Something terrible happened to me yesterday: I lost my to-do list!
I wandered around in circles, sifting through the recycling, scouring the papers on my desk and crawling beneath the tables.
Where in the world did it go?
You see, I’m a “list” person.
I used to tell my kids, “If it’s not on the list, it’s not happening.”
So, if they had baseball practice, needed a new pack of crayons or wanted a lift to the mall, they had to jot it down (or they had to remind me to do so). Otherwise, things just wouldn’t get done.
I don’t judge myself for this. I’m simply a visual person. If someone tells me something, I usually forget what has been said within a few minutes. I was never a woman who could pull into a gas station and get directions. I’d be lost at the second “turn right at the stop sign.”
Maybe I have an undiagnosed learning disability? Maybe I’m just not an auditory learner? Or maybe I’m just prone to distraction?
Whatever the reason, I’ve found a way to cope, and lists are my answer to just about everything.
When I lost my to-do list yesterday, it got me thinking about my dependency on the thing:
Why can’t I just go with the flow?
Why can’t I just practice yoga without seeing “yoga” on my list? Or do my meditation without seeing the written reminder to meditate? Why do I have to have a roadmap that guides me through my day?
The short answer is that I have so many things on my plate right now (as most people do) that some things get lost without my handy visual aid.
That might not be so horrible. Unless I forgot to call my best friend on her birthday or neglected to get to my mammogram, then there might be serious consequences (at least, for the latter).
Thus, the list is necessary, even crucial.
But what am I giving up by following this daily script?
Fluidity, for one. Freedom. Surprise.
The list keeps me headed in a particular direction and gives my life form, but it also restricts my need for serendipity, for emptiness.
I finally gave up searching for the lost list and made a new list (upon which, I’m quite certain I left out a few things), but I couldn’t help but wonder if the Universe was giving me a bit of a wry message.
How could it be that a yogini could not intuitively know what to do and what not to do?
“Nowhere to go, nothing to do” is the phrase I often hear in yoga classes. It’s okay for class, but what about real life? I can’t just sit here breathing. Nothing will ever get done!
But I do get the message. We’re all a bit too hung up on what comes next.
It’s not easy to live in the present moment and forget about or relinquish our to-do lists. The mind, after all, keeps re-minding… “After this class, I need to get to the cleaners…then I’ll make lunch…I have to pick up some asparagus”…and so on.
With yesterday’s original to-do list still missing, I thought back to the time when I had toddlers (my sons are now in their twenties). No matter what I put on my to-do list in those days, it probably wasn’t going to be accomplished (at least not on my timetable).
Moss needed to be interminably examined in the cracks of the sidewalks. Ants had to be followed. Trips to the potty were very, very lengthy. Whole afternoons went by in the sandbox.
My toddlers taught me to be alert, to be aware, and to pay attention to the here and now. It’s a lesson worth remembering, long after the toddlers became men.
And so, my to-do list for tomorrow: 1) Zilch and 2) Nada.
Sometimes we just need to schedule it in.
Kathryn E. Livingston has been writing about parenting issues for more than 25 years; recently, she’s turned her pen to yoga. Kathryn is especially drawn to Vinyasa, Iyengar, and Kundalini yoga, and is soon to engage in a Kundalini yoga teacher training. Visit her personal blog at livwrite.blogspot.com. Find her on The Huffington Post and on the Kundalini yoga music website SpiritVoyage.com, check out her book of essays, All About Motherhood, or follow her on Twitter. Kathryn’s yoga memoir will be published in January, 2014.
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