Make a List

“She got a lot done.” That’s what it will say on my headstone when I die and the reason I got a lot done is that I made To Do lists all my life.

This is today’s list on the left. I made it at 2am perched on the bathtub’s edge when sleep once again eluded me.

A person’s list can be puzzling to others: My list sometimes says “Remove nails” which sounds like a terrible sort of torture, pulling someones toenails out of their nailbeds I know but actually refers to taking off the polish.

The personal care items appear at the top of most day’s lists but soon give way to the larger projects, like this lofty goal penciled in on list for the weekend. “Edit book,” it could have said because I’ve decided to take one of my audio books and release it as a black-and-white-hold-it-right-there-in-your-hands document that people can read and look back . I’ve already picked out my assistant editor who will watch the most glaring errors from the script that I used in recording the thing. Though just 17, this person is only one I know under 75 who uses the words “shall” and “will” correctly. Plus the young have good eyes, and their bottoms don’t get as tired from sitting as the bottoms of us old folks. Never mind that a young person practically has a laptop sewn to his thighs most of the time. Easy money!

Here’s what Annie Dillard wrote on the subject of lists and they schedules they give rise to:

“A schedule is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order…. a haven set into the wreck of time. It is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living…”

I love that idea, that a schedule makes the scaffolding that holds us aloft even when we think we might tumble from the great heights at which we balance in this precarious life.

Remember that so when trouble does come you will have your list: “Bathe, 7am” it will say. “Fold wash 8:00” and on as you make your way through even the hardest days, when you file for unemployment, say, or wake to remember your diagnosis. My young grandfather wrote this in his journal just hours after his wife and unborn daughter died of a raging infection:

This morning I will go to Undertaker Feeney’s and choose my darling’s narrow room. Now I will lie down on the couch now and watch the blackest day of my life dawn, though the sun comes up brightly and the birds sing in the window. How will I keep sane?

He kept sane the way we all do: by drawing up a little plan and putting one foot in front of the other. And savoring the sweet moments, and laughing as much as you can.

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5 thoughts on “Make a List

  1. I too am a list-maker and my lists of things to do, sometimes carried over a day at a time for weeks, have kept me going through some hard times too. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Your ‘To Do’ list puts me to shame! I am the sort of person who writes a list and then leaves it at home, destined to spend the day wandering about trying to remember whats on it. Must be more disciplined!

  3. “We plan and God laughs.” …”savoring the sweet moments and laughing as much as you can” is certainly the secret. You have learned it; and shared it; well. 🙂

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