Sunday, 9 March 2008

Little Old List-maker, Me

I’m a list-maker. Most people are, but I’m a bit more compulsive than some. I make lists about my plans: things to do today, deadlines to meet this month, goals for the year; big projects I want to tackle one day, minute instructions for myself. Christmas gift lists and wish lists, packing lists, grocery lists, American shopping lists, vacation places to consider, recipes and crafts to try, exercise plans, guest lists, cleaning chores, ‘super foods’ I want to eat more.

I make lists about my past: ‘done’ lists, cities and countries visited, cars, homes, offices, men, jobs, dogs, classes toward a degree, debts paid, races and race times, the major events and accomplishments of the past year, what I ate yesterday.

I make lists to keep track and to pay attention: what the freezer and the pantry contain, what foods are currently in season, websites and weblogs I visit often. I list what I don’t like about me and what I do, the roles and responsibilities I have and how I’m doing with those. I make gratitude lists to keep my perspective and happy lists to make sure I have enough fun (making lists is on my happy list!) As a teen I remember once making a ‘List of Things to Worry About’; it must have been a stressful time.

My lists occasionally become inventories, databases or projects. Lists of stamps, coins, albums, DVDs, books and Christmas ornaments (with dates ranging from 1944 to present) morph into calculations of my net worth or background research for posting items on Ebay. My pantry list has become a database of food prices. My electronic address book is a database with spreadsheets for the UK, the US and Oklahoma, email addresses and birthdays (does the Data Protection Act apply to my address book?). I compare a list of items I want to frame with a list of the picture frames I found in the attic; sewing pattern requirements with fabric in my stash. I list the characteristics I require when looking for a new house, car or freezer; what I want in my next job.

Sometimes these lists are to help me get more done, other times just to procrastinate doing anything. Writing a list still makes me feel a little more in control, which is usually comforting, whether or not it’s entirely true. My lists are my way of reflecting about my previous choices, about the course of my life and how different that is to what I thought it would be. They also help me to keep going, seeing all that I have done in the past gives me more confidence to persevere. Virtually every one of my dreams, schemes or intentions begins life in a list.

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