lists, logically.

I entered a stone-cold cell the first day of my first year as a first-time college student. Cinderblock and the distinct smell of era upon era of sweaty co-ed armpits slapped me in my smooth baby face. I felt that lump in my throat of tears I was too old to acceptably cry. The nauseous creep of panick burned in the bottom of my stupidly taut gut. I had no idea what I was doing here, in an all-girls ward of an all-Catholic university in a wholy horrific city like Memphis. I snuck past the vinyl shower curtain (used as a bathroom door) and squatted bum two inches from grazing the scary, scary toilet seat. I pried a frozen elbow from my side, slid my safety blanket of a purse onto lap, and coddled the notes I’d tucked inside. My lists. I had my lists.

Don’t accept drinks from strangers or any man or any boy who could grow up to one day be a man. Brush your teeth. Don’t wear pajamas to class even if the older kids are doing it: disrespectful and makes your professors regret their careers and life in general. Remember to change oil. Remember to tell Dad to remind you to change oil. Lock your car. Carry pepper spray. Scrawled onto flimsy yellow sticky notes, scrolled neatly onto stark white index cards, repeated and re-traced onto girlish floral paper so heavy with ink the sheets dared to recycle themselves, I entered the unknown just barely comforted by these hand written reminders of what comes next. And as I found those first few days and weeks and months, barely comforted is mostly enough. I checked back from time to time on those piles, stressed that I’d missed some bullet point or dashed through a note too quickly. I focused on writing and re-writing the lists, making lists of lists I’d soon need to list out in list form for list-reading purposes. Don’t be a slut. Don’t be a slut. Don’t wear skirts because they will think you are a slut. Attend Mass even though you don’t get it. Don’t be a slut. Eat an apple. Don’t get too excited about the buffet line in the cafeteria. Freshman 38. Don’t be a slut. Oh. And study. Always study.Those lists became a life line.

I realized the unhealthy dependency I’d formed Monday morning before a big test. I’d stayed up all night, completing the obligatory lists of what to study in what order. By early morning I’d successfully spelled out an incredibly thorough time-line of studying to-do’s. I marvelled at this list, adored the detailed thing, and panicked when I realized with just an hour or two left, I’d managed to spend a whole night not studying, not coming any closer to the task at hand than writing a list about it. I talked to my mother that morning. I wanted to warn her that I was about to fail in a truly flamboyant fashion, about to beg a stern-bearded professor to please, for the love of pity and OCD, could he please just grade my impressive list. Line up pens. Check each pen for proper/smooth ink expulsion. Line up paper. Create folder tabs to organize notes into categories. Write those categories on a list for future reference. Think about studying. Put the books on your desk and look at them (while thinking about studying). Count and re-count pens to make sure one didn’t fall off desk. Re-check folder tabs. Think about now placing notes in between folder tabs. Consider studying these notes after alphabetizing all notes and all folder tabs. Re-re-count pens. Pens are important.  

   I didn’t fail the test. I suppose I’d absorbed just enough knowledge accidentally while consumed with lining up notes on Modal before paragraphs on Predicate. Yes, it was that near brush with failing a course in Logic  that drove the point home. Remember to acknowledge irony when it is especially ridiculous. Wear pajamas to class if you feel like it. No. Not the Hello Kitty With The Worn Out Crotch ones. Have a little self-respect. Stop counting your stupid pens. Eat the whole god damn pie on cafeteria’s Pizza Night. Do  something. Stop thinking about contemplating listing out a list of reasons to write a list about maybe, one day, actually putting down the list and getting things done.

I returned to my paper-filled dorm and threw those recorded testaments to my fear of getting things done in the trash. I fetched one out, for habit’s sake, just to be sure I didn’t miss any important points, but after that, I mean it, I was done with lists.

image via Hack College

Here I am today, just a couple of weeks after a wedding and two days shy of a big, gigantic, overwhelming move to a new house, a different city. I am wearing pajamas. I have eaten my weight in pizza, emotions, and other awful, awful things. I have, I admit, counted pens, but only the nice ones and only to be sure they are packed in even-numbered and color-coordinated groups and yes, maybe too I also have a list pinned to every wall and laying atop every counter and folded up and tucked in to remarkably strange nooks and crannies like they’re getting ready for one whopper of a list surprise party. I am failing logic and reason, I know, by so quickly seeking to be barely comforted and barely in control of a chaotic place via paper-light lists. There are a whole slew of things to get done. A whole list, as it were, of cabinets to be emptied, floors to be scrubbed, and trash to be hauled. There are nail holes to patch, carpet to clean, clothes to fold, and toys to sneak- one by one by one- away from a toddler not ready to see the flashing lights fade. There are a lot of things to get done.

But still, here I am thinking about thinking about possibly gearing up to sometime in the near future attempt to-barring any unforeseen obstacles- pack my junk up and possibly go. Here’s to writing a post about lists in which I list a history of list-making. I’ll leave you with what (best of the super bad) I believe my lists have to offer:

Brush your teeth.

Don’t be a slut.

Pens are important.

Remember to acknowledge irony when it is *especially ridiculous.

How do you try to cope or control stressful situations?

Are you the Prep & Plan type or of the Get ‘Er Done mentality?

* “Especially Ridiculous” is a lifestyle,

and let’s just say I’m dedicated to that mess.

Tune in tomorrow to hear the best, small circles problem.

Seriously, it’s so stupid it’s smart.

31 thoughts on “lists, logically.

  1. Wow, can you believe the move is finally here? Doesn’t seem like it’s been a month. Bet your mom is happy!

    At any rate–love, love, love the list of lists. By the way, I’m one of those people who plans endlessly. Hell, I had to begin packing for your wedding days and days in advance. I kid you not! I’m pathetic!

    Happy move, my friend. Love to you and Tom!


  2. All the best with your move back to NashVegas, Tori. However we do it, time railroads on through our plans, doesn’t it? I just said “whatever” a billion times on our last one. And drank. A lot. :)

    1. The drinking thing has come up in just about every tidbit of moving advice anybody has given me. I think you guys are onto something :) How is the new place? Are you getting used to the concrete? I suggest stocking up on incredibly fuzzy socks… perhaps even a Snuggie :)

  3. Oh, child. You are your mother’s daughter, with the lists of lists and potential lists and possible lists. I love you, and I’m so happy to have you closer, soon.

  4. I make lists as well I’m for sure a planner but moving I truly detest! Its insane how much junk accumulates in one house over the course of a year. The daunting idea of having to sort and sift through it all makes me nauseous and I’m not even planning a move anytime soon. The best advice I can give you is alcohol start early and drink late. Oh and if you can trick anyone who loves you into helping all the better because honestly why should you have to do it alone!

    1. Hahaha. THAT is some good advice. We were gifted a bottle or two of wine as wedding gifts, and Tom has some Jack Daniels hiding somewhere in this house. I have a feeling I’ll end up breaking fragile boxes and getting a wicked hang over but it might just be worth it :)

  5. I make lists upon lists, too. And lists of my lists. They’re the only way I can remember not to forget. Or something like that.

    Good luck with your move. Hope everything goes smoothly.

    1. My original plan was to organize this mess of a move into submission. Then I realized I have a 2-year-old and mess is pretty much part of the game. So long as my kid and my computer get packed, we should be good!

  6. This was fascinating and so well-written. I am an inveterate pantseur . . . I fly by the seat of my pants and feel out of control when I try to control the future too much. It makes me very anxious when I engage in any planning. Even worse is when someone else tries to plan my day out for me. It’s so bad that I cannot even make an itinerary when we go on vacation. So it was really neat to see how my exact opposite functions.

    1. Your exact opposite is always dangerously close to breaking out in hives and having a chronic case of the twitching eye :) I’d say stick with the flying pants!!!

  7. There is nothing quite as thrilling as checking off something from a To Do list. I’ll put all kinds of obvious stuff on a list (or things I already did) just so I can get that rush.

    Good luck with your move – one of the worst things in life – but this too shall pass.

  8. I enjoy a good list now and again. I have a tendency to leave things off of a “to-do” list and then accidentally do them without them being on the list. I then have to go back and write them on the list just so I can cross them off…otherwise I feel like I’ve wasted my energy on something not important enough to list. Ugh, I’m an idiot. Anyway, good luck with the move…I hope you haven’t been taking advice from our friend MJ? He got himself duct-taped inside a moving box and it was weeks before we heard from him again. Don’t get duct-taped inside a moving box!

  9. Oh, good Lord – nothing is more stressful than a move. And a couple of weeks after a wedding? You’re crazy, girl! As long as the list-making is followed by some actual packing, it’s all good. I was going to suggest you keep the “don’t be a slut” sticky because thems words to live by. Glad to see you’re thinking straight.

    Good luck with your move!

  10. Between a wedding and a move, I would DEFINITELY still be swimming in lists. Actually, I have a list right next to me! It’s horrifying the amount of stuff I need to do during what’s supposed to be a mini vacay (Mon-Wed)! Having a To Do list definitely makes me feel calmer, like my anxiety is now the paper’s problem, LOL

    GOOD LUCK with the move!!

  11. I hope the move goes smoothly! Once upon a time, I moved almost quarterly; now moving involves a whole lot more stuff, and people, so that even the thought of a move is a little disconcerting. But exciting, too. I hope yours is the right kind of exciting, in large part.

    I’ve recently taken to writing down a weekly list of to-dos. Crossing one off makes me feel more hopeful about all the items I haven’t crossed off. See, Deb?! It IS possible to make a dent! Doing this has helped me limit stress recently, as has allowing myself the freedom to sit down and read for a couple of hours without telling myself I ought really be doing something more productive. That downtime is recuperative, and thus productive. :)

  12. I make to do lists, but only because without them I wouldn’t remember everything. Part way through I’ll abandon it for other things then find old lists and discover things I forgot to do, so put them on a new list. It’s a never ending cycle. Eventually I’ll get everything done. Or not…

  13. Your story reminds me of my days at Ameritech. We had a project planning team that would go to each grou and find out how many days would be needed for each step. They would then take the deadline date, work back the appropriae number of days/months, then present we programmers with a timeline. The standing joke was “Wow – we’re already testing our programs, and we haven’t even received the requirements to write them!” :D
    Plans? What plans? We don’t need no stinkin’ plans! Besides, if you plan, you can discover it’s impossible to accomplish. Get thoroughly entangled – then you HAVE to finish, no matter what! ;)

  14. Good luck with your move, dear Tori. Having just completed a move myself (sort of… still a lot of unpacking to do), I know exactly how you’re feeling right now. I have a bunch of lists, too, but I think they’re still packed away somewhere. Note to self: add “find lists” to my new to-do list. ;)

  15. I’ve handled life both ways: plan w-a-y ahead with copious lists or play-it-by-ear. Those last minute scrambles can be a bear. You’re right, of course, it’s really better to plan ahead.

  16. I tend to make lists of all things the small things I’ve ‘accomplished’ and then cross them off one by one to make it seem like I’ve actually gotten something done.
    ‘Get out of bed’ – Check
    ‘Put on left sock’ Check
    ‘Put on right sock’ – Oh boy… missed that one
    Important stuff like that. :)

    1. Memphis IS fabulous. But at that time (little dorky kid moving from a tiny suburb), it was the scariest place on Earth! I didn’t actally drive my car anywhere off campus for the first year I was there! I was scared of everything. Ended up loving the history, the music, the food, just about everything :)

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