Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

To Do Or Not To Do


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Until relatively recently, I was never much of a list person.  Grocery lists, errand lists, whatever.  I didn’t make lists.  I went to the store and wandered up and down aisles and grabbed what I needed or wanted and usually ended up with the intended food in my cart.

Maybe it’s this thing called Middle Age creeping up (already there) on me, but I make grocery lists now–or else I get to the store and have no idea what I needed, aside from milk.  I always remember to buy milk.

But each Sunday morning, I begin writing a list. A  To Do list for that day and the coming week.  It’s scrawled out with an actual pen and a piece of paper-no iPhone alerts/reminders for me.  Above was last weekend’s list.  As something comes to mind, I put it on the list.  I may be knitting and think, “Oh, I need to remember to call Bill on Tuesday.”  I stop knitting and put it on the list.  I keep adding as the week goes on.  And I cross off items I accomplish.

Not every single item from last week’s To Do List got crossed off.  But guess what, everyone?  The earth is still turning, and I am still breathing.  No catastrophes.  No crises.  No conflicts.  In fact, I may be feeling healthy right now because I chose not to do something and instead of “being productive”, chose to go to bed at my normal time or knit for a few minutes.

I have learned three things from keeping a weekly list.

  1.  Life will go on, even if I don’t finish grading papers by some deadline I had given myself.  Yes, my students might feel a bit disappointed when I don’t have their papers ready for them the next day, but I simply say, “I’m sorry I didn’t have time to finish them.  I should have them ready tomorrow” and move on.  I don’t offer excessive apologies or outlandish excuses.  And guess what?  Their lives continue as well, with no crises or conflicts.  I didn’t ruin anyone’s life.
  2.  It really really really feels kind of awesome each and every time I cross something off my list.  And by the end of the week, when I’m more tired and stressed out, just looking at all the items I’ve crossed off makes me feel proud.  On days when I feel guilty for not “living up to my potential,” I can look at my list and see what I have accomplished.  I am allowed to take pride in this.
  3. There will be days, even stretches of days and weeks and maybe months, when this list won’t look as, well, professional.  Last week, I didn’t need to put “do your laundry” or “buy toilet paper” on my list.  I just completed them as my daily routine.  But then there are days when “vacuum the bedroom” and “laundry” are not only on my list–they will be the only things I cross off.  And it will take a full day of motivating self-talk to get me to actually walk downstairs and do a load of wash.  But you know what?  On those days, crossing that item off my list feels just as good as crossing off “complete job application packet,” something that has several steps to it.  And you know what?  I can take pride in buying toilet paper.  I set a goal and I accomplished that goal.  This=pride.

Sometimes, having a mental illness makes it difficult to cross things off our lists.  Sometimes, having a mental illness makes our lists look a little different than other people’s lists.  Some people don’t have to write down, “Open the front door and step outside,” but there are days I need that on my list.

So make a list.  For today.  For the week.  For the month.  Or a life list.  Don’t forget to put things like “buy toilet paper” on it–but also don’t forget to put things like “Knit” and “have a cup of coffee with a friend” and “play with the kitties” on that list.  And then, each and every time you cross something off that list?  Give yourself the credit you deserve.

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February 25, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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