On reflection, intention and sitting still

Intention: It manifests tangibly in my everyday world. The stack of library books perched on my coffee table in the order I’ll read them. My prioritized, color-coded to-do list. The growing nest of Command strips, nails, hooks and tools on the counter, each a promise to my blindingly blank walls that they’ll one day house the “grown-up girl” art I claimed I’d buy after college.

Even my well-intentioned world of cryptic, multilevel to-do lists is its own illusion. Intention, I realized recently, is about more than checking items off my list or adding a new interview-worthy skill to my resume every few months; it’s about deliberate efforts to break old habits and, for me, returning to a few really ugly moments.

I’ve only recently found the gumption to reflect on the semester of college I spent binge-drinking cheap, terrible booze (example: my roommates and I had practically every flavor of UV vodka emptied atop our kitchen cabinets as decoration … decoration). My lone intention that semester was to feel as little as possible. I felt bad for feeling bad about something that my logical side said shouldn’t have broken me like it did. I felt lost after a beloved professor’s sudden death.

(If you derive one nugget of wisdom from this post, let it be this: UV lemonade is the awful, 21-plus version of errant bug spray floating into your mouth before that summer trip to the lake.) Back to the constructive commentary.

I’m rethinking intention through a series of daily changes. Rather than wandering the Internet each morning in search of the answer to some existential question (i.e. “Which Taylor Swift ‘1989’ music video are you?”), I’ve started reading one chapter of a memoir or autobiography (I recommend Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies). There’s something about peering into someone else’s soul at 5:34 a.m. that invites me, gently, to examine my own.

I noticed the stark, beautiful contrast of these streetlights in a moment of stillness on one of my evening walks.

I noticed the stark, beautiful contrast of these streetlights in a moment of stillness on one of my evening walks.

After I finish that chapter, I force myself to be still for five minutes. Before the commotion of my pre-6 a.m. playlist, before my morning ritual of emptying my entire jewelry box to find the necklace that best complements my (probably) black outfit, I’m slowly finding it more natural to confront my fears in a positive, focused manner.

In the spirit of intention, I’ve embraced the idea that you should like what you damn well like, and it doesn’t matter if anyone else thinks it’s hip. Recently at an outing with a friend, I was amid one of my usual, “I love tennis! I love Arabic! I love dinosaurs! I kick ass at Centipede!” flail fests, and I realized it’s cool to be passionate about a lot of things.

With it, the tangibility of intention has faded in my life. Yeah, I still enjoy the satisfaction of checking another task off my to-do list, but I find myself feeling most productive and purposeful, bizarrely, when it’s 5-something in the morning and two minutes remain of my “Taylor, sit still” time. It’s in those ticking 120 seconds that I feel a little bit more like the intentional, mindful grown-up girl I hope to be.

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