The Tyranny of Lists

I make lists.

I make multiple lists every day.

Right now there are five fresh lists between me and my monitor: stuff I have to ask the plumber to do, phone calls I have to make, ideas for blogging with a side list of songs to download, stuff I have to do at work, and the start of a grocery list.

Very few of these task will get done. I make lists, then I resent them. I’m all like “Don’t fucking tell me what to do!”

I use lists to try to structure my time and relieve the constant anxiety I feel that I am forgetting something.

Some of the lists are practical (oil change! vet appts!). Some are wishful thinking (clean garage! wash exterior windows!). And some are pure fantasy (learn Arabic! train dogs to behave!)

I make comprehensive lists with sublists and then I rewrite them when they get too messy and they’re full of multiple tasks that can never all be done in the time frame I’ve set out for them. And then I stick them to the cupboard or the fridge or the bathroom mirror and they glare at me reproachfully, all judgy and disapproving, and I feel anxious, inadequate, and harried. No matter how much I try to scale down my lists and keep them realistic, they always seem to grow like ominous thunderheads.

I have tried for a long time to reframe lists as “external memory” so that I can see them as helpful aids rather than bossy directions. But they keep growing tentacles and cracking whips. I cringe away from them. This morning, the note at eye level on the bathroom mirror was “OIL CHANGE!!!” but my gaze slid away from it and I was halfway to work before I remembered I had to turn around and head to the dealership.

The other day, I read The Blazing To Do Lists and was so excited. The blogger who wrote that post actually burned all their lists! And I was stunned. I was thinking “Wow, you can DO that????” So I decided to throw my lists in the recycling.

But I couldn’t do it. Because how would I remember anything? And also, as I was gathering the lists together to recycle them, they suddenly fascinated me. My life in lists. My projects and plans and problems and ponderings. I tried to put all the grocery lists in date order based on their contents (All that ice cream must have been during the heat wave! And oh yes, the Great Tampon Shortage of June 2015—look at all those underlines!).

Suddenly I couldn’t bear to let them go. And what do people do with those things of which they can’t let go? That’s right, people and bots: we BLOG about them. So I started a new blog called  Notes to Self which is basically an archival deposit of old notes. If you’re interested in how often popsicles or ice cream show up on my grocery lists, or what cleaning tasks I have to perform before strangers can come to my house, or the scribbles from which I recreate a book review, or what songs have caught my ear, head on over.

Because once they’ve been photographed, uploaded, cropped, inserted into a post, categorised and tagged and published, I can finally toss them in the recycling bin. After transferring the info to a new list, of course.

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4 thoughts on “The Tyranny of Lists

  1. honestme363

    Lovely! Thank you for the link! I will admit that I do make grocery lists and I have been tempted to start scribbling to do down…but I refuse to return to them. REFUSE! I like your take “my life in my lists” and the humorous, heartfelt way you have portrayed them/you. Thanks for sharing a bit of yourself with us. ☺

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

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