Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lists and Resolutions

My name is Ann and I’m a list-maker.

(ALL: Hi, Ann.)

Left-handed list-maker. Born this way. Can’t help it.

There’s the satisfaction that comes from crossing something off a list. First, there's the list itself — one created thoughtfully or reminders scribbled one at a time on a scrap piece of paper with each pass through the kitchen. A list reduces my anxiety better than Ativan could, and it gives me the feeling that I know what I have to do and where I need to go. And woe to me if I do not have a list. Things are forgotten. The ball is dropped.

I have a list of important dates for friends and family (birthdays, anniversaries); another for the books I have read and the ones I would like to read. Rudy Maxa and Rick Steves would come to blows over my Vacation Packing List.

My favorite list is one I create every year at this time. Call them resolutions, call them goals. These are promises I make to myself, including the most important one I don’t write down: I will try to not beat myself up if I don’t accomplish all of my goals. This list is small: at least five items, but less than a dozen. Writing them down thoughtfully, I make sure that they are within the reach of a normal human being. Many years ago, one of my friends said her goal for the coming year was to “be famous.” It is best not to make goals like that. Too broad.

I often resolve to do things that end up being integrated into my life. One year, this was on my list: find out about volunteering for Radio Talking Book. For four years, the entry reappeared. At last, I went over to the Minnesota State Services for the Blind, did my audition, and I am still involved in being a volunteer reader for Radio Talking Book.

Because of this end-of-the-year ritual, I have paid off a bill, taken a bike repair class, become a year-round bicycle commuter, and learned how to use a couple of interesting pieces of software more effectively. Those are just a few.

There is, of course, a list of the goals I did not reach. I take a good look at why they were not accomplished and understand that perhaps I set the bar a little high. Maybe there was a lack of time. A few are carried over to the next year.

And then there are those that beg the question: What was I thinking?

I resolve to write in my journal each day. I made that goal three years ago and I have not missed a day. The secret? Knowing I do not have to be Proust; I just need to write something. Anything. There are entries like this one: “Too tired. See you tomorrow.”

For the coming year, here are a few things on my list:
Finish the first draft of a play
Take a meditation class
Ride the Root River Trail in southern Minnesota. (It’s 60 miles. I’ve done little parts of it, but I’d like to do the whole thing.)

So, go on. Go ahead, set a few things out in front of you. Start small. Checking things off on even the shortest list is a gift in itself.

Wishing you and those you hold dear a healthy, sane, and loving year.

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