Thoughts, Ideas and Inspiration by Melissa Earley

Wisdom to Know the Difference

pen and paper

The complaints of what was wrong with my life had begun as lament, a holy practice of prayer and honest soul-baring speech before God. I worried my grievances like prayer beads. But now the protest had turned into whining. Even I was sick of listening to myself.

I needed a makeover of the Self. I needed to repent – turn and go a new direction. I was desperate for conversion. That day’s journal entry reads: I am ready to recreate my life.

Hubris, really, to think I would recreate my life. That’s the work of God, I had always been taught. But God seemed to have fallen asleep at the switch so I was taking control. I did what I learned from my mother. I made a list.

Three lists actually:

What I am happy with
What I have to accept
What I want to change

I was full of the self-loathing that comes from failure and rejection. It was divine gift that made me start where I did. My list of what I was happy with wasn’t a complete accounting of those things for which I am grateful, simply a list of the parts of my life and personality that helped me be someone I liked being around:

flexibility and creativity of my job
living close to where I work
my friendships
that I like my family
that I read novels
my sense of humor
Mandy [my dog]
How I am when I travel – curious

I had overheard myself enough to know that some of my complaints were about things I could not change:

I am 46
I am divorced
My job won’t make me wealthy

No amount of railing would change the fact that my body is no longer 25 years old. I have shaped my life by decisions that cannot be undecided. I do not get a do-over. I will never again be who I was. It was not resignation I felt. It was grace. If I couldn’t do anything about the items on this list, maybe I could stop clutching it so tightly, checking it so often. There wasn’t something important written there I would forget to do. I could put it down.

My present is shaped by my past but not bound by it. There are things I can change.

the amount of stuff I own
my disorganization and messiness
amount of time I spend in front of screens
be in better shape
be less concerned with what others thing of me
more open to others and new friendships – less “boundaried”

Like most lists of resolutions, many of these have gone largely unaddressed but that doesn’t bother me too much. The final three are reshaping the contours of my life. I am particularly tickled by the last one. I had forgotten it was on the list. It is becoming the most important.







  1. Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

    I needed to read this today. Thank you.

    • admin

      Glad it made a difference, Rachel.

  2. Erin P. Gosser

    I remember you talking about making this list awhile back; Lenten Bible study, maybe? Thanks for the reminder to do such a reflective exercise.

    • admin

      Hope it’s helpful.

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