playing volleyball tournaments every weekend for the next six months made me even more nauseous, so I quit. After a whole four weeks. Since then, I’ve given myself permission to quit other things, but “Don’t quit” remains on my list, just worded differently: “Don’t quit. Unless what you’re considering quitting goes against the grain of who you are.”
What have you given yourself permission to do? What should you give yourself permission to do? It can be freeing but enslaving all at the same time. We must not too quickly erase, just as we must not too quickly add more items to our lists.