We all have our lists, whether or not they’re written down. I find that women who make lists vs those who don’t, are comparable to those locked in the age old “employment mommy war”. Meaning, list makers are often hyped up Type A’s who look down on less seemingly organized types of homemakers. Just as women who work vs women who don’t are usually justifying why they fall into one particular category.
I was raised amongst a large, female herd of notorious list makers. The kind who are psychotically organized to the point where they might whisper to each other how Julia Robert’s husband in “Sleeping With the Enemy” was a disgusting slob. List making is an interesting domestic ruse of creating some semblance of control. I have come to observe that most people I know who live by their lists, are actually some of the most out of control people I’ve ever encountered. It’s such a mind trick, and part of the stories we tell ourselves. Mundane errands are often clung to like life rafts in order to give, well, order. I had many years that were eaten up by bullshit errands. I liked them at first; they made me feel productive. Then I grew to hate them because I knew I was fooling myself, and I resented the emptiness of checking off a to do list. I usually didn’t write down these tasks. I have a really good memory and frankly, had not much else to remember. But when I did compose an actual to do list it did indeed feel good to literally check stuff off. It is the easiest way a housewife can feign accomplishment. On another note, working moms who wield their pen and paper like weapons can instantly feel more domestic. Lists are actually inherently good things. They are indeed a useful tool in helping us manage our practical human lives. Simply put, we need to get shit done. Tasks are part of this people gig. Listing, sorting, and organizing become problematic when they breed an air of superiority.
Listing can turn on the list maker when what’s being written down doesn’t belong trapped between two college ruled lines. Many things in life cannot be contained within the simple act of making a list. How strange that a list for one person can be grocery items needed to bake a cake, while for another person it’s materials required to build a bomb or plan a suicide. Even for someone so out of control that they have no recourse but to end their own life, making that final list gives them the illusion that they’ve got this down. As I said before, I know a large number of the cattiest, most controlling women out there, who have used their maniacal housekeeping methodology to feel like they have it all together. I know a woman who takes such false comfort in alphabetizing her medicine drawer, separating the waterproof bandaids from the antibacterial bandaids, and color coding the kids’s LEGO pieces. I say “false” comfort because she’s one of the unhappiest girls I know. She’s mean and intensely controlling. She incites fear in all around her. She is cold and shows zero emotion. And we all know that textbook dime-store psychology would dictate that the more out of control we feel on the inside, the more we crave control externally. I don’t know anyone with true inner peace who gives a damn about which type of bandaid goes where. This post isn’t based just on her; in fact it’s not based on her at all. I know tons like this who wouldn’t blink at believing they are more on top of their game than me because I double booked my kid on two play dates, and my towel closet could use a makeover.
I was once in the throes of crisis years ago. It was a very serious medical situation that required an immediate trip to the ER. I called a list maker I knew and literally begged for help. My daughter needed to be picked up from kindergarten, and I hadn’t yet gone grocery shopping that week. This was the response I received: “you should have known this was going to happen and gotten your life in order by going to the supermarket yesterday”. I recall being stupefied, and that my ex husband grabbed the phone out of my hand and slammed it down. I was in a state of shock that someone could be so cold and use my lack of organizational skills (btw I’m objectively quite organized. My home is always in order because I’m naturally neat. I’m just not a psychopath about it) against me at the scariest time in my life. I never see shit like this coming because it never occurs to me that acting so cruelly is an option. This person’s life was really in the shitter for different reasons. She knew it and so did everyone around her. Once I composed myself I did say "you’re right, maybe if I was more organized my life would be as perfect as yours”. Like all bullies who are stood up to, she shut up and retreated.
I know another chick who looooooves lists. She also looooooves to take jabs at my parenting. Hmmmm... in control people usually don’t have an incessant need to look to criticize others. Just sayin... I know why she needed to use me as the occasional dartboard. I won’t get into it, but let’s just say this has been a layered awareness of mine for years. The need to list, and to see those check marks, can be akin to the proven scientific dopamine hits of seeing likes on Instagram. It feels good to see what we have accomplished. You know what feels even better? Actual accomplishment. Not needing to fool ourselves into a sense of satisfaction by way of Target and Costco. Listing doesn’t make one a good wife or mother. It means you know how to write. However, if we are human beings so used to doing, can we at least make lists of things that will indeed fill our cup? Lists of how we will hit the pillow smiling and wake up joyous and ready? We may as well, since we are doing it anyway. The things we list without even realizing it can become replaced with lists we DO realize. These kinds of lists erase the need to feel better than anyone else. They are there to help us serve ourselves, not to tear others down. No more itemizing your life like it’s a business. That never works. All that usually leads to is the feeling of “now what?”; I checked everything off but I still feel like crap. It’s confusing. We are supposed to feel like we achieved something. My lists have grown in some ways. I have soooo much to do on this planet. As time goes on, my heart is expanding and so there’s more room to fill it with so many wonderful things I can barely keep track of. Target can wait, and my towel closet is fine. Those aren’t eulogy worthy endeavors. No one will care if your bandaids are organized according to size and purpose. If they do, then your friends suck. List away, Loves. Just make sure that what is going on the list is worthy of being put down. It’s the content of the list that matters, not how many checks you have.