Guest Blogger: Halfway to Normal’s Kristin Tennant on The Love List

Tweet Your Love, Feed Your Soul.

By Kristin Tennant

illustration by Jason Berg

illustration by Jason Berg

I need to take back my life. Is there a mom out there who doesn’t know what that feels like, from time to time?

As a mom of three girls and a part-time freelance writer with clients and a blog, I recently woke up and realized my pace wasn’t sustainable. I thrive on a certain amount of busyness, but I had turned a corner. Suddenly I felt like I was running a race that wasn’t mine, on legs I couldn’t control, constantly on the brink of a major wipe out. There was no time in my life to stretch or slow my heart rate, no time to rest or stock up on nutrients before the next sprint.

I tried to get to the bottom of what was making me feel so overwhelmed. There were practical strategies I decided to adopt, to help me manage my time better and say “no” more freely to those who were vying for more of my time.

But there was something else I needed, too. The even bigger issue—the one that’s more elusive and eats away at my core if I ignore it—is taking back that part of my life that embodies who I am and what I love. It’s the emotional-spiritual-personal part of me that slowly dies when I forget to feed it, in the rush of feeding everyone else.

Then it hit me: I needed to make a Love List. The idea was inspired by my writer friend Julie Hammonds, who writes about it in her essay in the book Ask Me About My Divorce (which also includes an essay I wrote). A Love List is essentially a list that you make over time detailing the things you love most in life—the things that make you feel most content in the world, and most like you.

I felt like I’ve lost much of that connection to what I love, so I began creating my list:

– I love having a front porch & having the luxury of enough open-ended time to really enjoy it.

– I love it when I have the courage to open up to a stranger—I’m often surprised by how much we share in common.

– I love creating a safe space—a friendship, blog, dining room table—where others can open up.

It felt good to have that clear awareness of who I am and what I need to make time for in my life.

But just as I was really getting into this Love List idea, I felt that characteristic twinge of guilt—that little voice saying It’s so selfish of you to spend so much energy focusing on what you love. (Am I the only one who thinks like that? Mama-guilt is the worst.)

Then I reminded myself how much truth there is to the saying “If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.” My own mom has also started making a Love List. Seeing her list gave me good reason to squash that guilt monster. Not only is my mom better off for focusing on what she loves, everyone around her is, too. So claim what you love without guilt.

Now get started on your list!

Julie Hammonds taped several pieces of paper together on her pantry door, where she could see her list grow (she also used crayons and color to express moods and themes). You might want to carry around a small notebook, or keep a list in your iPhone. I am an avid Twitter user, and I like to record my Love List items on Twitter with the hashtag #thelovelist, so others can join me. The important thing is to add to the list as moments strike you, not to sit down and brainstorm or try to write as many things on it as you can in one sitting. Any time you feel completely filled up with the goodness of something you just did or something that happened—something you saw or heard, or an interaction—add it to the list.

Once your list starts to grow, push yourself deeper by asking why. For instance, I wrote on my list “I love interacting with people who leave comments on my blog” (I really really do!). And that’s a fine thing to put on this list, but then I should probably identify what I love about it: I love sharing and hearing stories; I love connecting with new, interesting people; I love knowing that in some small way I’m helping others sort through their complex lives.

I also put this on my list: “I love taking care of errands on foot or by bike.” But what’s at the heart of that? First of all, living in a neighborhood that makes that possible. Second of all, having enough time in my day to tackle my errands at a slower pace. And I think I just love the feeling of accomplishing something that I need to do, like go to the post office or store, in a way that exposes me to neighbors, sights, and time to think and stretch my limbs.

As you make your list, don’t forget to think about how you might adjust and change your day-to-day life to accommodate more of what you love. You won’t be able to change everything over night, but just seeing some concrete progress in my own life has given me a lot of happiness and hope.

From Candace: Feel free to write some of your love list items in a comment below. Seeing what other people love often reminds me of forgotten things I love.

KTpurplelowKristin Tennant is a freelance writer, a writing instructor for MediaBistro in Chicago, and author of the blog Halfway to Normal. She and her husband live in Central Illinois with their three daughters.

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on Friday, November 13th, 2009 at 11:44 am and is filed under Uncategorized.
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7 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Halfway to Normal’s Kristin Tennant on The Love List”

  1. I’m going to start my list, and incorporate my daughter (we’ve been discussing Thanksgiving and gratefulness).

    I love cuddling my 3 yr old, and catching whiffs of her “baby” smell and the Burt’s Bees soap we use to shampoo her hair. I love how physically touching my daughter centers me, and lowers my pulse, no matter how anxious I am.

    I love it when those little arms hold onto my neck; reminding me of my place in the world.

    I love how each day begins anew, and that there is a little voice that calls me from my sleep, not a blaring alarm clock.

    I love the warm bath before I sleep, and the good literature that helps me unwind.

    *I already feel better*

    Thank you, Kristin!

  2. I love the soft, broken-in feeling of hand me downs and family blankets.

    I love the touch of healers, and how many of us are.

    I love the way breathing into pain makes it less intense.

    I love thinking about someone right before I bump into them.

  3. Rebekah, I also really like how the Love List fits so well with the idea of gratitude, and being aware of what we’re thankful for. What a great thing to do with your daughter! (And yes, just listing out your loves *does* make you feel better.)

    admin, what a great combination of feelings & experiences! I especially love the family hand-me-down blankets and thinking about someone right before bumping into them. Thanks for sharing these with the rest of us!

    Jenna, just today I took a nap with my youngest (who is not so young

  4. I recently discovered your blog/website and have really enjoyed reading this and some of your other posts. I thought I would dive out from the shadows and leave my first comment. I am not sure what to say other than I have enjoyed reading and will continue to visit as often as I can.

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