lists

My life is measured in lists. To-do lists, grocery lists, wish lists, lists of goals, lists to keep the anxiety of life at bay. I even pray in lists. When I wake in the morning, lists race through my head: take shower, pack lunches, feed dog, unload dishwasher, make dentist appointment, etc, etc. It’s these unglamorous details of life that end up written in my journal, in lieu of more substantial, reflective entries.

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The turn of the new year is typically a time to reflect and pursue a more “balanced life.” Perhaps all of my list-making is an attempt to strike that balance–to keep the balls in the air–to keep things from tipping into one extreme or another. However, the deeper I get into this parenthood gig, the more I question whether a balanced life is a reality that any of us actually achieve. I wonder if striving to attain it is, ironically, an exhausting and futile endeavor?

I am reminded of one of my favorite poems by Linda Pastan, called “Lists”, which begins:

I made a list of things I have
to remember and a list
of things I want to forget,
but I see they are the same list.

I suppose it’s a bit sad how much I rely on lists to order my little world, but as I leaf back through my journal entries of lists, I realize how much life exists between the bullet points. As Pastan’s poem continues…

My mother makes lists on tiny
scraps of paper, leaving them
on chairs or the seats of the bus
the way she drops a handkerchief
for someone to find, a clue
a kind of commerce between her
and the world.

A kind of commerce between her and the world. I love that.

Last night we celebrated my husband’s fortieth birthday. Somewhere between the “buy ice for cooler” and “make salsa” and “clean bathrooms” and “pick up house,” the meaningful moments took place.

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I suppose I am coming to appreciate my lists more and more because I realize they are the scaffolding of life. They may not be the heart of life, but they are the skeleton. Our most significant moments can’t be deduced to bullet points, but I think the bullet points provide the framework for the good stuff to happen.

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What lists do you keep?
How do they serve as the “commerce between you and your world”?

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january mourning

Whatever happens,
those who have learned
to love one another
have made their way
to the lasting world
and will not leave,
whatever happens.
–Wendell Berry

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I’m currently sitting amongst the wreckage at my desk: crinkled receipts, lit magazines, old journals, my marked-up calendar, stray earrings, hair bands, loose change, a high pile of papers from the children’s schools. Multiples times today I have tried to bring order to it, to sort and file and throw away, but instead I end up staring at the disaster, then looking out the window instead. So much for getting organized in the new year.

I’ve hardly written a thing since I graduated this summer. I suppose the pendulum has swung the other way. The break from writing, however, gave me the opportunity to re-engage with another part of myself as I’ve re-entered the nursing/working world. My thoughts have been many; my words few.

I love how the new year is a natural ushering in of change and reflection. 2014, for me, was a year of finishing. I was able to tie up loose ends both personally and academically. In many ways, 2014 felt like a return to myself after a decade of wandering, both geographically and psychologically. I am thankful for that.

As I look ahead to 2015, I am painfully mindful of the brevity of life. During the holiday season we lost an incredible nurse at my workplace. Margie was an inspiration to me and made my transition back into nursing such a positive experience. She was so warm, so open to people and life. Her sudden death was completely unexpected and has left us all rattled and grieved. The sobering thing is this: We are not guaranteed one minute. Each new day is truly a gift. I know this reality is lost on me all too quickly. As I enter this new year, I want to hold onto this truth. I never want to take life for granted.

This past week I wrote down a few concrete personal and professional goals, but beyond these, I suppose my biggest hope for this year is to live life with an open posture, like Margie did. Sometimes, as a working mom of three kids, life feels exhausting and overwhelming. I close myself off to things because it can all feel like “too much.” I create invisible walls around my little psyche in the name of self-preservation. I hope that I have enough faith as the year unfolds to allow some of those walls to relax a bit and say “yes” to things I might not ordinarily. I want to enjoy the moment and let the cards fall where they will. I want to love people well, and with a bit more abandon. Life is too short to hold back. And, of course, I hope to write more, too.

What are your reflections on 2014? What are your hopes for 2015?