to-do lists

On weekends or non-work days the whole day stretches out in front of me, wide open. I crave this kind of freedom all week. But now, standing at the kitchen window with my coffee, I realize the openness of unstructured time gives me a certain amount of anxiety. I'm not so good with down time. Let's not dwell on the pathos of that particular reality. Moving on. To quell the mounting angst (which to be fair is really mostly stemming from the fact that I've had two cups of coffee and haven't gone for a run yet) I find a scrap of paper and create a tidy little to-do list, items bulleted with small perfect squares to their left: Run. Dishwasher. Garbage. Recycling. Vacuum. Art. Thank you note to [fill in the blank]. All at once the day has structure and I can relax. As I attack the list, I get to make a satisfying little check mark in the box next to the item. Some tasks take just a minute or two, others take longer. Distractions along the way sometimes cause me to stray from the list. But if it's a productive day, I notice I also completed a whole bunch of things that weren't even on the list. Confession: when this happens, I go back and add the things I already did that weren't on the original list so I can check them off too. Someone told me recently that she does this too — she creates the after-the-fact to-do list just for the satisfaction of putting a line through the already completed items. Here I was keeping this guilty pleasure a secret all this time. If you are reading this and shaking your head at us, well, I get it it's a bit off beat. But if you see yourself in this odd little rant and are thinking, "I thought I was the only one," then think again. You are not alone.