Lists

In the hush of the morning, I sew thoughts. Untangle the knots of life:  crushing disappointments and small victories.  I keep my old-fashioned, hand-written list of tasks and goals and dreams.  With pen to paper, my mind becomes less encumbered.

In the summer months leading up to our August wedding nearly twenty five years ago, I worked for a high-end babysitting service.  The type that involved stringent background checks and extensive interviewing.  I was able to earn good money, and in the evenings when the children had been tucked into bed but the parents were still waltzing through the country club in elegant attire and wineglass in hand, I addressed wedding invitations and tended to last minute wedding details.

One day I was hired to babysit during the day.  I borrowed my grandmother’s car, and pulled into the driveway of a massive colonial home with a manicured lawn.  The wispy mother-of-two welcomed me in quietly and introduced me to her two young children.  They smiled and returned to their play.  She led me to the kitchen and for the first time, I glanced around the home.  Clean and neat, to be sure, but sorely in need of furniture.  It felt hollow.

She pulled out a yellow legal sized pad, and began explaining what I needed to know for the afternoon.

“We moved in a few months ago and there is just so much to be done.  I am a little, well, overwhelmed.”  Her eyes filled up slowly, and then she smiled and grabbed her purse.  “I should be back by mid-afternoon.”

Something about this day has clung to me for a quarter of a century.  I have actually had difficulty pinpointing what that something is. She left and I scooped the children up and took them into the summer sunshine, pushing them on the swing set and decorating the driveway with sidewalk chalk.  We later ate peanut butter and jelly with a side of sliced apples.

What has remained in my memory, however, is neither the cute children, nor the stately colonial.  What I recall most is the mother’s wan smile and empty rooms and that yellow legal pad.  When she left the house, the legal pad, on the counter held her “to-do” list.  The penmanship was neat and the list was long and organized.  What was completed was marked through with an even stroke of the blue ballpoint.  It was a specific way to untangle those knots of life; making sense out of the heaps of responsibilities of being an adult.  To this day, I do the same thing.  I have been this overwhelmed woman; making sense out of difficulty through organized thoughts.

And yet, these lists cannot save.  They can give voice to our undercurrents, and some semblance of structure to our days, but out-of-control events and mishaps and hurts and misunderstandings will happen in life.  This I know.

People will disappoint and we will disappoint and at the end of the day, God himself is the only answer.  He is the only thing that will be constant.  You may choose to overly-control what you don’t eat or drink, or you may overly-consume everything, or you may refuse to rest or you may sleep too much.  You may bank on one person to come through, or you may believe everyone will always stay by your side as long as you play the pleasing game. 

That beautiful and hollow colonial is the human heart.  Lists and furniture and children and spouses and manicured lawns have their place; but this place doesn’t fill, nor was it designed to. 

“The only one that can truly satisfy the human heart is the One that made it.”

(unknown)

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