Something incredible, quite remarkable, and something that has never happened to me before, just happened. My “To Do” list is completely empty and I’m just not quite sure what to do next. Some people might say, “Well, that’s it! Life has pulled the plug on you. Just put your feet up and wait for that wagon ride to the great unknown.” Others might say “Finally, now you can write that novel about the meaning of life,” or “Great, just in time for you to run for President (now wouldn’t doing that make one hell of a new list (#1. Teach myself to grin from ear to ear [the photo to the right is my current smile], #2. Learn not to twitch when I lie, #3. Contact the Koch brothers).”

By Rob and Stephanie Levy (My "To Do" List: Yay for functional tattoos!) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Rob and Stephanie Levy (My “To Do” List: Yay for functional tattoos!) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Kidding aside, this is some serious shit. I have an obsession with list making. I’m guessing it started about the time I went to college. Up to then, I lead a life of complete intellectual and cultural oblivion. If it wasn’t fishing, hunting, sports, or in the later high school years, girls, I wasn’t interested. Not one of these activities required prior planning, hence lists were totally unnecessary. But when I arrived at college, I was suddenly, all on my own and expected to show up at the right classes on the right day so people could teach me some very uninteresting things I was to regurgitate back every couple of weeks on a test. Like it or not, all of these demands suddenly required making lists.

But although my college career go off to a slow, erratic start (still spending way too much time on fishing, hunting, and girls) I became habituated into making one list after another. After college (and after the service where the nice Navy officers always made sure I had a list) I got a job and, from that point on, I always needed a list to follow. Although I sometimes padded it with things that were just fun to do, having a list kept me on track for the next 30-plus years.

I wasn’t happy to have just one list, but had the one for work, one for home, one for different seasons of the year, and of course the daily, weekly, and annual lists. But the lists did serve me well—e.g. I had a note to “Take wife to hospital to have baby” and darned if I didn’t get her to that hospital before my daughter was born (even if it was 2 AM).

Thinking about it, if I were to write a book about “The Meaning of Life,” probably the most important insight would be “First, you need to make a list.”  The best thing about a list was that I always experienced a sense of accomplishment when I was able to scratch something off. I found I could increase this feeling of self-satisfaction if I always included a few gimme’s (breathe in and out for an entire day) to make up for those items that were on the list for months.  I never (almost), however, stooped to putting a task on the list that had already been completed just in order to mark it completed.

Lists were also a good way to weed out doing unnecessary things. If something just never got crossed out, it was probably a bad idea from the beginning.

Now, suddenly I am looking at a list where every item is scratched off. Before, there has always something left—something that formed the foundation of the next list. But today, there is nothing.

Now I could always write a list that included:

  1. Read a book.
  2. Watch a movie.
  3. Write my blog.
  4. Take out the trash
  5. Workout at the YMCA.

But these are all things that are sort of nebulous, done mostly for fun, not critically important, or are the normal, mundane, repetitive tasks of any life. In other words (in general) I have never put these type of things on any list.

So you see my quandary—I am going to get up tomorrow morning, have a cup of coffee, read the newspaper, shower, and then wander around like an astronaut dropped on the surface of a strange planet (like in the movie Interstellar). I just hope I don’t find myself bumping into a lot of things.

Or maybe, I’ll come up with a whole new list. A list with a totally different philosophy in what is now important in my life. I have said this blog is about constantly finding new things to stimulate me—maybe I need to revisit my life again—a “do-over” so-to-speak—this might be fun—I should start by making a list.

Something Incredible
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