managing lists

I’m an expert list-maker. I always have been. I’ve got crazy mad skills in list making. Just ask any of my friends who have enjoyed the fruits of my labors from any of my archived packing lists.

Besides the ubiquitous and never-ending “to-do” list, I’ve got others: house projects, money,  school foundation, fantasy football waiver wire additions, gifts, restaurants and outfits. I still keep a pad of paper right next to my bed on my nightstand so I can jot down any stray thoughts, brilliant ideas, or items I shouldn’t forget. This is especially helpful for those occasional (ha!) rushed mornings getting the kids off to school.

I employed this strategy at summer camp when cousin K and I came to the tragic realization that some of the items we’d come with to Walton’s Grizzly Lodge had miraculously gone missing. So we posted lists of things we needed to find. I kept mine close to my bed, but K put her big piece of paper on the wall so everyone could see.

Missing pink dolphin shorts! Reward! 

No, she really did this. Except the list said this: K’S THINGS I’VE LOST LIST.

And below it she included a laundry list of items she’d misplaced: the beloved dolphin shorts, perhaps a turquoise polo shirt, maybe her favorite Bonnie Bell chapstick or Jean Nate bath splash. (Come on, this was 1984, we were 13). I did what any normal person would do – in bright blue pen at the bottom of the list I scribbled:


I thought this was pretty hilarious. So did everyone in our cabin. Unfortunately, our counselor did not. Oh well.

But back to my daily lists which ground me and provide me with peace that I’m Not Forgetting Anything Because I’m Writing It All Down. These lists have come in handy on my CJ, as it’s helped me  keep track of the various Doctor’s appointments, medications, restrictions, ingredients to avoid in personal products, foods to avoid that affect endocrine activity or increase in inflammation, just to name a few.

Miss J inherited the gift of lists. She writes notes to herself all the time and posts them all over her nightstand in bright pink pen embellished with hearts and smiley faces.

  • Julia, when you wake up in the morning remember to call H in the morning because you told her you would call her when you woke up. 
  • Julia, ask mommy to take you to the library to get the book you wanted from the library so she remembers she said she’d do it.
  • You need to make 2 rainbow loom bracelets for your friends and bring them to school on Monday because you told them you’d bring them to school on Monday so you should do it, ok?

OK, so she’s a little long in the tooth with her notes and might not grasp the full concept yet that she does not need to address herself in the notes she leaves for herself.

But there’s a downside to an overabundance of lists – and that is focusing on the completion of the task and placing so much emphasis on forward progress. I’m 100% guilty of this.  We feel good when I am crossing things off, getting things done, being productive, right? But the funny thing about my CJ is that it’s one seemingly elusive never-ending marathon in which the finish line keeps moving.

I reentry read a blog from a woman who chronicled the details of her reconstruction surgery, complications, many additional surgeries (this is not uncommon, unfortunately) and delays. She can’t wait until she crosses this milestone, or finishes this part of the process, when she realizes that the target keeps moving and is better off trying to be satisfied with or accept the stage she’s at now. She understood that with each step forward she’s eager to take another, and another.

For those who keep track at home, we’re now in the 2 day countdown of the occasion of Miss J’s widely celebrated 9th birthday. Two nights ago as I tucked her in, she says, “Oh my birthday is in 4 days and I have so much to do before then!”

My curiosity is peaked. What on Earth can almost 9-year-old have to do that is causing her such worry?

“I have to make a rainbow loom necklace to wear on my birthday, I have to write a list of the things I want for my birthday, and I have to plan my outfit to wear on Friday. I hope I can get it all done!”

Bless her little heart. I get it. It’s a lot of pressure. (Only 2 days to finalize an outfit? Sigh.)

But it got me thinking. My birthday wish for her is that she shift her focus less on what she has to do before a certain time, which might free her up to enjoy the journey a little more. I’m going to try that to. It doesn’t change the fact that I still have a myriad of things requiring my immediate and constant attention, nor does it change the fact that my CJ is hardly a journey I wish to cherish, but it may enable me to a greater place of acceptance. There’s another side of it too, which is finding acceptance when things aren’t great. It means allowing yourself to grieve, let unhappy thoughts wash over you, and allow yourself to be sad. There’s nothing wrong with that and I think we often rush ourselves through this process.

Slow it down. Savor. Soak it in.  Release. In other words: there will plenty of time to pick out outfits later.



ps. For an excellent resource on grief and loss, check out my friend E’s newly launched website which features a collection of insights, information and thoughts.

4 Responses

  1. Julia is just like you and i t’s soooo cute!! I got your point and am trying to get all of my lists done everyday. You can call it compulsive excessive. It wears me down knowing what I have to do remember and do. Love crossing off my list. Must run in our family.
    You’ve had a real stretch where you can think and put things in perspective. That’s what I try to do. While our outfits are very important so is smelling the roses. I’ve been taking in every word you have been writing. I think you are changing alot of lives with your blogs. You are one amazing I would love to say little girl, but have to say young woman.

  2. This entry had me laughing out loud…Dolphin shorts, Polo shirts, Bonnie Bell lip gloss…and…I loved Julia’s to do list before her big day. Happy Belated Birthday to your cute, note-making girl…I hope she was able to successfully cross everything off her list!!

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