LIFE without LISTS

Ever notice that cookies, cupcakes, flowers, and  fun seasonal goodies are always prominently displayed near the entrance of stores? It is because people (like me) are easily distracted. It is also the reason the apples are forgotten, when I pass by the cupcakes.

My problem in going to the store to ‘pick up a few things’ is that I never remember what I am picking up, once I am at the store.

It was no different the day I discovered that we were down to the tiny square of toilet paper stuck to the cardboard roll. I was off to the store. AGAIN. No big deal…we could certainly use a few odds and ends, as long as I was heading out for toilet paper.

That is how I found myself standing in the soup aisle staring vacantly at the rows of red and white cans. They marched across the shelves—seeming to mock me. What kind of soup was I looking for? And when had soup made my list?

Speaking of lists, I really should have taken a few minutes to make one. Not that a list is foolproof. I have been known to spend an hour or more making a detailed list, clipping coupons, and putting together a plan for a multi-store shopping excursion. Only to leave my list at home on the kitchen counter.

Which is pathetic considering that I often leave my phone and car keys on top of the list, to so that I don’t forget it. Still, I foul this up more than I get it right no matter how hard I try. Which is why I end up making so many impromptu runs to the store for items such as toilet paper in the first place!

As I meandered up and down aisles, I found myself wondering why we struggle so hard to plan our lives. I remember attending a high school graduation a few years back. Out of a several hundred kids, only three were ‘undecided’ in their future plans—and I admired those three for being honest. The rest had mapped out their futures in great, glorious detail–complete with chosen school, field of study, desired job and intended career path.

Such planning truly astonishes me. I can’t even get a list to the grocery store!

And I am okay with that. Because I’ve seen people spend so much time planning, they are not actually living life. Or they are waiting for all things to line up Perfectly, before enjoying their lives. Disappointment sets in hard, when the inevitable monkey wrench is tossed at them.

I’ve been clubbed by the wrench often enough to have learned a thing or two. I too, have plotted and planned in excruciating detail a path to take me exactly where I wanted to be. Only to arrive there and realize I was wrong. Other times, I was so devastated by a course of unforeseen events, that breathing felt unbearable. Yet when time passed and the pain eased, I was grateful for the detour. I knew that I was exactly where I was meant to be.

Lists are good. Planning is good. A framework to guide us can be incredibly useful. But I believe it is important to leave space for a change in course, to be open to surprises.

It isn’t the worst thing in the world to forget the list. Or to alter the plan. After all, that’s how we occasionally end up with a cupcake.