Being too busy makes me cranky. I blame it on making lists. As long as I get through my days accomplishing a few things I feel pretty good when I lie in bed at night giving thanks for five things that happened during the day – one of my ways to get to sleep if exhaustion doesn’t give way to peaceful dreams.
But lists! Yes, I think I get more done if I put the items on paper. But the list becomes the boss of me. It pushes and yanks and prods me, cracking a silent whip at my back, forcing me to do more and more without mercy.
Putting everything down helps me get all those must-do’s out of my head instead of swimming around like piranhas, chomping at my peace of mind. “Oh, man, I’ve got to…” my brain says, spinning through 8,000 things I want to accomplish today – cooking, cleaning, watering, weeding. A list is a cathartic relief, like when you watch a clogged toilet filling up and then it drains just before it’s about to run over.
I can look at the things I’ve written down and sometimes think, “Well, there’s not that much to do,” and trick myself into believing I have enough hours to get finish them. I even put times beside the items – 7:00 to 7:30 – water my garden. Then I drive seven minutes to the community garden, eating a protein bar on the way. As I water, everything looks healthy except the stupid squash plant with its yellow leaves. What the heck is wrong with it? I Google on my phone and read and watch YouTube videos that tell me I need to cut those yellow leaves off and, according to one source, make a one-part milk and eight-part water solution to spray on the healthy leaves to protect them from powdery mildew, and I need to do this in the hot part of the day so it dries quickly. After cutting the yellow leaves off and getting itchy squash prickles all over my hands, I notice that my tomato plants need to be tied higher. I’ll do that when I come back with the milk spray later in the day.
I get home and it’s now 8:15: 45 minutes behind schedule. Crap! I do the math in my head and write new times above the old times.
Everything this morning takes longer than estimated, and at lunch I’m standing up at the counter eating, trying to figure out when I’ll wedge in that return trip to the garden with the mildew spray. I despise the smell of spilt milk – the thought of spraying milk in the blistering heat with the frisky afternoon winds blowing that foul odor all over me – I get a little throw-up in my mouth thinking about it.
The day goes on. A headache is creeping up from the base of my neck. I’m doing things in a half-assed way so I can line through another item. I’ll probably get everything done, but I won’t have time for my daily walk, which I’d forgotten to add and it’s already getting dusky outside. I still need to change the hummingbird feeder – the little pests are hovering around the almost empty feeder and I know what they’re thinking. “Don’t come out here without some fresh sugar water or we’ll dive-bomb you.” They will, too. They roar like a fighter jet taking off when they zoom in to feed – doesn’t bother them that you’re going in the front door five feet away. The first few days after I hung the feeder I ducked and ran into the house – they sound like they’re an inch from your head. I love them, but today I wish they’d just buzz off and leave me alone. I’m feeling pretty cranky right now.
At 7 p.m. the list still calls, but it’s time for dinner on the couch in front of the TV with my husband. Back when the kids were home I always made us eat at the table as a family, but with the two of us the TV is fine. We start a movie, and I have good intentions to do the last two things, but I don’t. I’ll change the fish water in the morning. The hummingbirds will have to wait.
That will put me behind tomorrow, and it bothers me, but I can’t do everything, right? If I hadn’t written everything down I would have forgotten half of the things anyway (even if I’m not too proud of the way I did some of them). They’re lined through. That’s what’s important.
In my bedtime prayers it’s easy to be thankful for five of the things I got done, plus my husband, children, family and friends, the hummingbirds, my faithful fish, my garden. Maybe tomorrow I’ll forget to make a list. The thought comforts me, and pretty soon I’m sound asleep.