I make lists. Long ones. It started years ago. We had four busy kids at home, a dog or two, nearby grandparents, and my chronic volunteerism all jockeying for position on the calendar or in the carpool. If it didn’t make the list, it didn’t happen. The Sacred Holy List (hereafter referred to as the SHL) quickly became an appendage, like a college-ruled third arm.
You probably envision the SHL like other mundane to-do lists you have seen. No. Think epic—like the Odyssey of checklists. Two parallel columns of neatly written tasks march down the page. Three parts chore chart, one part wish list. The urgent (pay bills) sit side by side with the unlikely (paint banister). Some things (organize garage) take up permanent residence on the SHL and simply get carried over to the next list when I run out of lines. The garage has topped the Sacred Holy List since 2001, at least.
Now that we have no children living at home my schedule has become remarkably flexible. Why can’t I retire the Sacred Holy List? I wake up every day and head straight for the SHL in much the same way that normal Americans head for Starbucks. The morning cobwebs in my head clear as my eyes run down the List. I catch a whiff of purposefulness—the elusive aroma of productivity.
If I were to be honest about the source of the SHL’s mysterious power it boils down to one thing—the crossing-off part. Each item with a line through it gives me the illusion that my life is under control. Confession: I have even stooped so low as to add a task to the Sacred Holy List after I completed it, just so I could feel the triumphant rush of making that thin, blue line. I know. Pathetic, right?
A few weeks ago, in the throes of packing for vacation, the SHL went missing--buried under the junk mail and wedding announcements that overrun my kitchen desk every summer. I was paralyzed, couldn’t move a muscle. How would I know what to do, much less what I had already done? The day’s accomplishments would be joyless, devoid of satisfaction unless I could cross them off!
Somehow I limped along to get the bags packed and the doors locked and the key passed along to the dog-sitter. By the time I boarded the airplane, my list withdrawal pains had started to subside. Calm and cool-headed, I vowed to wean myself from the list when I got home. My unlisted status lasted one day. Day two I got a little shaky and gave in, starting with one modest column of realistic ambitions. No clean the garage or write the great American novel or label the thirty-seven shoeboxes of family photos and put them in scrapbooks. I'm simplifying. But more on that later. I’ve got to go put a line through write blog post.
Tell me I'm not alone! How psychotic is this? Maybe I don't want to know. Anyone out there share this compulsion?