I make lists. I leave them scattered throughout my life: all over my apartment, on my desk at work, in a notebook that I bought specifically for list holding. Once, when I had friends over, I looked around my apartment and noticed how many notes and lists I had posted all over the place. I asked them, “Does it look like a crazy person lives here?” They said no. My friends are kind.
For me, lists are calming. I consider myself a pretty low-key person on the outside. Inside, however, my mind is constantly racing as I try to mentally schedule time for all the things that I:
- Want to do – read, sit by water fountains, look at art, eat chocolate croissants, watch reality TV unencumbered by guilt; and
- Agreed to do – write a press release, attend a fundraiser, join a conference call; and
- Should do – my 9-5 work uninterrupted by Twitter, my dream follower work uninterrupted by Twitter, balance my checkbook, call my friend back, exercise, cook; and
- Consciously avoid doing – opening my mail.
And in the course of figuring out how all of those things will get done, I reach an anxiety level that would make Woody Allen proud. So I make lists. In truth, it’s not really about the lists themselves. I usually forget to look at them. The lists are a way to calm and affirm. Towards calm, lists help me identify all the things that occupy my mind at any given moment and, in doing so, take away their power to drive me crazy.
“I see you bridesmaid’s dress that needs hemming. One of us will win this battle for my sanity and it will not be you.”
It is also affirming to write things down that should receive more attention. I have a note on my desk that says “Just Breathe.” You’d think I wouldn’t have to remind myself to breathe, but you’d be surprised.
I’m not the only one who sees the power of writing things down. This blog post from Pick The Brain suggests that writing down what causes anxiety is a great way to quell worry. Further, the post reads, it is good to make a list of blessings—a great idea for “Grade-A” worriers like me; before I leave my home in the morning, I am already counting the things that I’m probably not going to get done that day. How much energy do I waste doing this? What if, instead, I counted all my blessings—all the ways that life is out to help me win?
Here’s my list of blessings that I’m grateful for:
My life in DC
Friends that forgive my forgetfulness
People who believe in me without being asked to
Opportunities to meet people who are following their dreams at all costs
My subconscious that helps me write from time to time
Every day that I get a new chance to get it right…
…and, the free bagel I received just minutes after I drafted this (true story).
It’s hard to stress about things once you’ve been the receiver of a random act of bagel kindness…and this list will forever be a reminder.