I am a creature of routine, one who functions best with a list to shape my day. Otherwise I feel lazy, adrift, purposeless. It’s such a great feeling to look at your list the next morning (when you are writing a new one) and see all that you crossed off from yesterday. I get so into crossing things off my list that I sometimes add items to the list after I’ve done them solely so I can cross them off!

My farmer father was a list-maker, so perhaps I acquired the habit from him. Our 1950s-era chrome table was strewn with scraps of paper each containing a list:  repair fence, set traps, mix feed, and so forth. At the time, I resented his cluttering up our table, and kept trying to move his lists to a nearby drawer, but soon new ones appeared on the table. Later, when I went into the attic and opened Dad’s high school texts, I discovered flyleaves covered with lists of baseball lineups and other items of interest to a rural teenage boy in the 1920s. After he went to the nursing home I inventoried the contents of his cupboards in the basement. When I opened the door of one, I found more lists written in pencil on the whitewashed finish. Was he really that well-organized? Or were these lists his way of coping with the effects of memory loss?

Even though I am a list maker, I don’t have a bucket list. Instead, I enjoy the serendipity of life, the unexpected encounters and unplanned trips that develop along the way. I have thought about making a bucket list, but never do because I would love to see and do so many things but none of them takes priority over the others. For example, I won’t be disappointed if I never see the Grand Canyon, but I will enjoy it immensely if I do.Maybe not having a list is my way of preventing disappointment?

As I approach another birthday, a birthday without either parent still living, I find myself reflecting on lots of things.I wonder how my health compares to theirs at the same age, and why they didn’t tell me what to expect as I cross each threshold. Most likely, they were too busy living the day-to-day reality of farm life to spend time thinking about themselves. Also, there were many things they did not consider fit topics for discussion, which probably explains why I had such a sheltered childhood.

Recently I had a visitor, a high-school classmate who is a mere ten-days younger than I am. She looks younger than I do for several reasons, including dyed hair and more stylish jeans. And when we walked together on the trail I had to push to keep up with her. The day after she left, I felt it in my back, my calves, and my foot. It’s amazing how much energy pain drains from your body, and how energized you feel once it passes!

For years I have kept journals, although I find it increasingly difficult to do in this online age. It was so much easier to scribble private thoughts in a journal than it is on the computer. As each birthday approaches I enjoy flipping back through my box of journals, smiling at my choice of covers. For awhile I was in to pictures of reading women, other years I went for the economy model (the black and white speckled composition book). I like journals with lines so my writing looks orderly. There was a time when I experimented with different-colored ink, but that was a mistake because the purple and pink has bled over the years. I always like a journal that lies flat when opened so you can write on the front and back of each page.

Each year on my birthday I take time to write a journal entry about who I am, what I look like, and what my goals are for the coming year. I marvel at how consistent I have been, even though I don’t feel THAT focused. My entries almost always say something like this:  exercise, spend time with friends, read, knit, write, travel, try new recipes, and listen to music. Once or twice I threw in a career goal, like “get tenure” or “write a book,” but mostly these simple pleasures represent the core of who I am.

Maybe this year I should add something new to the list. Any suggestions?

About JP in B-town

JP grew up on a sheep farm in northwest Ohio. She learned to knit by the age of ten, and loves the smell of wool. She fell in love with reading, a habit she fed with weekly visits to a nearby Carnegie Public Library. Reading fed her desire to become a writer, and her dream of traveling the world. She resides in Bloomington, Indiana, where she continues to knit and write.
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