This morning the skies are blue and the sun is shining brightly but the house is quite cool. I light the wood stove to chase away the chill. How many more fires will I light before spring is fully entrenched? Quite a few, I suspect. In the summer I love the cool mornings with warm days but in early spring the colder mornings can seem like a step backward. This morning, however, snuggled up with a good pen, a notebook and a fresh cup of coffee, I’m content.
It’s spring break and now that I’m over an unfortunate stomach ailment, I can settle in and enjoy it. I got up early this morning excited to make my list. What is it about lists? I love making them! They are so full of promise—all that I can do—but also full of duty—all that I need to do. They cast order over the chaos of my world. There’s an illusion that all will be well if I just manage to cross out everything on my to-do list. Though at times they are overwhelming, the act of creating them soothes me. They are my road map to order and organization.
Sometimes I’ll have multiple lists going. Often one is for school and one for home. Or one for outside and one for inside. Or one for a specific topic—like planning for a trip or for a particular room in the house. My lists can be intended for completion in a day, or over a week, or even over several months. In a sense, when I create a list, I’m making goals for myself. And, by the way, I am one of those people. You know, the ones who will write something on a list that they’ve already done, so that they can cross it off? Sometimes I will break larger tasks down into several smaller items so they aren’t as daunting and I can see some progress along the way. Drawing a line through a completed task is a glittery gold star in my world.
Sometimes I’ll write really little things on my list. I remember talking with my Dad once about my mom’s ubiquitous lists. He was clearly puzzled. “Your mother got a bit carried away with lists. She used to write “pluck eyebrows” on them and things like that.” Well, Dad, she did have five children in a 7-year span. I suspect that writing those things on the list was the only way to remember them! Though I don’t have 5 kids, list love and a pending unibrow were apparently genetic, and I can relate. It’s just good list practice to add a few things that you can cross off your list with relative ease and that also make you feel better. Today, I make sure to add “paint toenails” to mine. It’s my defiant gesture at the lingering cold weather and a list-toast to my mom.
It’s so easy for my focus to narrow to the world of school and home maintenance. On this break, I’m focusing on home and me. I’m sure a school list will bubble to the surface soon enough, but for now I’m consciously ignoring that one. I’m determined to make some visible changes to my house—inside and out. A painting project will definitely go on the list along with some gardening goals and basic cleaning. My list also carves out space for more personal good intentions. I want to start running again —“run at least 3 times”. I’ve also written “do three new things” on my list, along with “go to the beach” and “go to a museum” and “write at least 3 blog posts”. Putting these personal goals and outings on the list elevates them to the same status as the “must dos” or “should dos”. It reminds me that they are just as valid and worthy of time and effort. Sometimes I need that reminder.
My list is my map to accomplishing all these things. In black and white. And even though I know I won’t cross each item off my list, I still have the evidence of good intentions and the illusion that it’s possible to do it all. And with some smaller items thrown in, I’m certain to earn at least a few glittery gold stars along the way.
You deserve lots of gold stars for today’s writing!
I love doing lists too. I liked “list-toast” to your mom. And inside and outside, just all of your writing. Your honesty helps me admit that I add items in order to check them off. The heat is on at my house; I don’t have a wood stove like yours. Great writing, Molly.
Consider submitting this “list” blog to the Maine Sunday Telegram. It’s an everywoman or everyman piece. We either make lists or live with someone who makes lists. I happen to have a daily list. This line, “They are so full of promise—all that I can do—but also full of duty—all that I need to do.” captures the underlying joy/responsibility lists bring.
Ok, so I’m one of those people too who writes things on a list just so I can cross them off! I think list making is almost a hobby for me. I completely connect with your post. 🙂