Lists IV (The end…finally)

Spent all night cooking for a party on Saturday and all I ended up with are two bowls of snack mix.  Who knew making “lemon cake ghost pops” was so incredibly, ball-witheringly difficult?  Has anyone tried making white chocolate chips into a ganache icing?  Did it dry to a paste you could brick a house with?

Oh well–tomorrow’s chili and cookies, both pretty idiot proof.  We’ll see about the chocolate cake mice with almond sliver ears and licorice whiskers as well as the cayenne cheddar witch fingers.  Too precious?  Not for Halloween!

Here’s the last bit of “Lists.”  Hope you enjoyed it!

Lists (part IV)

However, the most important and most damaging part of a list-maker’s life is that the act of writing down events takes all manner of import away from the event except the completion of the event.  In other words, I reduce my relationships to a list of “shit-to-do.”  It can get bad.  This weekend, I plan on taking my kids to see a movie.  I am not looking forward to spending time with them.  I am looking forward to crossing the event off the list.  My kids have, in effect, become “shit-to-do.”

Cooking dinner is just “shit-to do.”  Cuddling with my wife is “shit-to-do.”  Thanksgiving is now “shit-to-do.”  By reducing life to a series of events, I am refusing, in essence, to live a life.

My wife insistently reasserts the need to take life as it comes, and I am frustrated by her concerns and criticism about how I live, mostly because she’s right.  I do everything I need to do to be a good person, except feel anything about it except relief at ticking off responsibilities as they come down the pike.  I am, in essence, recording the seconds ticking away until I die.

I can’t stop though, because I have to know what will happen.  There is the old joke: “Q: How do you make God laugh?  A: Make a plan.”  If that is indeed true, then He has been laughing his ass off at me for decades, and I can’t stop writing lists long enough to care.

As a child, my family took two two-week vacations.  Like many families, we went to the beach, though rarely; it happened, but more often than not with grandparents in tow.  Our extended, nuclear-family-style vacations were more like long museum tours.  We took in most of the historic portions of the East Coast, for example, and on that particular trip my mother took it upon herself to plan out the entire itinerary in advance—what hotels when, what campsites, what landmarks, all put in a Filofax calendar.  I imagine that it was a lot of work, but as far as I can remember the entire trip was an absolute joy.  We had a goal, an itinerary, a time limit.  It was bliss.  Boston for two days, DC for three, Cooperstown for six hours—all written down, never deviated from.

The next extended vacation we look was also to the East Coast, but south, rather than north.  We would cut through Pennsylvania like we did before, but instead of heading up towards main, we would drive south to Savannah, taking in Civil War battlefields, Colonial Williamsburg, etc.  My mother’s main goal was to have a general direction, and follow it.  We would stop when we wanted, go where the wind blew.  It was a fucking disaster.

We eventually found ourselves in a fleabag motel outside of Chesapeake Bay, my sisters and I screaming at each other and our parents, my parents screaming back at us.  I’m not sure there was any reason for the Cassavetes-like scenario except for the sheer exhaustion choice brought to our tidy, well-planned family.  We were incapable of existing together, it turned out, longer than three hours with no set agenda, no common goal.

We chucked the whole idea of freedom and went to the beach, where my Dad broke the bank and got us a suite.  We watched the fireworks that evening over Chesapeake Bay, satisfied that we would be here for three days, that the chaos was over and order restored.  We knew where we were and where we were going—nowhere.



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