The keeping of lists

I make lists all the time. It started with the simple ones such as what must I remember to do today –  buy milk, put the vacuum round, pay the electric bill.

I found out quite a while ago, when I was working full time, caring for six children and a sick husband, that it was useful for my sanity to add things like go for a walk, read a magazine, dye my hair. Carving out ‘me-time’ when you are busy can be difficult and thus neglected. You don’t notice at first, and you just keep going till at some stage you start to feel a little ragged round the edges.

Adding things to the list that promote well-being not just for yourself but also for others gives legitimacy to the time you need to do them, taking away the guilt that often possesses us when we do this. Giving care to yourself is not being selfish; it’s about making sure that you stay on top form and remain able to continue to give of yourself where needed. You are also worthy of your love and care.

Now I have health problems, the content of my lists have changed. My day-to-day lists include order repeat prescription, take a shower, cook dinner, do some washing before you run out of clean underwear, take a nap. When I am sat in front of my computer writing I lose track of time, glancing up to realise it’s getting dark outside and I’ve done nothing useful! The list next to my cup of tea helps keep me on track.

I also make ‘important’ lists. The longer-term lists that guide me over the next few months. These include family events like birthdays, family get togethers, holidays. Alongside the event I include details of any preparation that may be necessary like purchasing cards and gifts or packing my holiday clothes.

Then there are lists of goals in life, what I want to achieve, where I want to be in a year’s time. People tell me I do too much and I should take it easy as I approach retirement. Hmm, I feel that is the start of a slippery slope that I don’t want to slide down. I may not be as physically active as I used to be, I may find it a bit more complicated to think straight, but the idea of settling into my armchair to watch TV just reeks of boredom.

Currently, aside from the writing, I volunteer with a community group improving the local reservoir and making it an accessible space for local residents. I do admin and will be doing the quarterly newsletter. I am also working with neighbours to organise a street party for the Jubilee. And of course I have lists of what I need to do for these as well.

My problem is remembering where I have put all these lists. For me, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is not merely an old adage, but a fact of life. The shopping list is on a clip board in the kitchen with a pen attached to it. My list of writing things to do throughout the week is sticky taped to my wardrobe door, next to my computer.

I’ve tried keeping lists on the computer but that means I have to remember where I saved them. I kept them in separate notebooks; I even labelled them. But by the time I’ve found the right book I’ve forgotten what I wanted to add to the list.

I now have one thick notebook where all lists and important bits of information are stored. It may be an absolute jumble to anyone else, but I know if I flip through the pages for long enough I will find what I was looking for, and it also reminds me of the other lists I’ve forgotten to look for.

There is a great thing to be said about the keeping of lists, not just for someone like me, but for the population in general. I was chatting to someone about my obsession with making lists. She does the same, not because she needs a list in the same way. ‘I have all these things in my head,’ she said, ‘and I keep chasing them round, thinking about them all. Putting them into a list clears my head, writing them down, keeps the stuff I need to do under control.’

I think I agree with that. I will add that thought to my list of things of wisdom.

Portland Jones disability liaison for Pagan Federation Midlands