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Thursday, February 08, 2007

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3 X 5 Zen




My mind has just two settings. Either it is scattered in a hundred directions at once, or I have locked onto one thing with such obsessive intensity that I am genuinely surprised when I get a phone call from the school reminding me that theirs is a day program. It is a wild and willfull thing, this head of mine.

It would be romantic to compare it to a mustang or some other noble, untamed creature, but in reality it more resembles a noisy pack of beagles. If you have spent any amount of time here with my mind and its pack of thoughts, you already know what I am talking about. Sorry about the jumping up and slobbering.

Lists are my leash and my salvation. I am habitual list maker. I plot my life on 3-by-5 index cards. Lists help me center and focus. They keep me grounded in reality, reminding me about those little things — like eating or dressing — that I will bypass if I catch even a faint whiff of something more intriguing. They keep me plodding forward instead of running around aimlessly or paralyzed with indecision. The list is my mind-whisperer. It pulls me back to the present moment, tells me the next right thing.

Our trip to Ireland is less than two weeks away, I have more writing submissions floating around than I can remember, and we are currently experiencing the downside of the freewheeling, freelancing lifestyle. I wake up every morning to find my mind already spinning out of control. It's like lying down when you've had too much to drink. A hundred years ago, when that was not an unfamilar sensation for me, I had a trick of hanging my leg over the bed and putting one foot flat on the floor. Worked every time. Pulling a crisp, blank card from the stack and pressing the the black felt tip of my pen against its white surface has the same gravitational effect.

I try not to be too rigid about my lists, because I have an obstinate streak that turns mutinous in flash. Like the Pirate's Code, they are more like guidelines. Lately, more like a lottery. Which of the lucky items will get checked off today? The power is in the making of the list, not the achieving of it.

The beauty of the index card format is that it forces me to deal with today. There is no way I am going to be able to obsess into the middle of next year, or even next week, within the confines of fifteen square inches. Before I have even touched down with my pen, the parameters are set: what is most important today? What needs to happen right now? What can wait? When I allow the answers to arise from within, it becomes a kind of mediation and a spiritual chiropractic adjustment. I am only in control of so much. And that is really so little.

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5 Comments:

Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

me too, i am a compulsive list maker. it gets so crazy sometimes that i have to gather all my lists and make one super lists. even then i am fearful of throwing the old ones away in case i missed something.

6:08 PM  
Blogger bobbie said...

i love index cards too. i found a little plastic caddy that holds a spiral set closed nicely in my purse, so i am NEVER without them.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Jen K-C said...

I love a clean white sheet of paper to write my list, it makes me feel so organized but most of the time I misplace the darn thing or leave it on the counter where I wrote it! Have a great trip, enjoy!

12:27 PM  
Blogger jen lemen said...

this is getting scary. i write my lists on 8x11 sheets of paper and tape them to cupboards and walls so i don't lose them or forget that i wrote them five minutes later. without a list, i will simply leave the building without warning for no conscious reason other than something glittery caught my eye somewhere over there.

may all your cards get you through the most important things before your trip.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Marie said...

I can really relate to this one! Listing-writing is an obsessive necessity of mine. Sometimes they are the only thing keeping me grounded in whatever it was I was supposed to do today. I try to keep my days confined to a post-it square. If it doesn't fit, too bad! But if it's off-list, it's out of mind. Without a list, I can drift aimlessly for quite a while. Yes, with or without "even a faint whiff of something more intriguing." hehe
Your descriptions are making me laugh and say, "Yeah, uh-huh, yup, OH yeah, tell-it!" I keep coming back to this post to revel in your writing. :)

10:56 PM  

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