Lists have been a summer staple since elementary school. My mother the teacher would fill it with menial tasks meant to build character or free up her time before the TV or in the pool. It’s a sharp technique. As a kid I looked on the list as yet another invasion of school into every facet of kid life, but the list was worked on and gave summer’s formless expanse some definition. We all need something to draw lines to be crossed. I realize the list helped make summer into a job.
Now lists take the place of a job newly left. Not that I need a job, either to structure time or for financial reasons. The list is a symptom of my overstructured nature, the post-Enlightenment belief that all things can be mapped and predicted. Still, the attic needs insulation and the fence needs sealing. Don’t they?
It’s been a tough month, really. Surreal blasts of worry for no apparent reason, evaporating by the time my scheduled therapy hour rolls around. Fatigue has returned and many days it has been a struggle to get out of bed. But the list was worked on, with more efficiency at first, less the second week, third maybe a little less.
July 31 last year I was packing my things in the overstuffed carry-ons, making noodles for a new roommate and marveling that the strange land I had skirted for the past few months would again fall away to itself. July 31 this year I am scrubbing the fence’s inside face. No swearing, no resentment, just the sense of a ticking clock and not wanting to come back to this in a month. It’s a very different place to be, a place that can’t be gone to.
Finishing the stain yesterday technically puts me at August 1, but the list is honored in spirit. Even the washer got stacked. That I don’t have a shelf to put the detergent on is a minor thing. No shelf on the list so the list is done.
I told myself July was a free month, to do whatever. I did the list, a little whatever. Nothing earth-shaking has happened. This could be the point.