Over the last few weeks I have discovered something wonderful about lists. You know, the kinds of lists that read like this:
– pay bills
– ride bike
– groceries (don’t forget toilet paper!)
– change bedsheets and do the washing
– vacuum house
– write 1,000 words of new book
– ring plumber
– buy new hoses to replace leaky ones
– see Anthony
– cook a healthy meal
– catch up with other people’s blogs
– wash car
– plan next week with Ming
– ring Mother to arrange lunch
– start new filing system
– get prescriptions from chemist
– book lawnmowing people
– do tax
– return library books
– start taking photos again
– start praying again
– make soup
– make a cake for Anthony and Ming
– go to bed earlier and get up earlier
– do a cull of clothes
– sort out rubbish to take to the dump
– do tomorrow’s list
Okay so, despite the fact that none of the above tasks is, in itself, onerous, it was this kind of list, that rendered me listless. (Interestingly, the word ‘list’ derives from the Middle English word, ‘pleasure’). I would only ever be able to accomplish a few of my listed tasks, I would then feel like a failure….
Eventually, I realized that this kind of list-making was making me extremely unhappy, so much so that I could hardly face each and every day. I resented each and every task I didn’t get done and each and every goal that went by the wayside.
Nevertheless, every night I would make another list for the following day. Energized by a pre-midnight spark of incentive, I would make more do-able lists. But with no job to go to, with no Anthony at home to care for, and with Ming out of school, there was rarely anything on my lists that couldn’t wait, so it felt as if I were continually failing myself.
As a result, the familiar depression curled itself into a small bundle of rock-hard heartburn that only left me alone when I was asleep. So I slept away many days in June until, on the 29th, I woke up with a new idea; I would write my daily lists differently; I would write them backwards instead of forwards; I would write what I had done every day instead of what I should do.
– paid all of the bills
– communed with dogs
– did all folding and put a load of washing on
– cleaned kitchen meticulously
– made a cake!
– saw Anthony from 1 – 4.30
– bought a bunch of coriander for the first time in my life
– made a curry from scratch
– washed hair
– communed with birds
– watched a show with Ming
– began reading a library book
To have done even some of the things I had listed as to-do for weeks (but not done), catapulted me out of my fug and into a fantastically different way of seeing each day. Now, with my listful notebook always handy, I list every single little thing I do on every single day – everything from washing my hair to planting strawberries; everything from poaching eggs to making friends with a new resident at the nursing home; everything from catching up with long-lost relatives to picking camellias for Anthony’s room.
This new listful method has also evolved into a better daily routine whereby I am in the nursing home every afternoon, seeing Anthony, doing the volunteering, seeing Anthony again and usually getting home by 6pm.
It is so wonderful to NOT be listless!