Heather's Columns ....

List-less in Sacramento

Hello. My name is Heather, and I am a To Do List Addict.

For many years I thought there was nothing wrong with listing. Everyone does a little To Do List now and then, right? I swear I never listed while driving. I never felt the urge to hide my lists or pretend I didnít use one. All my lists were nonchalant, scribbled notes on scraps of paper ó not the color-coded, prioritized, downloadable versions Iíve seen hardcore listers create. So no big deal, right?

For years, I wrote up To Do lists maybe just once or twice a week. A convenience, not a necessity. But now, at age fifty-five, I feel the need to To Do every single day. . . okay, so sometimes even twice a day. I start my To Do List as soon as I get out of bed. And lately? I even find myself sneaking out of bed in the middle of the night to capture a critical To Do that I might otherwise forget: Replace Batteries in TV Remote.

I know this is not healthy.

Itís not that my life is so complex; itís actually pretty simple Ė okay, so itís actually pretty boring. But I still have the normal everyday stuff of life to do and remember. However, Iíve noticed lately that even when I have absolutely nothing to do, I still create a list. Shower, my List says, Brush Teeth, Feed Dog.

Why do I do this? Because I crave the high, the exquisite thrill of crossing those tasks off The List! Many of you know what Iím talking about, right? The electrifying satisfaction of zapping them off: Prepare Taxes -- zap! Yahoo! Is there anything more exhilarating? Sometimes I even write something on The List that Iíve already accomplished, just to get that delicious buzz: Get Out of Bed -- zap! Satisfaction that once came from completing the task itself? Pay Bills -- zap! Now The List holds that power.

Itís pathetic.

But have you ever tried to make it through your day without one? I did. I decided to go cold turkey for three whole days, just to prove to myself that I could. I vowed to do no To Do List for 72 hours, a mere 4320 minutes. Piece of cake, right?

It was a terrifying experience.

It started out okay. On Day One, I got out of bed, showered, dressed, even remembered to feed the dog (he dragged his kibbles out of the cupboard and dumped them on the kitchen floor which might have clued me in). But my day slid downhill from there. I knew I had ďerrandsĒ but what were they? Errands often mean drugstore so I went there first. I wandered through aisles scrutinizing each product. ďAm I here for you?Ē I whispered to the cotton swabs, cold remedies, dental floss. But three and a half hours later (when the security guard escorted me out of the building), I still hadnít figured it out.

Home again, I stared morosely at my desk and my work projects languishing in a tangled heap. Do I work on that class presentation first? The re-write of chapter fifteen? Research for the new column? HOW COULD I POSSIBLY KNOW WITHOUT MY LIST?!?

I did remember to call my dentist for an appointment. But without The List, I couldnít cross off Call Dentist. I was depressed. By noon, I felt so bummed out, confused and list-less that I slept through the entire next two days (the one activity for which I do not require a To Do List --yet).

Through Deep Introspection (number four on last Tuesdayís To Do list), Iíve realized that my To Do Listing allows me go blissfully unconscious. As soon as I create that daily To Do, I feel warm and comfy inside. My world is manageable and I know where Iím going. I just follow my list, no thought, no worries.

I obviously need help. I donít know if Iíll ever be able to kick my addiction. My brain has been on To Do Lists for so long that Iím not sure all of its synapses will ever synap again. But Iím willing to try. A Twelve Step Program? That might just be the thing!

Then Iíd get to cross off each step as I. . .