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December 20, 2007

The Big List

I love to make lists.

Almost every morning when I wake up, I start making lists (a lot of good ideas seem to come to me in the shower, on the bus, in traffic) and I carry a little notebook in my purse so that I can write down my ideas, my to-dos and to-don'ts. Writing them down keeps them tidy and out of my head so they aren't rattling around all day, messy and forgetful, until I remember at 3 a.m. that I forgot to do so-and-so. Sometimes when I make my morning to-do note I even write "lunch" on the list, because if I get very busy I will forget about lunch or put it off until I'm wondering why I am hideous, grumpy and ready to eat my own arm at three in the afternoon.

Most of my lists are just daily stuff. Items for the grocery, errands I need to complete today or this week, people I have to call, tasks at work and at home and everywhere in between.

When I have time I like to make lists of things I want in my life, lists of things I am grateful for, and of course a big list every year of New Year's Resolutions. It's getting to be that time again, New Year's Resolutions time. I love to make that particular list -- I think of it more as a goal I'm setting for the year, a nice way to mark a whole new chapter (dream big, hope for good things, eat a vegetable that isn't fried...)

There is one list, though, that is The Biggest List of Them All. I just call it The Big List and it is a bulleted, numeric list of one hundred things I want to do before I die. I wrote it in 2003 when I was still somebody's wife and still trying to pass for 26 years old and some of the things on that list are sweet and nostalgic to me now, and some are sad, and some are silly, and some I have been able to mark off with a fat red line.

Like the very first item on that list, item #1:

1. Write a complete book.

The next item is pretty telling, I think:

2. Write one more.

A surprisingly large percentage of the stuff on my list is about travel. God I do love to travel, always have, even little road trips when I was a kid -- going to see Uncle Truman in Mississippi when we lived in Texas, or going to visit Texas when we lived in Louisiana. I loved seeing new rest stops and loading up on the freebie tourist brochures they hand out to passing motorists. To this day, my mom still collects those for me when she and my dad are traveling around in their motor home, and her assorted brochures and newspapers arrive in a fat package on my doorstep and I read through them like they're gold. The most recent one was from Sedona, and it looks like a place I should add to the list!

Some of the travel stuff on my Big List of 100 Things To Do Before I Die:

4. Learn to speak pretty good French and use it on a trip to the French countryside, where I manage to communicate well enough to elicit an actual French smile.

7. Visit Moscow and wear a furry hat.

Don't email me, PETA -- it's a faux furry hat, of course!

Almost half of my list is travel-related, and I have already declared loudly and to anyone who will listen that in 2008 I plan to take three awesome vacations (or better!) The last vacation I had was in March of 2006 and it has been nonstop work since then, so 2008 is going to be a travel year. Who knows what I'll mark off my list in 2008 ...

23. Go to Dubai with an open mind and stand inside the world's only six-star hotel.

24. Visit Helsinki and have ice-cold Finnish Vodka.

25. Visit the ice hotel in Sweden.


32. Visit Italy.

33. See Terezin.

38. Visit Budapest.

I've been to a few of the places on my list since I wrote it (like Iceland, and I crossed off a few more of the United States on my book tour.) But some of the entries aren't really things I want anymore, and I wonder if I ever did or if they were things my partner at the time liked and enjoyed, so I put them on my list for the both of us?

But still ... it's a pretty good list. Some of the items are just funny, they make me laugh:

54. Spend my birthday on a beach in Mexico, while a waiter in red bikini pants brings me drinks with little umbrellas in them.

55. Take Krav Maga classes until I feel I am the frickin' terminator and can crush you with my self-defense powers.

Of course there are some helpy things and personal things on The Big List and a lot of private stuff (which is why I am not posting the entire 100 item view into my then-psyche). There are more than a fair share of things which involve making peace with myself in one way or another. I was at a very different place back then, when I made that list, and I almost wish I could reach back in time and hug the little married lady who so desperately wanted this one:

12. Love with abandon.

I liked this next list item a lot, and my friend Faith made it come true when she arrived at my house one birthday carrying a big tray of fudgy cake goodness:

93. Make my grandmother's chocolate cake for my birthday and think about how much happiness that one little cake has brought so many people in my family.

You can find the recipe for Oma's Chocolate Cake right here, in case you want some of the happiness, too!

There are some items on The Big List I am really proud to have crossed off:

15. Pay off all my debts.

16. Handle an awful event with grace and humor.

59. Quit smoking.

That last one, Number 59, is the one that will pay for my first vacation of 2008, too. I saved myself close to $2,000 by quitting smoking this year! TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS. And that doesn't include what would have been the price with the big tax increase on cigarettes this year in California. I calculated a pack a day at $5.35 -- over a whole year that is a round-trip ticket plus hotel to Somewhere Great, absolutely! Even if I am only pausing smoking until I hit my sixties, I'm still going to pat myself on the back for a full year of quitting. Finally.

Since it's been five years since I wrote that Big List and a lot has changed ("understatement of the century"), I've decided to revise the list this year. Maybe on New Year's Eve or maybe late at night one of these evenings if I can't sleep I'll start writing it down. It takes a while to think it through, it's fun to dream up 100 things you really want to do, see, taste, feel, be, accomplish. I want to keep the old list of course, I like to look back at it sometimes and see where I was. But I need a new 100 Things To Do Before I Die. I need a list that is all my new desires, all the things I want for myself now.

I hope you'll write one, too. It takes more time than you may think, but it's well worth it. I love my Big List. I've shared mine with a few people but mostly I keep it private, just for me, just to keep me motivated to love life, to live it now. And who would have ever imagined that in just five years I would have accomplished the number one thing on my list? Makes you wonder what on earth you can do in the next five years. Or three. Or one.

Make your list! I dare you!

Posted by laurie at December 20, 2007 9:20 AM