Monday, January 7, 2013

Lists, and why I love them so

Being bipolar my mind is often a chaotic pace to live in day in and day out. Because of that, I need to create as much order as I can out of that chaos. It's one reason working administration jobs has always been a good fit for me. I'm good at putting shit into order.

As a kid my family would tease me. And every Christmas or birthday I'd get notebooks, paper, and pens... With my family knowing that I'd use every scrap of paper I got my hands on to write down various (and often random) lists to help me put my world into order. Granted, I didn't know as a child that this is what I as doing. I just liked making lists so I could cross stuff off them! So I could feel accomplished. (And yes, I still do love that.)

Traveling twirls me upside down and throws my entire world into chaos. I do think this might be one reason so many people (not just those of us with a mental illness) choose not to travel, and why it is so surprising sometimes that I love to travel as much as I do and live the way I have chosen to live. It's very hard when routines get thrown off balance and you're never sure what goes where and what to take and then you worry you'll forget something and pretty soon your mind is in hamster wheel mode and you can feel the anxiety build. Maybe that's just me. And if you've never experienced that well... it is a pretty wretched experience.

That's why I like lists.

I have lists for everything. Lists help me stay organized so that when the brain starts to whirl I can take a step back and either look at all those things crossed off to stop feeling like nothing is getting done or I can feel like I'm organized and ready to face the next item. And since I keep all the records from each trip I feel my lists evolve with me. After every trip I look back at my packing list and ask myself questions... Like, Was that item more or less useful? What did I wish I have and fail to being and should remember to bring next time?

Take my India trip. I had known going in that my food allergies might be a problem. But what I hadn't realized was that my food allergies combined with the way so much of the Indian food I ended up eating is prepared meant that I ended up lacking a lot of vitamins I normally get on a daily basis back home. And man oh man I wish I'd brought a bottle of multivitamins! So now a bottle of multivitamins has been added to my list of items I'll be packing for every trip no matter length or location.

I have lists of things to address logistically whenever I travel. And lists of things I'd like to do vs lists of things I feel I must do. Not that I ever feel glued to my lists... I mean hell, I didn't visit any museums in Paris, missed hitting the coast in Ecuador (ok, that was poor pre-planning on my part, but I'm glad I had backup things to do on my list!) and I skipped the Taj Mahal in India... Because freedom to ignore the list is just as important as having it to begin with.

Even a simple weekend away generates lists. In a few weeks is Arisia, the big science fiction/fantasy convention held here in Boston every winter. I've been going every year since moving to Boston six years ago. You'd think I'd know by now what the score is and what to do, what to bring, and what to expect. But I still make sure I consult my lists because there are always adjustments to be made. And what do you know, this year I had extra items needing to be taken care of! My favorite pair of shoes (a stunning pair of six inch black leather heels that I picked up at a thrift store years and years ago and are actually surprisingly comfortable and magical) had snapped a strap last year and due to my lengthy traveling this year I had neglected to get them taken to a cobbler to be fixed. While discussing lists with a friend the other night this came up and my friend volunteered to add my shoes to her bag of shoes also needing to go to a cobbler and would be ready in time for the Con! So "take shoes to be fixed" has now been crossed off the Arisia to-do list. *Smiles*

I really could go on and on about why lists are wonderful. But I know that some people simply can't travel that way. They're more of the "seat of their pants" sort of traveler. To be honest, that would terrify me beyond reason. I can logically see why they prefer traveling with no lists, no planning, and no organization beyond "I'm arriving on this day." And after having been screwed over in India by over thinking and over planning and pre-booking a large portion of the Rajasthan section of my trip (really, IIRC can just go fuck themselves in the ass sideways for what they put me through and for screwing me out of around 50,000 rupees at the end of the day) I really extra extra understand the benefits of doing things more organically. So while I am not likely to ever make the same mistakes I made in India, I think I'll manage not by doing a complete 180 but by being more particular with lists in advance and if I find myself taking on the services of a tour company I'll make a list of what I need and then do it one step at a time and not everything all at once.

So yes. A trip like India could never have happened for me without the help of an entire notebook dedicated to lists. And the "NOTES" app on my iPad. *Smiles* And I intend to continue making use of these tools for all future adventures, big and small.

PS - I am amused that I wrote a post about lists without including a single list.

1 comment:

  1. Because reading this is reminding me... - the night before I left for a two month wander around the southwest of the US, three weeks in FL with my parents, and a week in Honduras. The later posts should revolve around that. :)