I am a list maker and my specialty is To Do lists. When the weight of the world is bearing down heavily upon my shoulders, I sharpen my No.2 pencil and get to work. More often than not, the very act of making my list is calming enough. I am not above including tasks that have I recently completed – or will complete in a matter of seconds – just so I can cross something off quickly. Between work and home, my life often feels chaotic, like a video game where I am behind the wheel of a race car and only able to see what is directly in front of me. Deadlines appear from nowhere, causing me to swerve violently so as not to hit them and crash in a fiery mess. My list serves as the road map, with all obstacles clearly marked. One by one, I clear a path. And eventually I start to breathe again.
But sometimes, the list is so overwhelming that making it has the opposite effect. I can’t cross items off fast enough. The bottom keeps growing. I am interrupted and can only eliminate a portion of a single item. I accidentally omit something important. And the tasks that I want to do are not represented at all. At times, I truly resent the list and when I say “the list” I mean “my life.” I realize my life is of my own making, but there are days when I feel completely driven by obligation. And nothing is going to make me feel better. Head down. Kill the snakes first. Rinse and repeat.
For the last several weeks, I have been beholden to the damn list. Today is no different. Here is a portion what I woke up with to complete before the sun goes down:
- Post blog
- Complete projects A thru Z at work
- Check on Chase’s physical form from pediatrician so he can start track practice
- Go to yearly GYN exam
- Drop off dresses at dry cleaners
- Try to change flight on Friday to arrive home in time to see Noah off to Frosh dance
- Look into flower order for dance
- Pick up free moisturizer before coupon runs out
- Email Noah’s math teacher about grade
- Confirm tutor for Math
- Pay bills
- Call Mom, Dad, Mother-in-Law, Sister, Brother about ______________
- Start taxes
- Begin forms for Noah’s Israel trip
- Look into getting washing machine serviced
Sometimes, I get so busy during days like this, I forget to eat or go to the bathroom. I realized this insanity yesterday when I finally dashed to the potty without a moment to spare, leaving the door slightly ajar in my haste. Within 10 seconds, both the dog and the cat followed me in and sat staring at me as I sat staring back at them. They both inched closer, nudging my legs, asking to be pet. Sigh. Before I could add “shut bathroom door” to my list and feel a little sorrier for myself for not even to be able TO PEE IN PEACE, I was overcome by the poignancy of it all. And rather than frustration, I felt happy for my pets who want to be with me every moment – and for indoor plumbing, which is not a given in everyone else’s lives.
Perhaps I am looking at my never ending To Do list all wrong. What if I turned it on its head? It might look something like this:
Post blogThank you all for reading my words here each week. Complete projects A thru Z at workThank you to my partners for trusting me with such important work. Check with pediatrician on Chase’s physical form so he can start track practiceThank you doctors who watch over my son so that he is healthy and wants to run like the wind. Go to yearly GYN examThank you healthcare insurance. Drop off dresses at dry cleanersThank you Women’s PE Summit for asking me to speak at your conference this week. Try to change flight on Friday to arrive home in time to see Noah off to Frosh danceThank you US Air for flying me across the country safely. Look into flower order for danceThank you Noah’s date for saying yes. Pick up free moisturizer before coupon runs outThank you Clinique for this excellent offer that will keep me looking younger. Email Noah’s math teacher about gradeThank you to the Math Department for challenging my son. Confirm tutor for MathThank you Math Tutor for having time on Tuesdays to get my kid back on track because I remember NOTHING from Algebra II. Pay billsThank you bank account for being ample enough to cover our expenses. Call Mom, Dad, Mother-in-Law, Sister, Brother about ______________Thank you loved ones for being in my life to the degree that we need to talk about all sorts of things. Start taxesThank you employers for allowing us to have “earnings.” Begin forms for Noah’s Israel tripThank you National Federation of Temple Youth for offering Noah an opportunity I never had. Look into getting washing machine servicedThank you Universe for putting me in a situation where I can call someone to fix a machine that washes our clothes. I could have easily been born to another life where I would have to go searching for fresh water to drink, let alone wash. My life is truly blessed.
I soon realized that there wasn’t a To Do item on any of my lists that couldn’t be viewed as a Thank You. It is far too easy to take for granted how good we have it. All these tasks? I’m lucky to have them! A little appreciation helps carry the load and make the day feel a hell of a lot lighter. And if ever in need of an attitude adjustment, I’ll just go back to the indoor plumbing. Works every time… for which I am truly grateful.