My neighbor's dog persistently, but unsuccessfully, tried to retrieve a tennis ball, from the interior of what I dubbed The Ball of Insanity, its snout shoved deeply into one of several holes through which the tennis ball would not fit, even if the dog could open its mouth wide enough to grasp the tennis ball, which it can't. The only way to get the tennis ball is to crack the plastic outer ball in which it is encased.
"Y'all must not love your dog," I joked. "That's pure torture. It'll be chasing its tail in a week."
That night I lay awake, my eyes wide open staring into the darkness, listening to the creak of the off-balance ceiling fan. I scrolled down my visual image of my to-do lists, paying particular attention to every item without a line drawn through it. I didn't pick up my husband's shirts from the dry cleaner (I was supposed to have done that on Monday), I still hadn't mended the hem of my daughter's dress, I blew off writing the thank you note to my sweet great-aunt (who I picture sitting at her mailbox night and day awaiting my correspondence), and I forgot to take the team drinks to my son's baseball practice. Plus there were three things from Sunday's to-do list, one from Friday's, and four from Monday's that I had moved over to today's and would again be moving to tomorrow's.
As my list grew to monstrous proportions within my sleepless head, my heart pounded like I was running from a dream-world faceless stranger. Suddenly, the voice of my father-in-law popped into my head, a remembrance of a frantic day when he asked me, "Exactly what will happen if you don't mark off those things on your list?"
Trying to cross off every item on my to-do list was like that dog trying to get that tennis ball out of the The Insanity Ball. It would never happen. But because I was so determined to draw lines through random projects like wash clothes, make grocery list, call dentist, clean off book shelf, wash out kitchen trash can . . . , I made myself a slave, I lost my courage to let things go.
I couldn't quit uselessly sticking my snout in that hole. The key to setting myself free from the Ball of Insanity, I decided, was to find a way to be glad that I had things to put on a list, and to focus on everything I accomplished, rather than the stuff I didn't. So, I grabbed the flashlight out of the basket on my bedside table, opened my Book of Lists, wrote Done List at the top of a blank page, and began recording everything I had completed.
It started with minor stuff like organized the medicine cabinet, sorted the dirty laundry, found my lost earring. As I got into it, I couldn't stop. I wrote and wrote and soon I acknowledged that I had sewn a kilt for my son, cleaned out the garage, spent a week at the beach with my kids, told my husband I love him, talked on the phone with an old friend, and visited with my mama and daddy on their screened porch on a cool summer evening while the crickets sang their hearts out.
Good stuff. Important stuff.
Measuring myself by what I have left to-do is not as effective as measuring myself by what I have done. The Ball of Insanity will never release that tennis ball, but I can live without it.
TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Do I have to say it? Girl, get out your Book of Lists and write that Done List. It will set you free.