Letting Go of Lists

On my happiness list, the last item is “Embrace uncertainty.” And the second to the last? “Live every day as if it were your last.” These are hard to follow because I love making lists and planning my day.

There was one day, three or four years ago, when the darlings, Josie and I were in Italy for Thanksgiving and we had absolutely no plans. We followed the Improv rule, “Accept every offer.” If someone suggested we stop somewhere, that’s where we went. We chased a ball in a church courtyard for a long time.

We got lost in Venice. Someone said, “Let’s stop at that pizza place.” We did. We ate pizza under a bridge.

Then someone pointed to a boat and said, “Oh those clementines look good.” So we bought clementine oranges off of a boat. The kids tried to peel the clementines in one peel so you could hold them back together again and they’d look whole. They were the best clementines ever.

Then the kids wanted to spend hours feeding the pigeons in St. Mark’s Square. But I took a break with a cappuccino at a café off the square. When the waiter delivered my coffee in the white china cup, there, in the frothy milk, was a heart.

When I let go of my agenda, things surprised and pleased me — things I didn’t even think were possible.

I had that list of Summer To Do things. And some of the things I’ve done and some I haven’t. And I’m not sure I’ll get to them today. After all, my last item is “Quit making lists.”

  1. Update my resume
  2. Get more help for Chris and household management
  3. Research joining a writer’s room or applying for writer-in-residence program
  4. Befriend new families in kids’ new Fall schools/classes
  5. Prepare kids well for camp
  6. Have a party while kids are at camp
  7. Replace or do something about annoying kitchen cabinets
  8. Eat more fish
  9. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
  10. Comment on and read other blogs
  11. Tweet every day
  12. Do a reading of my work at least once a month
  13. Plan an international trip for me and the kids
  14. Get my bike tuned up
  15. Quit making lists
What’s on your Summer To Do list?

Loneliness of the Short-Distance Runner

I exercised for the first time in two weeks, swimming my eight laps at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Montreal. I zigzagged kickboards and babies in floaties.

Exercise is my anti-depressant. Swimming made me feel great.

Since my basal cell surgery two weeks ago I’ve had to lay low. I don’t like that. The winter doldroms set in. My overall mood is down if I don’t exercise (or write!)

It is better for everyone if I work out (and write) a few times each a week. So the other night I considered running a 5K on New Year’s Day in Ticonderoga.

I still had a bunch of stitches on my chest (where the basal cell was removed) and was not supposed to exert myself. I didn’t want to pop a stitch like an overstuffed teddy bear (which is how I felt after eating and drinking my way through Christmas). I hesitated. I had a lot of housework to do.

I had to pack up my family after 10 days in the country. That’s at least as much work as running a marathon. I had a cappuccino (also an anti-depressant) and had an idea. 

“Kids, we’re going to have our own race — to the old school house. You could win! It’s a race against me!”

At my 15-minute mile pace, almost anyone could beat me! But my kids are lazy. Yes, they are lazy, lazy, lazy. And it’s my fault. I’ve spoiled them. They’d rather goof off on Facebook than run.

The girls did walk/run for the first five minutes then they turned around and slogged back to their computer screens. It wasn’t even cold.

I had a weird experience as I ran. There was no wind. Yet I heard a flapping near me, like someone snapping clean sheets while making a bed. I looked around. Nothing. Not a breeze. It happened again. I kind of wished I wasn’t alone so I could ask someone, “Did you hear that? Wasn’t that weird?”

The front runner is the lonely (and possibly delusional) runner.

I came back, declaring victory, like Rocky on the steps of Philadelphia. When you’re the only runner, chances are good you’re the big winner! But I received neither a medal or champagne. Instead, I made myself some more coffee and folded the laundry.