My relationship with the To Do list is rather complicated, and it goes back a long way. In the olden days, and I am talking about sixth grade in the early 1960’s, I created a poster-sized chart with lines and places for stars and check marks. I taped it to the back of my bedroom door to be reviewed every day. On it were dozens of tasks I had to complete, including brushing my teeth, homework, cleaning my room; a wonder it didn’t include breathing and eating. This was the first stark evidence of my inner perfectionist taking charge of my life.
This vague fear of not doing my life well without constant scrutiny has been a constant companion, the creation of driven parental modeling and messages; avoiding the dreaded curse of “not living up to her potential.”
At times “the list” creates as much angst as it relieves. This happens when I don’t take the time to clarify what is truly important, and treat weed the flower bed with equal fervor as write for pleasure. I think I want to create a list in order to prioritize it. But a friend nailed this fallacy eloquently: “The big issues are SO large, it’s easier to focus on the small stuff.”
What is it about the To Do list that still triggers a shock of enthusiasm in me? Any sane person should want to crawl under the covers after creating a staggering catalog of “undone important goals.” But for me, I feel a thrill when I fill a page of neatly organized boxes, and new energy arises as I take up the gauntlet now thrown down, “I dare you to try to complete this list of twenty tasks!” Hercules must have felt the same way when told he had to check off his picayune list of three deeds.
These days, I recognize this long-held internal conflict of inner voices and Selves, and I tend to favor my inner organizer. She sees me as marvelously intelligent and capable of major accomplishments. However, my inner sloth deserves more embracing: she regards me as perfectly fine just the way I am; a message I can use a great deal more of. I think it’s time for me to go read a novel. That must be on a list somewhere.