A life without checklists is like slow dancing to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ It starts predictable even romantic but then transitions into a melody with no possible dance steps to follow — an excellent metaphor for life.
I’ve become the Queen of Lists. I never use to be. Birthed out of necessity; my allegiance grew towards this method of recording each time I was pregnant because the maternity books speak nothing of the fact that the cutie patootie in your belly is sucking your brain dry and holding what little reasoning and intelligence you have left, hostage. Consequently, you can’t remember shite. What used to be a beautifully articulated flow of language are now thoughts uttered over your lips in the form of gags, pauses and hesitations as if you came out of your first ESL course. During the years we aren’t pregnant, we are often void of a chunk of our original brilliance, due to previous pregnancies. Despite working hard to retrieve it in our early forties, menopause soon shows up and hijacks what’s left of our ability to be coherent on demand. I spend more time acting out words to anyone I’m communicating with from friends to the cashier at the local grocery store. I’m living in a constant white fog out of a Stephen King novel. It follows me everywhere while I’m acting out in a perpetual game of charades. I can’t access the language or the itemized tasks that used to be readily available to me.
I now live with an eternal 15 minute to 15-hour verbal delay. The right word comes to me but at a later time and if you’re in the heat of a debate or argument and your best stuff is happening 15 minutes after the fact, it defeats the purpose. I end up alone in the car when suddenly a tsunami of brilliant and articulate prose surfaces. Had I spoken blah, blah, blah that would have shown them? I’ve officially become Michigan J. Frog, the animated character from the Bugs Bunny cartoons where only his owner bears witness to his talented singing and dancing. I get to witness my own when I’m alone. Instead of some cheeky insightful rebuttal, some rudimentary insignificant and lame reply surfaces in which I have to find consolation.
This mental disconnect had me employ checklists in my car, purse, office, and kitchen. If Marie Kondo, the organizing expert, asked me which list brings me joy I’d have to say none of them.
For the longest time, I enjoyed writing them because I could see through one stroke, what I accomplished. The problem is the pace at which I achieve pales in comparison to the speed of that which my checklist grows. I had individual lists I created for Christmas, Easter and other significant times of the year for food, decorations, small gifts and whatever other bullshit I believed I needed to record. No OCD here, just a firm intention to keep my/our lives organized and predictable. At the time each one was on a different scratch pad keeping the various lists more catalogued. Okay, maybe a tad OCD. At the end of the month, I gathered the notepads, reviewed what was done, and merged them only to discover that even Jesus Christ couldn’t get done what I believed I could tackle.
I moved my lists into a digital form because of my handwriting. I have none. All the years of cursive I acquired from pages of writing lines and letters, was wasted on me. My longhand is worse than a doctor’s prescription written in Latin. Calligraphy it never was. Chicken scratch only begins to describe it. I can’t decipher it, so there’s no reading it. Hieroglyphics are simpler to discern.
Consequently, I cease to continue to use paper and pen. My phone and thumbs have had to come to my rescue. My typing teacher would be proud, my cursive teacher, not so much.
With my lists currently on my phone, they have grown to the point that they’re consuming measurable space, in the form of data. The problem is once you delete a task digitally, it appears as though nothing was done. One swift side stroke on the screen and voila, a mission is complete, instantly erased in the cyber world while what remains continues to nag at you. At least on paper, you have the satisfaction of putting a line through it. Like a dagger through an irritating task. Gratification with one stroke.
My kitchen list works best for me. As soon as something runs out, I record its replacement come grocery day — no overbuying or wasting of food. Everyone in my household was welcome to add to the list when it was on paper, but nobody ever did. The concept of picking up a writing tool and putting it to paper was effortful. Another reason I started one on my phone. Those in my family that have an aversion to cursive text me if they need anything. When it comes to meal planning, I’ll attach my menus as a separate note, so I not only replace the staples I use, but I have an orderly accounting of all that I require for whatever else I’m preparing for that week.
The list in my car has morphed into a dream list. Things I’d like to find or places I’ve passed while in transit that I’d like to explore. I’ve not ticked one thing off of that list, so I stopped maintaining it. It was the only list that was interesting.
My house checklist went from a small pad of paper into a two-inch spiral notebook of all the things needing to be addressed. I’ve since buried that deep in my office because each time I pick it up, it feels like money is dripping from the pages even before you open it.
My office list is more an agenda of what to tackle so that my space can maintain a physical appearance of being in alignment with Feng Shui principles. Aesthetically pleasing and organized. It’s neither, consequently another dropped list.
Alongside my digital integration, I connected with Pinterest where I have created tons of lists that I’m pretty confident I won’t be employing. I can, however, share the ingenious ideas that I collect with friends. Plus the novel approach to address things will make me look like I haven’t lost nearly the scope of my intelligence that I believe I otherwise have.
With a new year, I vowed to change my lists which are all secured under my Notes in my phone. I eliminated those that didn’t serve me and expanded on others that did. Interestingly, I feel lighter. It made no sense to continue to do something that appeals to my head and adds nothing to my productivity or satisfaction.
The latest list I am compiling is one I’m not resisting. It is the list of wishes and intentions that accompany an updated Will. The components will be a narrative of who I have become on this planet, and it will follow the same Kondo rules of organization and Grace that is in that process. The goal, a simple, straightforward list that someone else will expedite. An interesting exercise that is not morbid but empowering. What this exercise has illustrated to me is I need not reserve that intention for what will ultimately be my final list. Instead, apply that sensibility to all the checklists that I am currently juggling. It’s a great reminder that we don’t take any of it with us, so we are free to unload what doesn’t serve us. As I list the items, the wishes and intentions I would like fulfilled, I’m asking myself if they bring me joy. If for any reason it doesn’t then I have the opportunity to change that and ensure that only those things that calibrate high in my life remain on the final list. That cataloguing will be magical as it will ultimately define who I am in a tangible way emanating the joy that I have built in this lifetime.
I’m not cashing in my chips as yet, but what an excellent exercise to step back, take inventory of our time on this planet and know we have the chance to make it the sweetest checklist by culling anything that doesn’t bring us bliss — no minutia, charades or to do’s. Just a tangible expression of pure joy, compiled in a list designed for our Higher Self and lovingly passed forward.