I love lists: shopping lists, lists of people invited to a party, but especially To Do lists. The lists are like a scaffolding around my thoughts, which are always under construction.
At busy times I live in a cloud of non-specific anxiety as To Do’s float and sink in my consciousness. If I catch them and write them on a list, the anxiety melts away, almost as if they’ve already been accomplished.
I have To Do lists all over the house, written on receipts, the back of envelopes, the margins of my writing notebook. The little scraps of paper often disappear into my purse or my car, but I know they exist, and can usually find them when I wonder what I’m supposed to be doing. Still, when Amanda discovered “sticky notes” on the computer I was delighted - here was a list that would never stray. More than that, it would be an electronic nudge, nagging me every time I went to the computer. Oh, what wonders I would accomplish!
I happily made a list organized into categories. I deleted and added diligently for several weeks. And then the list, which pops up every time I turn on my computer, became just part of the wallpaper, and I didn’t see it anymore. It lost its power. The five items remaining on it date from last summer, and I’ve returned to the scraps of paper.
There are two kinds of people: listmakers and Everybody Else. Perhaps the Everybody Elses have excellent memories, and whenever they think of another task it pops into place on a list in their mind. Maybe some of them truly live in the moment, and everything they do is spontaneous. But I have virtually no memory, and my thoughts wander here and there. And if I always acted spontaneously, my house would be littered with broken crockery and cookie crumbs, as I have a hot temper and a huge appetite.
Maybe some of the Everybody Elses don't feel compelled to accomplish anything. There is something very appealing about the concept of highly spiritually evolved people who can simply Be rather than Do, people who can be still in every part of themselves. But whenever I have decided to take up meditation, I have always put ‘meditate’ on my To Do list.
I feel a lovely sense of satisfaction when I cross an item off a list. There’s nothing wrong with that. But all these years, as lists littered my life, I have been thinking that when I had crossed off every item I would be through. All my jobs would be completed, every obligation met. I had never noticed that as I cross off one task, two pop up in its place, like Hydra heads or air potatoes. Last week the lightbulb went off, and now I realize that I will die with unfinished To Do lists. Life is an endless succession of things To Do.
I'd love to hear from you! Do you make lists? Click "comments," below.
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