The problem with being a writer is that there are situations for which words run out. The essence of that which can amuse, comfort, and sustain just stops, looks at the assigned task and says, “Sorry, mate. I can’t help you with this one.”
Two lives and a hundred injuries or more aren’t much in the numbers game of who dies for what stupid reason in this life, but life and death isn’t really a numbers game, is it? And there’s no accounting for what cuts us down and takes our breath away.
I have no words for what happened in Boston today, but I’m feeling the need to take comfort from the familiar and I’m a writer. Words are familiar, therefore I’m going to write about something that is simultaneously brilliant and inane.
So…checklists. Checklists are my new favorite thing lately and the reason is simple: you can’t lose. Whether you finish everything or not, you’ve got this little piece of paper giving you something to be glad about.
If you finish everything on your list, of course, you’ve got a neat little column of checks that look like just the arms of a stick person pumping a victorious fist in the air. “Huzzah! You did ALL the things!” And then you can sit in front of the t.v. watching Dawson’s Creek reruns and painting your toenails and no one can say a single word to you because you DID ALL THE THINGS SO EVERYONE CAN SHUT UP ABOUT YOUR HORRIBLE TASTE IN TELEVISION ALREADY.
That’s the obvious upside of checklists, but if I’m being completely honest here, I don’t finish my lists. As noted recently, I have a bad habit of taking on too many projects at once. My checklists are tidy little testimonies to my problem with a case of overattempterosity that never quite graduates to overacheiverosity. Naturally, I’ve had to find a mental construct that takes those angrily folded and empty stick arms and turns them into a life philosophy.
I’ve done such a thorough job with this that I have started to deliberately put one or two things on my list that I have absolutely no intention of attempting that day. I hang on to those empty items when I go to bed and sleep on them because when I wake up, I put my feet on the morning-chilly floor with something to aspire to.
Waking up with a specific, defined aspiration for the day is a small change in my routine, but it’s the difference between sitting down to write before I have breakfast and sleeping in an extra hour. It’s a framework to hang onto when shit happens, a mental construction that lets me process and see a tragedy as that empty line, a counterargument to the Ecclesiastic sigh that there is nothing new under the sun, a reminder that there is still a need for the strong action of good people (though not with guns–those never help).
And, if nothing else, the empty line is most definitely a reason to not waste my precious hours painting my toenails and watching shitty teen dramas from ten years ago: there is just too much life to pour into these damn short breaths we’re given to breathe.