Anybody else out there a lister? Not an A or a B lister (unless it’s buy milk) but every damn letter in the alphabet right down to “take trousers to dry cleaners to get Zipper mended.” I found a list the other day headed spk Phillip. Who the hell is Phillip? Then of course there are the lists of lists. The kitchen table is strewn with them, which simply adds another item to the list. Must tidy the kitchen table. I even add items to the list at the end of the day of things that weren’t on the list in the first place – just so I can immediately cross them off again. Anybody catching me at it would think I was a mad woman. If it wasn’t so sad it would be hilarious

Then there’s the cute little device on my laptop that looks like a post-it note, cleverly designed to remind me to do all the things I’ve already reminded myself to do on scraps of paper strewn around the kitchen. My entire screen is covered with post-it notes which probably take up more gigabytes than the rest of my computer put together.

Then there are the three email accounts (why? Don’t ask me) which require their own list (handily available on the laptop post-it notes) to remind me to reply to so-and-so or pay URGENT attention to the message which went right to the top of the list a week ago but is now lurking somewhere at the bottom of the pile.

Let’s not forget (hey, another item for the list) the iPhone, filled with a list of must-be-answered-at-once text messages or people will think I’m the rudest person in the world, (which, according to my iPhone, I am). There’s Facebook, filled with a guilt inducing list of people who want to be my friend (most of whom I’ve never even heard of, but that does nothing to alleviate the guilt) and then, of course, there’s Twitter which I never use because I’m too busy making lists.

So much angst, so little time, but it’s the guilt thing, really, that keeps me making lists. What if I forget to return a phone call? What if there’s no butter in the fridge? The world shall surely come to an end. It’s either guilt or imminent senility but the irony is that I have a very good memory so it must be guilt, which we women are so good at, because list-making seems to be an almost entirely female activity.

I had an ex who not only didn’t make lists; he didn’t even have a diary. How he got anywhere at the right time and on the right day, (or even remembered where he should be or why he was there) I shall never know, but he always seemed to manage. Mind you, if he ever went near a supermarket he’d return with a bag of absolutely-non-essentials – but I think that’s probably a male thing anyway because every woman I know complains about it and shopping lists are not only sensible, they are compulsory.

In the end, I started hiding my lists, rather like other women sneak new clothes into the house, because the raised eyebrows were too much to bear. It did occur to me that secrecy (not to mention, guilt) is the action of an addict so I tried going cold turkey but that was a disaster. A friend still reminds me of the time I forgot her birthday. She cheered up when I sent her a bunch of flowers a month later, because there is nothing more pleasurable than receiving an unexpected gift. In fact, she suggested I forget her birthday more often.

I happen to think that guilt is a complete waste of time. We can waste so much time and energy on regret and our heads are so filled with remorse that there is no space for anything else (like a list, for example). The solution, of course, is simple. Say sorry. If it’s a bigger regret, such as taking the wrong turning at the fork of a road many years ago, there is absolutely no point fretting about it because this is now, and that was then. If we keep looking backwards over our shoulder, we’re going to trip over our own feet, which is going to get us nowhere except flat on our face. And then, of course, we feel guilty about not achieving anything because we’re in a supine position.

So I’m pretty good at putting major regrets behind me because there’s nothing I can do about them – but lists? Lists are little guilt time bombs, exploding throughout the day. So if anybody has a list of tips about how to stop making lists, I will pin it somewhere useful. Like, on my forehead.


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