I set up some genre example files per Nancie Atwell's new In the Middle book, and as I was doing so, I found a piece of my writing that apparently I'd never actually saved on any computer. I think I wrote this while I was doing writing circles with my former students. I rather liked it so I am posting it here. The next time I post, I'll give you a virtual tour of my new room, because, frankly, it's the coolest room ever.
The Beach Chair Test
They say that confession is good for the soul, and mine can use all the help it can get, so I have something fairly shocking to tell the world. Are you sitting down? Are you listening? Here goes.
Isn’t that awful? What’s worse is this: I don’t intend to wash it this year either. Isn’t that terrible? And to make it even worse, I haven’t washed my car for at least two years. The last time I remember washing my car was when the local high school did it for free.
Washing my car is one of the things I don’t do because it doesn’t pass my beach chair test. When I’m old and relaxing at the beach and looking back at my life, I’m not going to be saying: “Geez, I wish I’d spent more time washing my car. If I had driven around town and up to work every day in a sparkly clean car, my life would have been complete.”
Applying my beach test keeps me from doing a lot of supposedly useful things from dusting furniture to holding a grudge to decorating for the holidays. That’s not to say I never do those things, because I do. It’s just that I give myself permission to let things slide once in a while (well, maybe even more than that, but who’s counting). Every year I put up fewer and fewer Christmas decorations. And you know, I never regret it. When I’m able to spend the days after Christmas relaxing and enjoying and doing things with my family rather than rolling up thousand of tiny little white lights, then I don’t mind that my house doesn’t look like it dropped right out of the Christmas issue of Martha Stewart Living.
The best thing my chair test does is to remind me that it’s better to do things than to own things. I may wish I had taken more trips, gone to more plays, attended more live concerts. As I look back, I remember the time and people and places and not the dollar signs. It’s not likely that I’ll be thinking, “I wish I’d bought a bigger house and a fancier car.”
Above all else, the chair test is personal. A thing that flunks my test may be the number one thing you’ll reach for from your beach chair, even before the little drink with the umbrella in it. And that’s the beauty of the test—it guarantees that you always get what you really want. And I believe that determining and reaching for what you really want is both the beginning and the end of this little vacation we call life.