Saturday, June 3, 2006

The List Maker

I make lists. "To do" lists for the office, of course - call this person, review document, attend that meeting - but also things to do over the weekend:

- Water plants
- Do laundry
- Iron shirts
- Go to supermarket
- Exercise
- Go to post office
- Dry cleaning

Before I leave the house, I make a list of the stops I have to make throughout the day and what I need to remember to put in the car.

I make regular, long lists of actions to meet in the name of self-improvement:

- Drink more water
- Try something new every day
- Read more non-fiction
- Watch less television
- Eat better
- Less sugar
- Work hard
- Write to friends
- Take a multivitamin (I go back and forth on this one)

I make lists of things that I know will never be met:

- Drink less coffee (“less” would mean “none” since I have a cup a day)
- Wear lipstick (What was that about?)
- Dress better (I open my closet and the first question that pops into my head, despite my admiration for people whose clothes fit, is "can I get away with wearing jeans today?")

I make inexplicable annotations of things I couldn't forget even if I wanted to:

- Pack (Before every trip) or
- Shower, get dressed (right after writing down the day of the week at the very top of the page.)

After Luca's heart attack, we came back from the hospital with a bag full of medicine. While he slept, I spent the night making a list of every one (more like a grid, with rows and columns) the dosage, the times of day they had to be taken, what each one was for and the side effects. This made me feel I had it all at a glance, that I knew what to do and how to help (such as how to administer nitro and how he’d feel after taking it), and helped me feel more in control. (I fully realize control is an illusion, but welcome the process of deluding myself. In fact, I believe denial is underestimated. It’s an excellent coping mechanism.)

My favorite, most recurrent list? Every evening I ask Luca "Do you want to hear what I ate today?" to which he replies, "yes, please".

- Egg white frittata with spinach and red peppers and a plate of berries for breakfast (at the W Hotel on Broadway)
- Steamed chicken peanut dumplings with shallots and a green papaya salad with cashews and green chili for lunch (at the excellent Thai place my friend Elizabeth introduced me to, Siam Inn Cuisine, on 854 8th Avenue)
- Outstanding empanadas Argentinas and a watercress salad with tomato and avocado for dinner (at the unfailingly fabulous Chimichurri Grill on 9th).

Frequent snacks usually fall into that “denial” category, but often Luca innocently reminds me: what about the mid morning latte? The square of chocolate you had after lunch?

I always carry a small blank notebook in my bag, and as I flip through magazines or newspapers, I make annotations I often never look at again.

Books to buy – (just the titles, never the authors. It would take too long.)
Currently on that list:
“Bird in the fall”
“The Meaning of Tingo”
“Daily Candy A to Z”
“To the Sweet Life”
“Possible Side Effects”
“The Unfolding of Language”
“Leaving the Saints”
“How Individuality became the New Conformity”
“The Curious Life of Human Cadavers”
“Another Life in the Frontal Lobe”

Movies to watch -
Currently on that list:
“On a Clear Day”
“Akeelah and the Bee”
“Art School Confidential”
“A Praire Home Companion”.

I make lists of things I want to write about, things I feel I should research, food I want to try and places I want to visit and lists of what I want to do once I get there (which is why New York is inevitably overwhelming and once I get here I can never sleep.)

My good friend Cat recently sent me "The Blue List" which recommends places you must go to all over the world. It’s fantastic, and deserves more than to just live on a coffee table. I now have on my action list to go through it one weekend and pick a “top ten places to go” to get through in the next year (not all places need to be exotic, expensive or far away.) The thought of that book nags at me and will continue to until I take it seriously.

I don't ever make lists that are far into the future or that schedule my life in any grand way. “Get married, buy house, have children” have never been jotted down anywhere. I have never known how to answer the question “where do you think you’ll be in five years?”

My lists are immediate. As my friend Jane so eloquently put it “they are not intended to remind me to do things, but rather to stop the things I’m supposed to do from rattling around in my brain”.

I make lists for two reasons. (And here is a list of those two reasons):

1. I write it down - it sets me free.

2. Because The Rolling Stones are right. You can't always get what you want. But if you write it down, maybe you can go back and get it later.

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