The Great To Do List Conspiracy – part 2

In part 1, I talked about realizing the difference between practices and cross-offs and listed examples of each.

I don’t know about you, but looking at those two lists made me really see that it’s the practices, as opposed to the cross-offs, that  make life worth living.  Which is why I don’t usually even have a To Do list, except when I’m tackling a project.  It goes against current wisdom, I know.  Everybody tells you that you need a To Do list to make your life worth living.  And it’s tempting.  Except…

I recently worked with a woman who, I think, viewed her job as one big cross-off.  She was constantly frustrated by the stuff that needed to be done over and over and over again.  Seduced by the easy joy of crossing things off her  To Do list, she couldn’t see that her job was, in fact, one long practice.

And I wonder how much of the anger that floats through modern life is caused by this confusion?

We don’t want to practise, we want to get it right, get it done and move the heck on.  That’s the recipe for success and therefore happiness, right?  Right.   Except, except…

My brother John (a very wise man) attributes this tendency to a desire to keep the chaos at bay.   Write it down, cross it off,  move on and the chaos can’t get you.  Except…

When you think of it, life itself is chaos.  From the first stirrings in the primordial soup to Christmas dinner with the in-laws (love you guys!) it’s chaos  all the way.  Tempestuous, unpredictable, full of surprises.  This scares the crap out of most of us, most of the time.

So we make lists.  We cross things off the list and pretend that we’ve found a way around the central truth of life.

We are naturally drawn to the cross-offs and to the people who will tell us how to win out over them.

Neither of these are bad, in their place.  As I said before, I make use of a To Do list when I’ve got a big project on the go, one with a beginning, a middle and an end.  And I’m always happy for a new idea on how to make the darned thing work better.  It’s just that putting everything on a To Do list can only give you the illusion of control.  And I believe that the path to a happy life involves the understanding that control itself is an illusion.  Chaos does exist and if you learn to accept it and delight in it, life is exciting and wonderful and amazing.  But you probably won’t get a hell of a lot done.

That’s been my experience, anyway.   You?

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2 Responses to The Great To Do List Conspiracy – part 2

  1. Beverley says:

    Wonderful blog, Barb! You reinforced and reminded me about my basic philosophy, and comforted me with the concept of things being practices.

    I use lists for things like packing that require organization and remembering. I used to use them when I entertained – in my foolish younger days when I thought I had to do the floors when having company for dinner. Bless laminate floors and urethane finishes!

    Your attitude is beautifully balanced – and bring on the surprises! They can bring joy.

  2. Barb McMahon says:

    Thanks Beverley!

    It was a great day in my mother-in-law’s life when she finally realized that she could save washing the floors for AFTER the big family dinners. No one ever looked down and she saved herself a whole lot of work and frustration.

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