Make a note of that

Burt’s Eye View

My life is a series of lists.

I used to remember things. Now I write lists. My pants and shirt pockets are stuffed with assorted scraps of paper-bearing lists — none of them the ones that I need at the time.

Magnets hold several lists on the refrigerator, including the shopping list. But I always forget to take the refrigerator with me to the grocery store — or at least the list.

Lists litter my bedstand and the floor by the bed, serve as bookmarks and drink coasters, and end up in the laundry or microwave (don’t ask).

My best works of fiction are my to-do lists. I’m never going to actually do anything on the lists, especially not the items that involve mops, hammers or tax reports.

I heartily recommend lists as an excellent writing exercise for aspiring authors.

For example, you can list how many miles you’re going to run as soon as you get out of bed tomorrow morning (fiction writing); a list of grubby chores you’ll tackle (fairy tales); ideas for fantastic inventions (science fiction); passwords to all your accounts (how-to, or maybe reference); and a list of people to whom you owe texts, letters and phone calls (biographies).

It used to be a bad thing to be on someone’s list. But if you made my list, it’s because I care. Or did at one time. When I wrote the list. Which judging by the drink glass rings, was quite some time ago.

I hope the reason I needed to get back to you wasn’t important. If it was, I should have written on a list. I probably did. But I lost my list that tells me where I filed all the other lists.

I keep lists of favorite phrases to slip into columns, like the time a friend told me her granddaughter accidentally said “dunktize” when she meant “baptize.” Beautiful. I MUST work that into a column someday. Wait, I just did. Checkmark, please.

I often check items off my to-do lists — not because I’ve completed the tasks, but because I’m just tired of seeing them on the lists. Plus, crossing items off the to-do lists brings such great satisfaction.

My lists always begin with “Item 1: Write list.” That way, when I scrawl “Item 2,” on the list, I immediately cross off Item 1. It provides a great feeling of accomplishment without the exertion that complicates the rest of the list.

Bills are another matter. Again, I used to simply remember. As the years increased, so did the number of bills — but not the storage space in my brain. I created a whole chart for the bills with columns for dates, paid dates, amounts owed, amounts paid, balances due, amounts available… It’s quite impressive but when you get right down to it, the chart simply is a series of lists. And lists get lost. Or ignored.

I finally got a new phone. I lost a good deal of my list of contacts. Why? Because I forgot to make a list of my list.

Sometimes I don’t know why I even attempt lists.

But I need all those lists. The lists tell me what to do — or not to do. Appointments to keep. Appointments to cancel. Church services times. A listing of menus at the nearby restaurants. Because I can’t remember anything anymore without my lists. Now if I could just remember where I put the lists…

I have been enlisted. Or over-listed. What I need is to be delisted.

Let me make a note of that. I’ll just scribble right here on this to-do list to undo all the makings of lists.

It’ll be good to be unlisted.

• To get on Cole’s list, write him at burton.w.cole@gmail.com or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.


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