Monday, October 11, 2010

My To-Do List

I found a great quote online that is guaranteed to freak out the anxious among us: "Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday."

I also found one that I had to reread several times: "Worry ducks when purpose flies overhead."  I thought "worry" was an imperative, so I thought I was being told to go out and bother mallards while purpose was winging its way over my head. 

My confusion was doubled when I tried to figure out why "purpose" would be flying overhead, what it means for "purpose" to fly, really, and why bothering ducks would be the appropriate response to this.

I then began to get images of being pooped on by the ducks I had worried as they flew overhead, since it seemed to me like that's probably what they'd do when they escaped and flew away from me.  And I wouldn't blame them.

It all became much clearer when I realized that "worry" was being used as a noun and "duck" was the verb.  So, it's "Worry" that is "ducking"...ohhhhhhh.... okay.  Got it.  Still don't understand it, really, but I've got the grammar straight now, and that's something.

I love looking up inspirational quotes online, because it can use up all kinds of time when I'm supposed to be  doing something else.  And yet I never feel guilty, because I'm panning for electronic nuggets of wisdom and who knows how helpful that will be for me someday?  It may clarify everything, once and for all, and then I'll be able to get to work and be even more productive.

I remember visiting a stressed-out friend once when I was also quite stressed out.  Although that might sound like a recipe for disaster, we actually had a great time.  She had a copy of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (And It's All Small Stuff), so we read it to each other over lots and lots of cups of coffee.

By the time we were done, we had diagnosed pretty much everyone in our lives as demanding, self-centered bastards and we were quite pleased with the fact that we had put up with them for so long.  It showed how wonderful we were, even when people were totally out of line.

We then spent the rest of the weekend yelling out inspirational phrases from the book to one another.  So, when she would say, "I really need to run about 63 errands today," I would shout, "When you die, your 'in'-box still won't be empty!!" and we'd go get cake instead.  Or, when someone left me 4 messages on my voice mail, I'd stare at my cell phone and announce, "Yeah, well, sucks for you dude, because 'just because the ball's in my court, doesn't mean I have to pick it up!'"  And we'd go get lunch. 

I have a very similar approach to something that most people dread: the To-Do List.  I often write up my To-Do Lists in the evening, since I find that my work ethic is strongest after I've wasted an entire day drinking tea and telling my cat how cute he is.  Because of this, my Lists will often say things like, "Study Russian again." "Read Moby-Dick again." "Paint living room." "Prepare for class."  "Finish article on Defoe."  "Finish article on Moby-Dick."  "Vacuum."  "Call plumber."

When I was in a therapy session one time, my shrink asked me what I wanted to work on for our upcoming sessions, and I cheerfully gave her my list.  She then told me that all of that sounded fine, but she wondered if she could add something to it.  I told her, "Certainly!" (after all, I'm always open to suggestions), and much to my surprise, she wrote "Work on setting reasonable goals and expectations."

In my opinion, that one came pretty much out of left field, but I let it slide.  After all, she's the trained professional.

What I realized is that she misunderstood my understanding of the To-Do List.  Every morning, the first thing I do is clarify what I'm simply not going to do that day.  So, "Vacuum," no, I think it's fine--I picked up a couple of dust-bunnies on my way to the coffee pot this morning.  "Read Moby-Dick," no, I'm not interested in whaling today. "Write an article," well, really, I can't write if I'm being pressured to do it, I need to relax a bit first, and then maybe I'll call the plumber. 

My To-Do List is like a series of inspirational quotes for me.  Wow, what if I really did that.  That would be awesome.  I'd be like Einstein or something.

Instead, having ignored everything on my To-Do List, I now have the freedom to revise it.  So I set the bar nice and low.  I'm not above putting a load of laundry in and then writing, "Laundry" on my list--as I see it, I'm halfway there, so I might as well get credit for it.  Go me.  Since I'm on a roll (pun intended), I'll then write, "Make a sandwich."

I can't tell you how good it feels to realize that it's noon and I've already done two things on my newly revised To-Do List.  Plus, I'm in a good mood, so I can tell my cat how cute he is and really mean it.

And when the laundry's done, I can head off into the stressed-out world and watch everyone else trying to get ahead and finish everything on their lists.

Poor anxious fools.  If only they knew how easy it could be.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."