The perfect to-do list: The one where the act of putting a task on the to-do list completes the task. It doesn’t exist.
There are websites for one to use to make to-do lists, apps for shopping lists (I own a not-very-smart phone, so I am an outsider to the world of apps), websites on which you can compile top 10 lists with friends. After one creates an account and logs in, not a single one of these websites offers “get a notepad or a scrap of paper and a pen and start writing your list” as the first item listed, so I guess they are indeed serious.
I am not one to scoff at online office tools or their use. I no longer compose in longhand and type straight into WYSIWYG tools like, well, the WordPress composer that I am using right now and other tools like 750 Words. I recently used an online website to create a legal document, and it even e-handled the e-task of e-contacting the required e-parties of e-first and e-second e-parts to e-sign e-it. Not one drop of ink was spilled, but typing that sentence just now cramped my hands and (I fear) severed my relationship with the English language. I have had an email account of one sort or another since 1986, starting with the one I never used at Marist College.
Further, there are online courses one can take to help one learn to create better or more “do-able” lists (item the first: don’t use the word “do-able”), lists that give one a sense of accomplishment because with them one crosses items off throughout the day, one gets things done all the damn day because computers and online courses and technology. After virtually attending one of these virtual courses, one discovers that one is spending more time crossing items off the list than actually doing the things on the list.
Lists of life plans or life changes are daunting, and too often in my life these have become scraps of single sheets of paper left behind when I moved, pages unmodified but for the bleaching that long exposure to sunlight works on paper. Many of the things I would like to change in my life are things that I complain about but no one else seems to think of as issues. Should I have written this prompted post earlier today? Probably, as now I am rushing and it is already afternoon. And I have a side job that I should be attending to and … . You know the rest. I have not checked my Twitter account in hours. Or this. Or that. And lunch. I haven’t eaten. And I slept incompetently last night and need to get back to my lifelong studies in that field. Someone dear to me is napping downstairs …
My first item is always “Don’t waste time.”
Our culture teaches us that we do not have enough, have not done enough. Whatever “it” is, we lack it or some perfecting aspect of it, or we broke it. We tell ourselves through our day that we are not sufficient unto ourselves, that there is a mythical “more” we need to be doing, that we are are walking, talking beings who can be defined only by what we lack. There is always more. Lists of more. Write more pages. Do more squats. Cut 250 out of every 500 words. Hate yourself more. You know, one can never hate oneself enough.
For instance, my second thought upon waking is, “I am still tired. I don’t think I slept enough.” Enough? (If you must know, my first thought upon waking is “Who am I?”) Enough? We are told that we are supposed to sleep eight solid hours a night, which is a number that I last hit when I was an infant and someone was watching over me. Some highly paid pop culture therapist is probably pitching a book idea right now: Dream 5 Dreams a Night for Better Health, Not One Dream More or Less.
This list-creating, never-can-do-enough-because-you-yourself-never-are-enough way of thinking that pervades society helps to add to the aspect of me that is inclined to think that I am doing things wrong, everything wrong, two equally bad notions: 1., that I did not get to sleep early enough and need to do better at this, as if sleep is a job with performance metrics, and 2. (not ironically and at the same time), that I am lazy if I need more sleep.
Please note that I last held a job in 2010. I am disabled. There are not a lot of demands on my time, and I make my own schedule as a result. But I wake every morning at 7:00 a.m., which someone named Mark Aldrich is sure to tell me tomorrow that this is too late for someone who insists on referring to himself as a writer. I guess I am not a writer. Too many errors, too many words, wakes up too late.
So yes, there are five things I can list that I think would provide me with an improved life, a qualitatively better life, if I worked on them and achieved them. The great life improvement would be a self that no longer complains to itself about the handful of things that I berate myself about, not that these things were accomplished and crossed off some list.
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This is a re-write of a piece from April 2015.
The WordPress Daily Prompt for November 18 asks us to reflect on the word, “Mythical.”
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