Monday, August 9, 2010

A Good Promblem

I have a problem, a good problem. I make lists. It wasn't until I sat down to write a list of my listing offenses, that I realized just how advanced my condition is.
  1. I make lists on a daily basis. 
  2. I try to coerce my husband into making lists.
  3. Once, in university, I tried to pass off a list as a poem and actually got credit for it.
  4. I leave lists in the back pockets of my jeans, in my car, and even in my baby stroller.
  5. I have an entire folder on my hard drive entitled "S.Lists" and there are more than two dozen files in it.
  6. I like to read lists I find on the street written in other people's hand writing on the back of their receipts and sometimes I even read the receipts.
Recently, I picked up a book at a second-hand store for my son called A House Is a House for Me written by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Betty Fraser. It's all about how everything either is a house or requires a house. To quote the book, "Cartons are houses for crackers. / Castles are houses for kings. / The more that I think about houses, / The more things are houses for things." The same is true with lists. I see them everywhere: mailing addresses, sentences, recipes, receipts, instructions, ingredients, even this blog is a list of my favorite things (of which lists are one), and my last two posts have been formatted as lists of favorite hot springs and children's books.

My reason for writing lists comes from my belief that there is a finite number of things I can remember at any given time, (and that number shrinks drastically if I think of these things in the 10 minutes between turning out the light and falling asleep). Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point says there are threshold capacities for how many consecutive digits the average person can memorize and even for how many people a person can truly love at one time. Essentially, I use the lists I make so that I can make room in my brain for the things I inevitably forget to write down.

Long before I read Gladwell, I journaled rampantly, writing down memorable events in my life with the hope that I could supplement my memory with these snapshots. And it has worked! Though I have yet to read over my teenage memoirs (an it'll take a few drinks to get me to do so), I know that one day I'll go be able to access long forgotten (suppressed?) memories. I value old friends for the same reason; they often remember occurrences that I have completely forgotten or they remember them differently than I do, often to my embarrassment.

Perhaps I'm selling myself short or even hindering my brain's capacity by using these cheat sheets, but I don't think so. I've been making lists for a while now (when I was seven I had a list of possible dream ideas to help get me started on the right foot in dreamland written in my mother's handwriting - I dictated - paperclipped to a family photo near my bedside), and I have yet to run into a problem other than occasionally misplacing a list and having to rifle through my recycling bin and a multitude of last week's lists until I find it or start another in it's place. And if I do lose a list, there is always another list on the horizon. Why with all the to-dos alone I could be busy for an entire long weekend. The work of a lister is never done.

No comments:

Post a Comment