I’m the kind of person who likes to make lists. Grocery lists, to-do lists, lists for work tasks, home tasks, personal tasks, lists of things I should do today and this week and this year and this lifetime. Yellow post-it notes litter my work desk, stuck to my computer monitor, clogging up the fabric tackboard mounted along one wall. I’ve tried different techniques in the past to manage my lists, but paper is still my preferred method. My purse is peppered with scraps torn from a gardening store mailer or a cafe napkin, reminding me to pick up milk and tampons and cough drops on my way home. We have an app now to keep the convoluted family schedule straight, each of five family members assigned their own contrasting color, but the to-do list blankly staring back from a palm-held screen doesn’t work well for me. I forget to check it, there isn’t the same satisfaction with crossing off, tossing a scrap of paper, purging the item from my mind and my day.
Sometimes I’ll find an old list in a rarely-used purse or backpack. I’ll remember that particular week, the mundane tasks I felt were so urgent, so important at that time. Order cupcakes for my son’s birthday, send that email to my boss, finish editing an essay for the submission deadline looming, now long past. Once I found an old list from my wedding, the endless tasks for that momentous event crossed out carefully. There were a few things still left, that never got done. There always are.
I’m the kind of person who likes to color code. I’m a splitter, not a lumper. In medical school I had an infamous binder: two inch white with a clear slotted cover, brightly colored tabbed dividers for each course. Red for Histology, green for Pathophysiology, orange for Intro to Clinical Medicine. I had a separate binder for Anatomy; all those organs and nerves and blood vessels, origins and insertions of muscles to memorize: they deserved their own separate filing. Colored pencils used to sketch out each organ, each nerve pathway, the sequence of events mapped out for optimal memorization.
I’m the kind of person who likes to plan for every contingency. Futile, I know. Futile, I’ve realized. Futile, I still plan meticulously, despite knowing better. Now, I at least have the realism to not expect as much from my planning, know it all may be in vain, know that lists and organization and planning ahead only achieves calm for the now. Eventually chaos ensues and chaos, despite best laid plans, ultimately reigns.