A friend of mine who’s into what I’d call alternative therapies? I wouldn’t call it self help, mostly because rightly or wrongly I associate “self help” with a lot of earnest oversimplification. It’s still my belief that all the insight into human nature I’ll ever need is in the poetry section. Granted, Alexander Pope didn’t have any explicit advice about how to get your mother-in-law into rehab*.
* I’m not trying to get my mother-in-law into rehab, but if you had a mother-in-law rehab problem maybe you could find some guidance in Anne Sexton**. Or you could try Edgar Allen Poe if you were in the mood to brick her into a wall or bury her and pull out all her teeth. In conclusion, my mother-in-law is a terrific person and I am just trying to be funny. Thank you.
** Interestingly, I hear our local library system is ditching Dewey Decimal, so maybe the new organizing principal will allow for some more nuanced shelving bleed between poetry and substance abuse.
So my friend who is most definitely completely into self help sometimes sends me worksheets to fill out so I can organize my goals and stuff, but I never do, I don’t know why. Maybe I’m just not ready. (God knows that the number one item at the top of my Life List is to make a Life List.) But this friend, she keeps not giving up on me, and one day at lunch she was all, “Just make a list of all the stuff in your life that you’re tolerating. Start with the little nagging chores that never get done. I swear, if you just make the list you’ll start to see things disappear right off it. It’s magic.”
THAT seemed do-able, which is why it took me eleven months to get around to doing it. In my head. I still haven’t written anything down, because I found that before I’d even begun writing anything down, I was getting things done.
(I’m sure there’s a poem about that somewhere.)
A few months ago a piece of my gear shift knob cracked and fell off. “Who cares?” I thought, navigating suavely through the universe. Naturally, the next thing I discovered was that it was impossible to shift my car into Park. If you are familiar with cars, you’ll know that shifting into Park is one thing most people do before turning off the engine and taking the keys out of the car’s ignition. In my car (1999 Volvo), if you can’t shift completely into Park, you can’t take out your keys and leave your car anywhere in public. Instead, you have to leave your unlocked car in a totally drive-awayable state, hoping that while you run in for a six-pack no one notices your car sitting there with a key in it, ready to go, FREE CAR, COME STEAL ME.
Fortunately, after a minute or two of looking at my shifter in despair, I discovered that I could do a sort of Fonzie-style SLAM and get the car into Park and the keys would come out of the ignition. If at any time during the past six weeks you’ve seen me even hope to get out of my car, you have seen me repeatedly Fonz the shifter into Park, sometimes slamming it six or seven times before it would take. Sometimes I’d have to start the car again, back up, inch forward, shut it down again, and slam it into Park two or three more times before being able to take out the keys and lock that motherfucker down.
So yesterday when I started thinking about a list of things I’m just tolerating day after day, at the top of my list was the goddamn gear shift knob. I called the mechanic, he said come on in, and I got a new gear shift knob. It took about three minutes for him to install it. Okay, three minutes and $100, but still. Done.
Sure, I need to put some bigger things on my list beside “1. Find that box of photos in the storage locker” and “2. Make a yoga playlist,” but that would put us into dangerous Life List territory and there’d be no more reasons not to commit to figuring out how to “3. Earn more money” or “4. Take an active part in changing a political issue that matters to me.”
(I secretly do believe in Life Lists and I am using Danielle’s to help me make one finally happen for myself in 2012. That’s the last year we all have to worry about anyway, right?)