Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
Living Without A List
by Meg Hanna House
For the last few months, I've been living without a list. Oh - I've gone through the organizing motions of list making and calendar maintenance, but never looked at them, never let them guide my days.
Living without a list is a dangerous business, as I found out this week when several to-dos got forgotten - a double-booking for my daughter, a last minute catch on an appointment, a sudden jerking awake 15 minutes after my son's school had let out. I even went so far as to grocery shop without a list. What is it that makes my mind go blank when I walk through those automatic doors? It's as if some brain vacuum above me sucks even the few items I knew I needed - milk, cereal, juice. How hard can it be?
Living without a list is like living without a net, like biking without a helmet, and this week I paid for it - luckily not with a limb or a severe concussion. A few bills were late, a few events forgotten - nothing crucial, though I do worry a bit about my son's trust in a mom who forgot two of his things in one week. On the other hand, maybe he will step in where he sees my skill is clearly lacking.
But this morning I went back to my list, my encounters with hard reality jarring me back to old coping mechanisms. I sat with the phone and the list and my calendar, checking items off, moving pieces around like tiles in one of those number puzzles. As I checked to-dos off, the list grew, till black and blue handwriting scrawled to the bottom of the page. I made phone calls, and left messages when someone wasn't there, feeling relief that the to-do was now in someone else's hands.
So I've pulled myself back from the edge of no-listdom. I'm back with my net, my helmet, my security blanket in hand. I've rebuilt my structure, if only for today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I may once again yell, "Look ma, no hands!" - not worrying about the pothole that awaits me at the bottom of the street.
Meg Hanna House lives (mostly with a list) and writes in Arlington, Va. Her work has a appeared in various publications, and she also fills her calendar with owning a wine store with her husband, music, and cycling.
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