Life-Changing Magic

For Christmas I received two slender volumes wrapped neatly together in matching paper. My wife had seen someone reading the first volume on the PATH train; Amazon had offered the second, a parody, when she went online to make the purchase. I felt a thrill of anticipation holding The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*ck side by side, but it was more than six months later that I took first Marie Kondo’s book, then Sarah Knight’s book (along with a touch of discretion because, you know, the F word) on my own commute to work.

I am probably never going to apply the KonMari method to all our possessions (having just purged two-thirds of our stuff when we moved into a much smaller place nine months ago), at least not for a long time.  The method is simple: you hold each of your things in your hand and decide whether it really sparks joy. If it does, you keep it, and you find a place for it. You thank it for your use of it. If it doesn’t spark joy, you thank it for having spent time in your life and you let it go. By the time I got to work that first morning reading the book I was ready to take stock of all of my possessions in my little, and packed office, and to thank them and say good-bye.

Once your space is tidy you’re supposed to feel liberated, to follow the call of your best life. And that’s what Sarah Knight takes issue with. Knight says it’s not your stuff that’s holding you back, it’s a lot of wasted f*cks.

When my college best friend and my mother met they exchanged words and knowing looks about my temper. It was the first I’d heard I might have an anger problem. Now, I don’t think rage was my problem. My problem is that I felt a lot of pressure to care about a lot of things. I had no priorities. I had no mental or emotional space to sort out what I really, er, gave a f*ck about. It was exhausting.

Fast forward a few years: I found a few things I knew for sure I cared about more than most things, but I was still dogged by the feeling that I was supposed to care about some other things, about which some teeny tiny part of me knew I did not give even a teeny tiny f*ck about. Recently I’ve been lucky to meet and to work with some pretty badass (I mean, this post is about f*cks, so I may as well use some other bad words) women who have their sh*t together. Not all their sh*t. Just the sh*t they give a f*ck about. They are all very different women, living different lives and giving f*cks about different, but important, things. Important to them, I mean. And because that sh*t is important to them, because these women give a f*ck about a few key things, it’s clear what their passions are.

So I read Sarah Knights book. I realized that I give too many of my limited-number of f*cks to things I really don’t care about and consequently given too few of my f*cks to the things I really, truly, deep down in that tiny place, know I care about.

Things I don’t give a f*ck about?

  • Running for public office
  • Basically anything on TV, Hulu or Netflix Amazon Prime (I really don’t and I’m not sorry!)
  • Meetings without agendas
  • Conference calls (some sh*t is more important than other sh*t, but I only have so many f*cks)
  • Lincoln in the Bardo (I really don’t have to like George Saunders)

Things I definitely give a f*ck about:

  • What happened in Charlottesville, and what happens every single day thanks to systemic racism and misogyny
  • Being kind and considerate
  • Being a good colleague
  • Electrifying writing (but don’t you dare call me a grammar Nazi)
  • Pizza night and pour-over coffee with my wife
  • Our amazing nieces
  • Trains (I’m writing this on a train that is 40 minutes late and I still give a f*ck)
  • A high-quality pie crust (you don’t have to give a f*ck about it, but I do)

Sarah Knight boils all this down to the question, “Is X worth it?” It being the time, money, or energy you spend addressing X. This week I’m trying to pay attention to the things that make my blood boil but that I don’t give a f*ck about, and to pay attention to the things, however small, that spark joy.




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