Don’t Be Dumb: A confession

I might as well confess it here.

The mood can strike at any moment, and it will linger like a dark cloud until I take my pen and burst it.

I’ve got a dangerous list addiction.

The list in question can be about anything. The Shopping List is fairly innocuous except when it is too short. On those days I know I will buy too much extra stuff at the store. The Weekend List is probably the best kind, because it helps me to be happier on Sunday nights. The Allatime List is not a favorite, as it stares me square in the face at my desk and reminds of the stuff I should be doing all the time (or, “allatime”).  That list is nasty because things rarely get crossed off — who would ever cross off “make music” or “call the people you love”? (One thing that redeems the Allatime List is that it contains my books-to-reads sublist, which is always a good thing.)

Occasionally, the deadliest list of all zooms over in its dark cloud, crying out to be written until I cave and pick up the pen. You may be familiar with the one I’m talking about here.

I know it as the Life List. Some people may call it the Goals List, 5-Year Plan List, Bucket List, or Impossibly-Optimistic-List-That-Only-Ever-Sets-Me-Up-For-Failure List. That latter name is especially to be admired for its straight-shooting quality.

The Life List strikes at inopportune times, usually in the middle of an important task. It is often prompted by other people’s achievements or drinking caffeine — but rarely other people’s drinking caffeine, thank goodness. That would just be too much.

It struck today, after the Philosopher prepared me a particularly virulent mug of jasmine green. Notice how I slyly blamed him for my latest Life List there.

life list

Although I outwardly disdain the Life List, I secretly love it, which is why it is so deadly. I so want to be the person I list myself to be, that I almost feel like just writing the list gets me there. At the top of today’s Life List was “buy less stuff”. After I wrote it, I felt a palpable sense of relief.

Then I bought some face wash.

Do you see the dilemma here? For us listers, sometimes the list-writing feels almost equal to list-doing. And the more ambitious the list, the worse it gets. It can be helpful to clear the brain fog every once in a while and metaphorically gather your legs under you for the life sprint ahead –sure. But I can write a bulletpoint declaring I will only buy secondhand clothing from now on to reduce my carbon footprint and opt out of child slavery etc., but then I need a new pair of underwear, and somehow secondhand isn’t going to cut it, and before I know it I’m in Macy’s admiring some undies.

The list isn’t evil, of course. But it doesn’t change me like it always feels it’s doing when I write it.

Maybe instead of rules, I need guidelines. I need statements, rather than actions. I need, like, three bulletpoints instead of twenty. I need lists that are less about guilt and more about hope. I need to focus more on “be a community builder” and “work for justice” than I do on “buy less stuff”, which, let’s face it, is the lamest life goal I came up with today. Though “don’t be dumb” might be a close second.

Yeah, guidelines! I like it. Positive, easily memorizable, hope-driven… a guideline has it all. It’s a great idea! I could have one about loving people, one about sustainability, one about creativity…

Oh, wait. Uh oh. Shoot.

I think I feel a new list coming on.*

*advice, empathy, medication welcome

5 thoughts on “Don’t Be Dumb: A confession

  1. I sooo understand the list dilemma. Prior to smartphones organizing my many lists, post it notes were my friend. That is, until a particularly windy day when all thoughts flew through a parking lot on little scraps of paper. Literally, scattered thoughts in the wind. A great friend in Houston helped me solve that problem. We would run errands together with her trusty notepad in hand, carefully outlining our goals for the day. When something else distracted us, she simply added it to our list and crossed off said task. At the end of the day, not only was our original list complete (hopefully) but we had accomplished so much more while sharing special time together. A sense of accomplishment (albeit a distracted accomplishment) is always fulfilling. Keep in mind, one must have not too hefty goals for this approach ;0) Now, I must get back to my phone notes to see why I came before my computer before reading your blog….a distraction I so enjoy. Thanks.

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