To Do or Not to Do, That is the Question

April 1, 2023 at 12:00 a.m.
Margaret created a TO NOT DO List
Margaret created a TO NOT DO List Margaret Larson

Margaret Larson


I turned 65 in February. There, I said it. I don’t know why it came as such a surprise, given that I’d had 64 years to prepare. But something was different. Maybe it’s the concurrence of Social Security, Medicare, senior discounts, and the reality that I’m still middle-aged only if I live to be 130.

Now, trust me when I say I am grateful for these years. I’ve had a fun and fulfilling life, raised a wonderful son, traveled, enjoyed great friendships, and I’m still here. My own mom worked low wage jobs after my parents’ divorce and didn’t live long enough to retire, so when I count my blessings, there are many.

Still, 65 is a…what? A milepost birthday? A sneak attack? A kick in the pants? Fortunately, my high school friends are cruising down the same part of the highway, and I’ve had a chance to consult them and others to benefit from their collective wisdom. Most of us remember being lost in schedules, to-do lists, and a multi-colored sea of post-it notes in our 30s and 40s, experiencing a time-famine as we sorted through responsibilities as a worker, a parent, a partner, a caregiver, a housekeeper / chauffeur, a volunteer. Diapers. Details. Deadlines.

With more time and experience to draw on at this stage of life, I now propose a new organizational system: The TO NOT DO List. Here are my top three.

First, do not carry unnecessary worry. We all have challenges and concerns, but we’ve reached the age to ditch habitual worry, those ruminations about the past, the small stuff, the things we can’t do anything about. When we find ourselves over-activated in worry about the state of the world, our adult children, or what might happen, you know, someday, we are wasting the present moment. And there are fewer of those ahead than behind us. Attending to the ‘right now’ is our privilege and priority, and we shouldn’t miss it.

Second, do not conform. Adolescence is full of the pressure of fitting in, figuring out who we are, comparing ourselves to others. Careers often involve the wrong kind of competitiveness and an unwelcome entry into the rat race. That’s over. Proceed at your own pace. Do what you want to do with your time. Downsize and declutter inside and out. Open your mind to learning while still knowing that you are a rare and wise creature. You are valuable. You are unique.

Third, do not despair over the outward signs of aging. No one lucky enough to live a real life escapes the wrinkles and changes in body shape, at the very least. I know it’s especially hard for women who often feel and are treated as if we are invisible with age. (I figure if we’re invisible, we can roam around in packs, and they’ll never see us coming! A story for another day.) The truth is that we are now at peak power, my sisters, with more time and energy to laser focus on what we know is truly important, including helping one another.

My list might not be your list. But I hope your list allows you to NOT do, to unburden yourself of things that no longer serve you. I wish you freedom. And self-knowledge. I hope you lean into all the things you enjoy with as much abandon as you did as a kid. I pray that we encourage each other to find genuine gratitude, because gratefulness creates joy, I think, not the other way around. If we put our heads together, there’s no end to what we can ‘not do!’

Margaret Larson retired as host of KING 5‘s "New Day Northwest." Her impressive 35-year career included stints as a London-based foreign correspondent for NBC News and as a news anchor for the Today show, as well as a reporter for Dateline NBC and anchor at KING 5. 
Connect with Margaret Larson at 
 • @Margaret_Larson on Instagram 
 • @_MargaretLarson on Twitter

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