COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

My Life… My List

I’M A listmaker. I make to-do lists, which include everything, from ”return library books” to “write novel.”  I make gratitude lists nearly every morning which includes the routine -”morning coffee’” all the way up to the stuff that gets taken for granted such as being warm and dry on a blustery, rainy day.

I started listmaking during grad school. My fellow grad school cohort, Sheri, used to write lists in between classes. I asked her what she was doing, how she did it and why she did it. It organized her and focused her energies. It acted as a reminder of her hopes and dreams. So I tried it. I started with  assignments, added to-do projects, and expanded it  to include hopes and dreams..

Listmaking is a useful skill during times of stress. When I sold my house and was moving, it seemed overwhelming until I made a to-do list. Lists can evolve into time-lines. Look at the items and realize that the third item down needs to be done soon, if not immediately. Last item should be done sometime in the next week. Items 3, 6, and 7 can go together and be done sometime in the next year. That sort of thing.

Why am I even writing about this??  Because when life gets overwhelming- and it has lately, and for many- there’s only so much one can do to deal with it, and listmaking is a tool. The act of writing relaxes. The act of thinking, of identifying things to do, things to be grateful for, things to aim for…. all create a sense of purpose and hope. It also gives one a sense of control.

So much can feel out of control! This crazy economy impacts mypersonal finances, which in turn impacts my personal life. I don’t eat out much and I limit my expenditures. My social life has sufferd. And when my pug had a bad limp, I was grateful that doggie aspirin fixed the limp. That made my gratitude list. Healthy pets always make my gratitude list.

Counselor’s suggestion:  Make lists. Define the list- if you want-  “gratitude list” or “to-do list.” Sometimes just jotting down everything that comes to mind  randomly will start the list process, and it won’t matter what “kind” of list it is. You can always go back and assign items to one list or another,  in order of importance or not.

The lists are not to be used as something to check off or in any way add stress to one’s life. The physical process of writing list items is relaxing in itself. The items that show up on paper may or may not have been fully conscious ideas. You may be surprised to find “tap-dancing” or “save for world cruise” on your list. Finish this, start that. Save for this, check into that.  The only limit to anything on the list is your imagination. As we age, we find ourselves on a path that somehow surprises us. We’re not sure how we got to where we got and we’re not sure we want to be where we are…. but here we are. Jobs, homes, families, bills, health issues, death….. Creating a  list is a hopeful act. A list  can be reflective. A list gives some direction. A list helps you get from here to there. And ultimately, it helps you get to know – you.

By Tobi Nason

Tobi is a Manzanita counselor.