1. Opening sentence, or hook: When my life gets messy, I sit down and make a list.
2. Personal and emotional angle: When I’m overwhelmed with emotion, pain or depression, I make a mental list so that I can feel like I’m in control again.
3. Witty, possibly eye-rolling pun: When I feel listless, I make a list.
4. Personal motivation: Lists have a deep, abiding attraction for me – and I’ve always striven to make various lists, of acceptance, of admittance, of status.
5. Seasonal application: As another Christmas draws closer, my lists grow longer. And instead of feeling accomplished, I’m starting to feel uneasy.
I have lists of specialty items to buy, visits to make, presents to send, organizational moves to make. Don’t even speak to me about the New Year – the potential lists are so very tempting. Lists of things to buy, places to see, exercises to do, pounds to lose, regrets to undo or make restitution for.
8. Connecting to the wide world and providing context: I don’t even need to make my own lists, if being lazy is something I’ve written on a list of things to change about myself. Thousands of lists already exist for me to take as my own – bucket lists, romantic getaways, novels to read, best and worst songs to listen to, famous people to emulate, etiquette to adhere to, meals to make, beautiful things to own.
9. Relevant, ironic link: See http://listverse.com/ to satisfy your cravings.
10. Common reason for the behaviour: When I have a list, I know what I’m doing, where I’m going, and how I’m going to get there. I’m in charge. I have a List.
11. Fatal flaw: As a master list-maker, I’ve come to realise that lists don’t ease my angst, even as I make more of them. They merely materialize and make physical what has been rattling around in my brain and heart, and provide me with a false sense of control. They remind of all the Shoulds in my life and allow me to feel efficient, even as I put the list on the fridge and do something else entirely.
12. More life-experience illustration: I was unpacking some of my notebooks recently, and half of them are filled with lists. Recorded in those neatly itemized pages are lists of longing, self-improvement, and ambition. Some of the things I itemized at 13, I’m still trying to check off at 27.
13. Apologetics and writerly modality: Now, of course, like every other technology, lists are not in themselves good or evil. They’re a tool – and have aided me greatly in many projects, like the weekly slog to the grocery store.
14. Beginning of personal revelation: But if I added up all the former, present and future lists I have in my heart, I wouldn’t have a single spare moment for living. And I certainly wouldn’t be able to get everything checked off before I check out.
15. Touching example from my marriage: Some of the greatest joys in my life came with no list. My husband, for example – I had a small list of things I’d like in a partner, forged out of relationships that didn’t work out. But compared to who he is as a fully unique and human being, my list seems paltry and shallow.
16. Provocative statistic: If I had found a man that fit my list, he’d be a pretty boring person. I read a statistic once that claims eighty percent of the world’s population has the specific qualities most people say they look for in a mate: “honesty, intelligence, sense of humor, openness to new ideas, stability, communication, common hobbies and interests, and willingness to work on the relationship to make it succeed.”
17. Tidy (?) way to end things: I don’t actually have a way out of my addiction to lists at this moment – this post is more of a protest and a declaration – a way to battle the weight of the lists in my life that threaten to squeeze out the unscripted moments. A list can consume my entire day – time that could have been spent talking with a live person instead of communing with a piece of paper, time I could have been catching a joyous ride with the unexpected, time I could have been opening my unkempt home to company, time spent connecting with people instead of making a list of folk to get together with eventually, one day, as soon as I finish this list.