How I Became a Compulsive List-Maker

I’ve recently fallen into a habit of list-making. But “habit” might not be a strong enough word. I hate to use the word “compulsive,” but lately that’s what I’ve felt it has turned into — a compulsive need. I cannot get through a day without crossing something off the list.

There have been too many times to count in the past month that I’ve found myself staring at the lists I’ve made. I hold my list notebook open in my lap while I work on other things, hoping that wishful thinking and mere proximity will allow me to cross something off it.

So when did this start?

I trace it back to this summer. I had a lot of things to do. I was in my best friend’s wedding, I had two other weddings to go to, I was actively applying for jobs, I was starting this blog. I started making lists including errands and more creative endeavors (I wanted to make a quilt, I wanted to finally put together a scrapbook of my photos from London, etc.). It felt so good to cross something off the list. It felt like living.

I made these lists out of a need to not fall into “the trap,” which I define as getting too comfortable. I am very susceptible to “the trap.”

I am more susceptible when I am very busy with work, when my own exhaustion prevents me from doing anything but watch Gilmore Girls, even though I’ve seen that show way too many times and no matter how much I want Seasons 6 and 7 to have never happened, they always come around eventually.

I fell into the trap when I was living in Minnesota. I decided I didn’t want to pursue theater anymore, and rather than take the time to figure out what I actually wanted to do with my life, I got caught in the pattern of work, be lazy, sleep, repeat.

Then, when I decided to move home, perhaps more out of fear than anything, I started making lists in the hope that they would save me from the trap and keep me from living at my parents’ house, jobless, forever and ever and ever and ever and ever . . .

However, once the summer was over and the busy-ness halted, my lists started to change. They became more about inventory. I developed an obsession over getting rid of all the “extra” in my life. There’s makeup, clothing, skincare products, and just so much junk that I have gathered in my 23 (almost 24) years of life and am now drowning in. Maybe it’s all the moving I’ve done in the past 5 years, but I’ve become really sick of carrying it all.

I took an inventory of all my “extra” and have been crossing every item I use up, every article of clothing I get rid of, every book I sell. And it used to feel good.

But now it feels differently.

You see, I’m in this in-between phase. I haven’t been able to cross anything off the list. For example, there’s this huge bottle of lotion I’ve been trying to get through, but it’s only half-empty  even though it feels like it’s been half-empty for months and I’ve been using it every single day.

And in my mind I know that I’m doing the right thing. I’m using it, I’m not wasting it. It will run out eventually, I know it. But for now all I can focus on is the fact that I’m sick of using it. I want move on, but if I do, it will just sit there forever and ever half-empty and I can’t stand that prospect.

So to help myself out, I made another list. This time it was a to-do list of things I was already close to being done with — things I knew I would be able to cross off that very day.

Soon I’ll have to get a new list-making notebook, so I can make a list of things to get rid of that includes my old list-making notebook.

See what I meant about compulsive before?

In my desperation to escape the trap, I’ve only fallen into another one.

Photo found at Minimography

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