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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Feeling Listless

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Originally published January 5, 2007

This column is reprinted with permission from The Hills Newspapers.

It’s time to turn over a new leaf.  Or, in my case, a new sheet of paper.  With the start of the New Year, I am taking a fresh look at my old habit of making lists.

Last year ended with a flurry of paper.  Just as snow can be predicted in the mountains in December, it can be predicted I will have lots of to-do lists during the month.  With all the gifts to buy, cards to send, and parties to plan, the lists are endless.  In addition to holiday tasks, there are everyday tasks which easily fill-up lists, not only at the holidays, but all year long.

I am just one of those people who needs a list to go about my day.  Without one, there would be no way of knowing what to do first or last.  (Not to mention what to do in the middle.)  I rely on that little piece of paper to remind me what not to forget.

Normally, I have multiple lists going at once.  Like many people, I have the common household shopping list.  Taking it a step further, I have the shopping list broken down by venue.  In my opinion, it only makes sense to write “picture hangers” under “hot dogs”, if they can be found next to “mustard” in the grocery store.  (Everyone knows they are found next to “cup hooks” in the hardware store.)  So, my shopping list also has sub-lists, depending on where the needed items can be found.

Another important household list is one involving my family’s appointments and schedules. This list reminds me to do such things as make doctor’s appointments and schedule play dates.  Once appointments and schedules are made, they end up on a calendar.  In a way, the calendar is just a glorified list.  Sure, it can fool you with appealing landscapes (“2007 Photo Calendar of the Irish Countryside”), but before something takes root on the landscape, it sprouts on the list.

My favorite list is one I keep of story ideas for writing this column.  It is actually part list, plus other scraps of paper scavenged at the moment an idea comes to me.  Many of the ideas are written on backs of receipts, business cards, and napkins.  Like a blackjack dealer at a casino, I regularly shuffle the paper scraps hoping the idea that lands on top will be a winner.

On occasion, a list has gone missing.  Recently, I realized a list was lost during the course of errands around town.  It included a list for shopping and other things I planned to do. As I imagined the list falling into someone else’s hands, several thoughts flashed through my head.  Did I really want a stranger knowing I was in the market for wrinkle cream?  Would this person go ahead and pick-up the dry cleaning for me?  Could the person also identify my dirty car after reading the reminder to stop by the car wash?

Even in the absence of a list that day, I still managed to accomplish my tasks, leading me to question the necessity of a list.  Perhaps all the time (and paper) spent on keeping lists is just wasteful. Maybe a list is nothing but an unnecessary crutch.  If I really focus, everything can get done.

No matter how persuasive the arguments, I am still not convinced.  To consider life without a list is too overwhelming.  Just the thought of it makes me feel listless.  That is no way to begin the New Year.

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Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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