This is a story about lists.
To-do lists, action lists, habit lists, goals list, vacation lists, to-do lists, action lists, habit lists, goals list, vacation lists, shopping lists, meeting lists, work lists, to-do lists, action lists, habit lists…
Some people say my life is controlled by these lists and note-taking and writing and obsessiveness over making sure things are in order and, well, being checked off. After all, how will I know I’m moving forward if I don’t see, physical see on paper, my progression in life.
Here is the thing that most people, actually… No one knows this. Are you ready for a secret?
My lists, keeps my dark thoughts at bay.
My lists, protect me from not falling into an anxiety attack.
My lists, help me stay focused on what is and not what could have been.
My lists, let me work despite feeling alone and isolated.
You might say my obsession with lists started way way back when I was homeschooled, and my mom had us create our schedule, into 30-minute blocks, from the moment we woke up to the moment we slept. After a year of her making me do this, I actually found comfort in doing it myself, and by the age of 10, I would always make sure to update my calendar with the latest tasks. Being homeschooled, this was my way of staying motivated while my mom took care of my four younger, energetic, hungry to learn brothers. Me? I taught myself. I motivated myself. I wrote list after list after list to make sure I was on track to be the next president of the United States, an astronaut, and the owner of an island that my mom could retire to. Yeah, lofty goals… now I’m an actor and writer whose life is run, or should I say supported, by lists and a meticulous calendar.
If my lists and calendar keeping has ever offended you, I’m not sorry.
Because they have saved my life, last I checked, your opinion didn’t.
It happened to me this morning; I reached a stopping point after working on a few projects, and all of a sudden, I felt this overwhelming sense of sadness and loneliness. I put my head in my hands and just stayed that way for a good 10 minutes. Not working. Not doing anything. Not saying a word. Not moving from that position on the couch. I just kept thinking, praying and hoping that this sense of no motivation would pass and I could move on with my day.
In this moment, I couldn’t remember what to do next. I didn’t have a sense of purpose. Something was telling me that all the work I had done, was planning on doing, and all future plans were a waste of time because I was a failure.
Let me say that again… I told myself this morning after already working on multiple projects that I was a failure. I was a failure on this beautiful Friday morning.
After about 10 minutes, I remembered one small detail, an anchor in this darkness, I had accomplished something today. Small, but I had accomplished something. And guess what? I had other things I could achieve today.
Just like that, my list brought me back to the reality of looking at my life through a different lens.
So, do I have an overall compulsive perfectionist attitude towards tasks and lists?
Is it my way of handling the stress around me?
This is a story about lists. But, more importantly, it is a story about an individual’s way of coping with stress and anxiety. Everyone’s journey is different.