The Tyranny of Lists

June 14, 2014

“A tyranny of lists engulfed me.  The lists created the illusion that my life was full.”
— Sue Bender, Plain and Simple

My current "To-Do" List

My current “To-Do” List

And here is the dark side of list making:  giving the “illusion” that my life is full.  It is perhaps a false sense of accomplishment when tidy check marks indicate the completion of tasks.  Yes my life is full, but full of what — those myriad duties and tasks of running a household which are sometimes not that rewarding or satisfying, but which need to be done whether they are on a list or not.

Here are two lessons I need to keep in mind about these seemingly insignificant tasks on my “To-Do” lists:  First, with the right attitude, I can find the sacramental in even the smallest activity.

“It’s only what we learn while we’re doing what seems to be basically routine that really counts; how to endure, how to produce, how to make life rich at its most mundane moments.” — Joan Chittister

And second, it is important not to lose sight of the Being in all the Doing.  In fact, I need more unscheduled spaces in my life — fewer tasks that steal my attention and energies so that I can spend more time and thought on a few things that I deem important in my life.

“It’s not busyness that destroys us.  It is simply being perpetually busy with things that only scatter rather than deepen us.” — Joan Chittister, Welcome to the Wisdom of the World

A blank “To-Do” list.

What do you think about that!




The Poetry of Lists

June 13, 2014

“As oppressive as a list may be when one is a slave to its demands, there is a certain beauty to it; to seeing all the tasks that must be laid to rest all arranged and laid out like a poem.”
— Bill Richardson, Bachelor Brothers Bed & Breakfast

My list of fun things to do this summer

My list of fun things to do this summer

I admit that I am fond of lists.  I seem to have so many odds and ends zinging around my mind that I need lists to help organize my thoughts.  Once I’ve captured an item on paper, I stop fretting about it.

I don’t think of the items on my list being “laid to rest” once I complete them, but I do find satisfaction in checking them off one by one.  I like the idea of my list being structured like a poem.  I am a poet who doesn’t know it!


Imagining Texas

March 15, 2011

Cowboy boots for sale in a store window

“Journeys are like that; they start out as imaginings, generated from a word heard here or an image seen there, then they take on a vitality of their own . . .”
     — Roger Housden, Sacred Journeys in a Modern World

I’m off to Texas for a week!  I’ve never been to Texas, and I’m looking forward to exploring a new state.  We’ll be meeting up with my Dad, my uncle, my sister and brother-in-law for a few days, then will take off on our own.  I won’t be sending posts from the road, but I’ve got some in the hopper to last until we get back.  So do continue to check in.

Here’s a list of Things I Hope To See and Do in Texas (compiling it was part of the fun of anticipating, planning, and imagining this trip):

  • Travel the back roads; avoid freeways
  • Sketch a blue bonnet in bloom
  • Sample as much authentic Texas barbecue as possible
  • Window shop for cowboy boots
  • Keep an eye out for armadillos and long-horn cattle
  • Fill one Moleskin notebook with trip notes and sketches
  • Sit for a few minutes of contemplation in the Rothko Chapel
  • Read Lonesome Dove aloud in the car
  • Collect some sea shells from the Gulf coast
  • Savor TexMex and Cajun food
  • Leave footprints on a sandy beach
  • Photograph some quintessential cowboy hats, Western shirts, and belts
  • Go to a rodeo

Running Errands

March 14, 2011

Shopping carts at Costco

“We fetch fire and water, run about all day among the shops and markets, and get our clothes and shoes made and mended, and are the victims of these details, and once a fortnight we arrive perhaps at a rational moment.”
     — Ralph Waldo Emerson

All too often my days off work seemed filled with errands.  Too many errands!  It’s interesting to read Emerson’s list — I doubt that many of us still mend our clothes or fetch our fire and water.  But our days are filled to the brim with other tasks — doing laundry, grocery shopping, chauffering kids to their activities, checking e-mail, cleaning the cat litter . . .

It’s good to remember that a busy life is not necessarily a well-lived life.  To have that, I must put the important, satisfying things (like playing with watercolors) at the top of my To-Do list.

Winter “To-Do” List

January 3, 2011

Page from John Updike's A Child's Calendar

Let me share with you one Winter “To-Do” list by Nikki McClure in Remember: A Seasonal Record:

  • Build a fire
  • Eat with friends
  • Go to the library
  • Walk at night
  • Have a sauna salon
  • Make friends with the neighbor’s cat
  • Read cookbooks
  • Eat kale
  • Sleep in
  • Barter
  • Make tamales
  • Heat it
  • Follow racoon tracks in the snow

And here is my seasonal “To-Do” List:

  • Wear woolen socks
  • Finish a hand-quilting project
  • Snowshoe on a mountain trail
  • Curl up under a quilt with a pile of library books
  • Warm up with a bowl of Vietnamese pho
  • Sit among growing things in a conservatory
  • Go on a winter hike
  • Feast my eyes in an art museum
  • Build a snowman
  • Drink hot chocolate with a melting marshmallow on top
  • Sleep between flannel sheets

Autumn “To-Do” List

September 23, 2010

Acorns on an oak tree branch

Watercolor sketch of acorns

Happy first day of autumn!  I’m looking ahead to the new season.  I hope to keep doing art and nature sketches, in addition to a few of the things on this Fall “To-Do” list that I found in Nikki McClure’s Remember:  A Seasonal Record:

  • Jump in leaves
  • Forage for fallen fruit
  • Bake two pies
  • Gather nuts
  • Plant garlic
  • Can applesauce
  • Dream up new soups
  • Wear a scarf
  • Eat squash
  • Identify mushrooms
  • Save seeds
  • Wear socks
  • Rake neighbor’s leaves for compost
  • Drink pots of tea
  • Hunt for ghosts

What’s on your Autumn “To-Do” List?

Summer To-Do Lists

June 21, 2010

Embroidered and quilted mini-wall hanging for June

My Summer “To-Do” List:

  • Watch a sunset
  • Treat yourself to a cold, blended beverage at Starbucks (my favorite is a green tea frappacino)
  • Leave your footprints on a deserted beach
  • Take a color walk
  • Watch clouds
  • Walk barefoot in the grass
  • Toast weiners and marshmallows over a fire
  • Smell the flowers
  • Pick berries
  • Draw a picture
  • Write a poem
  • Send someone a postcard from the road
  • Swim under a waterfall
  • Rent a convertible
  • Smell freshly cut grass and hay
  • Walk under the stars and moon
  • Eat an ice cream cone
  • Whistle
  • Wish on the first star
  • Sing old campfire songs
  • Jump rope
  • Go to a drive-in movie
  • Rent a paddleboat or canoe

And here is a Summer action list that I came across in Nikki McClure’s Remember: A Seasonal Record.

  • Build a Bedouin tent
  • Throw a party
  • Go barefoot on a forest trail
  • Tell bad jokes all night
  • Sing songs to friends
  • Watch meteors fall
  • Make ice cream
  • Share a secret swimming spot
  • Float
  • Bike everywhere
  • Never go inside
  • Pick pick pick pick pick
  • Wash windows
  • Dry mint for winter tea
  • Swim at night naked
  • Be buried in sand