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.

Enough with the ‘Old’ Talk

myself am not old; just my insides are ha ha. The day my mother died, I was walking her to the car to bring her to the big birthday party arranged in her honor, when she turned to me and said, “I feel like a bride!”

Go figure huh? You just never know. I could die today or I could live another 40 years. People born in 2012 could reach the age of 150 I read last week – by which time they WILL have pantyhose for the upper arms! 

I’ve done a kind of Theme-of-theiWeek thing  from time to time here on this blog, like when I had that Name That Celebrity contest back in March, or with last week’s talk of Fashion, or now with the subject of Aging two days in a row.

It happens this way: You get rolling and the ideas pop and the yarn spools out and you get thinking ‘Snip it off now and you’ll have yarn for tomorrow!’ Or, to use another domestic art, “Keep back a bit of yeast today and you’ll have bread for another day!’ It’s comforting  to have someplace to start the next day. It is for me especially, because I’m determined to make good on my promise to write here every day no matter what. It’s my gift, this ability to write with  honesty. I just want to give it and not worry about who might be there to receive it.

I can tell you there’s peace in that outlook. It’s very calming to just be able to love the world without worrying whether the world will love you back. I probably learned this when I realized what a big chunk of the audience at any author talk I gave was just there trying to get in out of the cold; just trying to get off their feet awhile. It was OK by me. They made great audience members.

So really I don’t worry much about what I will write here next. Annie Dillard said it about doing any first draft: the problem is how to set yourself spinning. But once you do, you can keep on spinning for a good long time I have come to see, since really, spinning is just talking, freely and unselfconsciously. Ask a question of the guy next to you in line at the Post Office and you’ll see: He’ll spin like a top. We all will, given the chance.