Individual words and short phrases written top to bottom on lined paper. It seems so simple and harmless. Yet, when I create it, I become a captive, helpless under its powers. It consumes my thoughts and controls my actions. I am powerless against the forces of The List.
Outside of the prison created by The List, I might be considered a controlling person. Of course, I see myself more as an efficient, organized woman. But others, especially those closest to me, feel as though I might be a control freak.
My efficient and organized nature combined with my overly communicative personality simply gives folks the wrong impression. Yes, it is true that if I ride in the car with you and you’re not taking the most direct route, it would be difficult for me not to point it out. But wouldn’t you want to know considering today’s gas prices.
There are efficient and organized ways to load a grocery cart, place groceries on the conveyor belt at the checkout, pack the bags, and load the car. I am proficient at each of these tasks and I feel compelled to share this wisdom with anyone who shops with me. Does that really qualify me as an overbearing control queen? I hardly think so.
It also could be said that I typically wear my companions down with my strong and well-thought-out arguments. More often than not, I do get my way. In my defense, I feel much more comfortable when I am in control of my environment. In addition, no one seems to like my personality when I become overly anxious. So me getting my way is a win-win for everyone.
And that’s why The List both helps and intimidates me. I need The List, because it helps me get things done. But it can be a source of great anxiety. I have yet to figure out a way to keep The List out of my head. From the moment it is born until all of its elements are crossed out, it nags at me. It wakes me in the middle of the night. The List heaps upon my head more guilt than my own Italian mother.
The older I get, however, the more I must depend on The List. I wish I did not have to be so increasingly dependent on it. I don’t like being powerless against anything, especially a collection of words scribbled on a piece of paper. But, The List helps me get things done. And I do like getting things done.
I’ve tried getting along without The List. I’ve tried just keeping track of what I need to complete, buy, find, or accomplish. But more often than not, something distracts me. It could be an invitation to meet a friend downtown and hang out, a great show on Netflix, or an unexpected piece of mail. It doesn’t take much to push something I wanted to remember out of my head and into oblivion.
Then, when it’s too late and not a moment before, the thought comes racing back into my head. As an efficient and organized person, there is nothing worse than forgetting and then remembering too late. Therefore, it is my need to control my environment that ironically pushes me into a co-dependent, love-hate relationship with The List.
I just wish The List wasn’t so unforgiving. It keeps me up at night. It makes my stomach and head hurt at times. It won’t give me peace until every task that comprises its life force is completed and struck down.
But then, when that strikethrough line slices the last item and The List falls to its knees, I feel on top of the world. To overcome that power and receive as a reward a great sense of accomplishment always seems to make creating The List worth it.
If something needs to be done, especially if there is a deadline, it must be on The List. If we need toilet paper, it must be on The List. If there is a meeting at the high school for which my presence is required, you won’t see me there unless the meeting was placed on The List. I honestly believe The List is so powerful that if I broke my arm, it wouldn’t heal unless I put the healing process on The List.
Since The List has so much power over me, I don’t allow others to put anything on it. Can you imagine what would happen if someone tampered with The List? If Hubby started adding to The List, it would include things like: drive down the other street; make lasagna; don’t steal blankets at night; watch Star Trek; bake cookies; let Hubby pack groceries in whatever way he sees fit. My world would crumble.
I’m grateful for The List. I respect The List. But my favorite time of day is the moment when I am able to, in good conscience, put The List out of my misery.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.