Small Success: Re-envisioning the to-do list

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Two weeks ago, I misplaced my calendar and with it, any hope of recalling even the most basic facts about the schedule for the weekend. Sure, you might think one could remember to have planned a birthday party for seventeen adolescent guests, but you would be wrong. Those petitions for Palm Sunday, due last Wednesday? Forgotten. The bills which must be mailed out next week … what week is it? Between the missing spiral date book and Spring Forward, I feel completely entitled to have temporarily forgotten what year it is, let alone the music lessons, CCD, ushering at a Mass and the need to get to the grocery store.

It wasn’t until I flipped through my calendar after finding it that I realized how utterly dependent I’d become upon that book to keep me on course. I found notes to myself saying, “Buy birthday present for your son.” Two weeks out from his birthday. Man! That was thoughtful and organized of me. Too bad I didn’t read the message until today. Even worse, I realized, ten days worth of memories of what to do and when I did it, also vanished down the memory black hole. Here we were on March 10th, and I couldn’t tell you much of what we did in the past two weeks except that I’d lost my calendar.

Looking back at the list, I discovered yet another thing about the compunction to write down what needs to be done that vexed me. My life is super busy but somehow boring. Here’s a random example of a standard list for a Tuesday.

1) Take vitamin, and medicine.
2) Dry Cleaning.
3) Work 10-2.
4) Rosary.
5) Pick up 2:45 SMS.
6) Paperwork.
7) 4 o’clock Bus, 4:30 Bus.
8) Homework J__ R__ R__ P__ A___
9) Dinner: Chicken thighs, rice, broccoli, carrots
10) Showers: R, R, P,A  — yes, I keep track of who washed their hair …
11) Write 1K.
12) Read 20 minutes.
13) You should exercise.

That’s it. Riveting. See the same list for four days in a row with minor variations based on who has afternoon activities and #13 never happens. Maybe losing my calendar for that many days was necessary for me to recognize I’ve become a duller version of myself, not because these things aren’t good and necessary, but because there’s very little to distinguish one day from the next except for who is getting picked up when. The list method of organizing my life is necessary, because otherwise important things get forgotten, but it also needed to be re-envisioned, so that necessary important things would stand out.

I made my list for Saturday. Here’s how it read before I made adjustments:

1) Bills.
2) Petitions.
3) Clean 20 minutes each room, main floor.
4) Inspection all children’s rooms.
5) Exercise — Gold’s Gym 10:00. Take Paul and Anna.
6) Drop off dry cleaning.
7) Pick up cake pops.
8) 5 o’clock Saint Martin’s Mass.
9) Present for John’s birthday.
10) Rosary.

I flipped back through the weeks and forced myself to remember. That’s when two of them got sick and we spend the day cleaning everyone up … that’s the day he won Regionals. That’s the day we went to the movies. That’s the day we played Iron Chef. The weeks held memories in them not listed on the list. They couldn’t or wouldn’t have been put on the list. Only when and where and who could be put on the list, not how or what happened. Maybe that was the problem. I looked back at my Saturday schedule and added a few notes.

1) Pay the Bills with your family – everyone write a letter while you and Marc pay the bills.
2) Write the Petitions for Palm Sunday with your family over dinner on paper.
3) You may only clean for 10 minutes in each room — main floor.
4) The inspection of all children’s rooms will take place after the children inspect your work.
5) Exercise — Gold’s Gym 10:00. Take Paul and Anna. (This is still good).
6) Drop off dry cleaning. (This can wait until Monday).
7) Pick up cake pops. This should be done after the workout.
8) 5 o’clock Saint Martin’s. Everyone will be happy about going to Mass tonight.
9) Those who go with Dad to music lessons can shop for presents for John’s birthday. Those who go with me to the gym will shop afterwards as well.
10) Spend some time reading and/or drawing/playing piano today — and play a game with your kids.

I’d restructured when things would happen, and how, to give me a better handle on avoiding isolation and activities becoming a burden rather than part of the business and joy of life. Now maybe some of it wouldn’t happen, but it stood a better chance. It sound more fun, and the comfort of both knowing what we needed to do, and thinking about how it could be done with less hassle and more fun made it seem not only possible but worth doing.

We did get the cake pops, to music lessons, and to shop for groceries and presents all in the morning — plus haircuts. The gym became a solo activity, but I did do it on Saturday despite my own protests against it. That’s my small success for this Thursday.

What small successes are you celebrating this week?


Copyright 2018 Sherry Antonetti

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About Author

Sherry Antonetti is a mother of ten children, published author of The Book of Helen and a freelance writer of humor and family life columns. You can read additional pieces from her blog, http://sherryantonettiwrites.blogspot.com.

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