I am a planner and a list-maker.
I set goals (annual, monthly, and daily), and have created spreadsheets with detailed retirement plans and budgets based on multiple scenarios, and multi-year home maintenance and improvement plans. Each month I create a master meal plan, which is refined into a weekly plan as the month unfolds.
I also use a web-based tool (ToodleDo) for my master “to do” list. It synchronizes my master list across all of my computers and devices, allows me to forward emails to it for conversion into tasks, allows me to create recurring tasks of varying frequencies, and averages between 90 and 100 items at any point in time.
This master to do list is supplemented by a multitude of other lists, among them weekly shopping lists, a daily task list at work, a pre-trip planning checklist that I store on my computer and update each time I travel, a holiday gift list to track what I’ve bought and spent on Christmas gifts each year, and a daily “honey do” list for Don.
The Notes app on my iPad and iPhone contain lists of meal and menu ideas, and of books I want to read and movies/tv shows I want to watch.
My “bullet journal” has lists of books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched, blog post ideas, projects I want to complete, activities I want to pursue in retirement, places I want to visit, my “bucket list,” and a “habit tracker” where I record progress on fitness and other goals.
I sometimes half-joke that my devotion to plans and lists is a sickness, and according to this article there may be some truth to that!
I get great pleasure out of seeing goals achieved, plans executed, and items checked off a list, and the more stressful, chaotic, and busy my life and the world get the more I cling to my plans and lists – almost as if they are a security blanket.
Don, on the other hand is (as our therapist has noted!), a live in the moment, go with the flow kind of guy. He is certainly capable of making a plan when pushed to do so, but he does need to be pushed and he does find it a struggle. He’s made various attempts at mastering to do lists over the years, from carrying a small notebook that he labelled “Don’s Brain” to apps on his phone, but hasn’t been able to stick with any of them.
More than not being able to stick with them, he actually seems to think that if he needs to rely on lists and reminders there is something wrong with him. Since he retired, and in light of his short-term memory issues, I create a weekly schedule and daily “honey do” lists that we leave on the counter that serves as the central hub of our house. He has been really good about reviewing them every day, doing what they say, and checking things off as they are completed and has even come to rely on them…but when he tells others about this reliance it’s almost as if this is something to be ashamed of.
One consequence of this fundamental difference in our make ups is that over the years (as you can see above) I have assumed pretty much all of the “planning” duties from financial and retirement planning to vacation planning to smaller things like making dinner reservations. Mostly I’m fine with this because it also feeds my need for control, but I also feel the weight of responsibility and it gets very tiring sometimes.
Not surprisingly, this has been a source of tension throughout our marriage.
Given his stage of life and his cognitive challenges, and the insights I am gaining from therapy, I am realizing that any hope I might have had that he would take on some of the planning work is both unrealistic and unfair to him.
I’m also realizing the extent to which all of my planning and lists are really a manifestation of my need for control, and that this could be a real problem as we ride the waves of change that aging and health/cognitive issues are bringing to our shore.
If I am going to survive the coming months and years, I need to learn how to loosen up on the reins. If I don’t I can see that I will make life miserable for myself, and for Don too. I need to find the balance between planning and preparing for the future and making sure that everything that is essential to the smooth functioning of our lives gets taken care of, and going with the flow of what is happening in the moment even when it is something different from what I planned for.
Wish me luck….I suspect that this might be one of the biggest challenges the future holds for me.