Hi again Jason,

I love that Ira Glass quote. It brought to mind another, much less eloquent quote which I repeat to myself and my kids often: “Sucking at something is the first step at being sorta good at it.” Pretty sure that’s Jake from Adventure Time bringing the wisdom as usual. Along those same lines, and echoing your thoughts on quitting, is the idea that maybe sucking at something isn’t a sign you need to get better at it. Maybe you just suck at this thing, whatever it is, and that’s okay. Some things, for example, I’d like to quit but can’t: receiving what seems like 100 school emails a week, handling car maintenance, doing taxes. That sort of thing. A while back I decided there are some things in life that don’t deserve or need my level best, and I could be okay with being mediocre at those things.

It’s been freeing. It forced me to make a distinction between what I care enough about to try to master, and what I’m dabbling in without any need for mastery, and what is a necessity to be completed.

In terms of parenting, I realized that I spend a lot of effort working on keeping things clean and organized, making sure we have necessities, cooking meals, etc. I also realized that, while all that’s wonderful, it’s not as important to me as laughing with my kids, or being around when they want to talk, or having the energy to help them sort through drama or difficulties. Sometimes, having the energy and good grace to listen to middle school drama or get outside and throw a baseball means I’m not doing laundry or cooking dinner. Of course, it’s always been okay to make those kind of trade-offs, but for me it took some effort to get clear on why that is okay. It’s okay because everything could matter, but not everything does matter. It’s okay because what steals time, and energy, and opportunity most of the time isn’t an emergency. It’s just the stuff in that mediocre middle. The scope creep of life is something I have to actively manage.

Turns out managing it is mostly about managing my own curiosity and being realistic about my actual capacity.

The next line of that Wordsworth poem is “getting and spending / we lay waste our powers” and it’s a line that rings in my head so often. The frictionless life, as you mentioned, is maybe not the best life. We need friction to give us pause, to force us to take a breath, to make a choice. This or that. What gets my attention? There will always be more options than time, and which option is right for me, right now, is deeply personal. One way I make those choices is by thinking about how I can optimize for delight. What delights me? Delight is a clear-cut emotion for me, which is helpful. If I’m delighted, I know it. “Should” has no place in delight. There’s no halfway with delighted. It’s on or off. So that’s easy to identify, and I don’t need to analyze the Why of delight, only the How: How do I make more time, space, and energy for This Delightful Thing?


Hi Annie,

Jake is a wise friend.

…everything could matter, but not everything does matter.

This captures it all, doesn’t it. It’s funny how much we live with other people’s expectations about things that matter. Because everything could matter, other people, our parents, our friends, society, whatever, all get to yell at us about the things that matter to them. It’s not just that everything could matter, it’s that everything does matter to someone, and those people are telling us all the time. Realizing that not all of those things also need to matter to me has been a huge project of my adult life. That’s probably not what people see, but it is a guilt I carried, and still carry.

Optimizing for delight is a great heuristic. I spent time in 2022 trying to have fun, in many ways in search of the same thing. One of the surprising things about fun is how much it is about getting completely out of my head and fully invested into a moment. There’s no “mind” in my fun. Even when I’m reading a book that’s causing me to laugh or cry, it’s not my mind analyzing an experience or thinking about it. It is my body being taken completely into another world and experience its heartbreaks and joys.

I have to admit, so far, 2023 hasn’t been that much fun. I’ve let a lot of things stress me that should, and a lot of things stress me that probably shouldn’t. I’m doing less well at maintaining routine and a lot less well at making time and space for the things that provide delight. I’ve spent a lot of time this year “giving myself a pass”, but I’ve got to find the motivation soon to stop that– it’s become and excuse to not do the things that I know make me happy and are good for me.

This was a good reminder for me. I have some work travel coming up, then a short period of time before some fun travel. I’m going to work on reclaiming some time for delight in my routine.