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The List Maker

Ossining's Mary Wu writes about how she has spent her life controlling as "The List Maker," but she is determined to spend the rest of her life trying to let go as a part of "The ME Project"

I have always been "The List Maker" for as long as I could remember, but the last couple of years have been really bad with me teetering on obsessive compulsive list-making.

I am still the old-fashioned and behind-the-times gal who carries a notebook around with me to write an idea, thought, and especially another task at hand on to my to-do list.  Over the years, I've had a variety of notebooks, ranging from simple and standard school-sized notebooks to mouthless and famous Hello Kitty in a red dress notepad.  But, the one thing that remains the same is I carry the notebook around with me everywhere. 

I make lists of errands I have to run and people I have to contact.  I make lists of promises I've kept to people that I must fulfill.  But, most of all, my lists revolve around my health.  There is not a week that goes by that I do not have to do something in relation to my health.  Call in and pick up a medicine.  The pharmacists know me so well that they no longer ask for my address or date of birth.  Rather, they greet me with a big smile and address me in a high-pitched tone of "Miss Wu?", particularly when I hand over my pharmacy insurance card. Then, there is making appointments with doctors.  Battling with insurance companies added on to my list.  Getting bloodwork.  All to-dos health requirements that I have to fulfill as a part of my arranged marital health predicament.

But, about two weeks ago, I finally made two lists that I've been wanting and needing to make ever since my Stepmother gently handed me the precious and rich red scroll that the fortune teller gave to her about my life from now until 45-years-old.  I felt compelled to make these two lists because I don't believe that any fortune teller or anyone controls or makes my destiny.  I believe that I am my own master of my destiny through the choices I make and actions that I take. 

One list revolved around my life.  We have all heard the infamous "Bucket List," but I entitled my list "The Live List" of things that I want to, have to, and need to do before I am buried six feet under and am the meal to some earthworms or my ashes are scattered in the ocean freely.  There are the simple things on my Live List that are in my control that I've never done before: Go to a baseball game (particularly the Yankees!), Go star-gazing at the planetarium where I feel so tiny in a world so vast, Go to a drive-in theatre, etc.  There are the complicated things that I have no control over: Fall in/Experience love, Make sure that my family is taken care of and happy before I go, and Make amends with my estranged mother who left when I was 8-years-old. 

The second list revolved around love.  I suppose you could call it "The Love List."  I wrote down a list of all my positives and negatives about myself and then what I was looking for in a partner. For me (and call me the old-fashioned girl yet again), I believe that love happens when you least expect it or are looking for it.  In my life, the best and most beautiful of relationships happened when they weren't forced and happened on its own accord and through no expectations.  And, for me, love is not about money, physical apperance, and sex.  Rather, love is about a connection and comfort, and it takes years and years to build a relationship, but it can only take one little thing to break that relationship down to absolutely nothing.  I wrote on my Love List that the most important quality to me was that the guy was reliable and dependable and did not say things that he did not do.  In other words, he was not what I called NATO: "No Action, Talk Only." 

While writing these lists in pensive and pervasive silence, I rewound back to when i was a college student and in one lecture with a professor who had asked each of us: "What do you think love is?"  and another professor who had posed a question: "What are you looking for in your potential partner?"

Back then in college, I answerd that I thought "love was blind" and that "the only quality I was searching for in my potential partner was that he had a lively pulse."  Naturally, my classmates and professors chuckled at my witty responses.   At the time, it was a joke, and now in the present when I carefully wrote out and numbered out everything to my "Live List" and "Love List," the sinking and gnawing feeling about time ate away at me.  The older I get and with the realization that the pain in my hip has now manifested to a numb and sharp pain in one to the point that I am still battling with the surgery being this Autumn or Spring, I feel like time is running out and that time is an enigma and enemy to me.  An enigma for how time keeps moving forward and we can't rewind or take back any regrets or moments that we would wish to because they hurt us so much or broke us so badly.  An enemy because I have no control over stopping it. 

I shared "The Live List" and "The Love List" with a couple of my closest friends.  One of my friends looked at me with intrigue and said: "You can't live your life as thought time is running out.  You just have to live for the here and now.  You'll have enough time, Mary." 

"There is never enough time," I spat out. 

Taking a deep breath, I explained: "This live list is all about the here and now.  They are the things I have to and want to do right here and right now because time goes by too fast.  I don't want life to pass me by and do nothing. I won't live life that way." 

There was complete silence, and then I finally said: "Well, you know what I always say?"

"What?" my friend asked.

"Learn from the Past.  Live for Now.  Create your Future," I said with finality, "And, that is how I live my life."

My other friend commented on my "Love List."  He burst out laughing over the crackled phone and said: "Mary!  If you ever find a guy who meets your warped expectations then make sure that guy has a girl just like him so I can then go out with the girl!"

Laughing loudly, I said to him: "What do you mean by that?"

"I mean, you can't make a list of what you are looking for in a potential partner because people aren't perfect.  And, you have to learn to let go of the small flaws in yourself and in other people. You can't expect anything from anyone, and you can't change anyone.  You should probably rip up that list about what you are looking for in a guy, but keep the live list, because that is all about you and your goals and no one else." 

"But, I don't expect anything from any guy.  I don't expect anything from anyone," I said defensively. 

"Of course you have expectations of people, otherwise you wouldn't have made that list of what you are looking for in a guy!

I paused.  My friend was right.  I could not go on like this with trying to control and make these expectations of people.  I certainly wasn't perfect, so how could I expect anyone else to be perfect?  In the end, we were all human and filled with imperfections.  Perfection was non-existent.  Then, after almost a two hour conversation with my friend, I stared closely at "the Love List" and "the Live List."

In my head, I heard my Stepmom's voice echo my friends voice with saying: "Don't share that list about love and your live list with anyone because then you are going to scare people away and they will think you are high maintenance." 

And, as my Dad said to me: "There is no point to you making a list about love and what you are looking for in a guy because you are going to change.  People change throughout life, and so their list, hopes, expectatations, and all of that will change as well." 

My family and friends were all right.  I can control my life as best as can be, but I can't control love and I certainly can't control other people.  Most of all, I have to be kind to myself and kind to other people by taking them and taking me as we are in certain situations and circumstances that are completely out of our control. Life amazed me once again by throwing me into a tailspin of wonder of when to let go and do nothing or when to take control and do just about everything. 

As of right now, my two lists are still sitting on my coffee table, but I have now zoned in and focused on the "Live List" rather than the "Love List."  More than that, I have focused on myself and have come to a dawning realization: I have spent just about my entire life conditioned to plan, prevent, and try to control the uncontrollable with my health through lists and all of that has somehow spilled over into my personal and professional lives.  But, what if I were to let go?  What if I were to be spontaneous?  And, what if I were just strong enough to watch magic, the unexpected, and the unpredictable unfold before my eyes without me  doing one damn thing?  Did I have the strength and courage to truly just LET GO?

These are the questions that have filled my head lately, forcing me to face the demons in me and the brink of transforming myself.  I have been diligently plugging along on my "ME (MARY EVOLVING) PROJECT" (I have lost 5 pounds according to the scale-- only 15 more pounds to go to prepare for my hip replacement surgery!  YAY!!), but this ME project is no longer just the physical aspect of me having to lose weight.  Rather, I have added on to my ME Project of having to change certain negative traits in myself and face up to my worst critic and enemy.  From here on in, I am working on letting go, taking a break, and, most importantly, being easier, gentler, and kinder on myself and others.  

I have spent my life controlling.  I want to spend the rest of my life trying to let go.  Because, now I understand that I will find out much more to life and also how much I mean to someone when I let go and do nothing rather than trying to do and control everything.  Perhaps I have let life and amazing people (like potential love interests) pass me by because I was so focused on making and fulfilling my lists. 

It is no longer about my "Love," "Live," and all my other lists I've written, but it is just about me and making myself a better person.  If I am better then that means I can only do better and make the difference to continue to help others, and that everything and everyone in my life will fall into place within the process of making myself a better person.  

Signing off for now and until then Keep Smilin',

Mary :-)

Email: mwu82@yahoo.com

"Confessions of a Kidney Transplant Recipient"

To learn more about saving lives and how to become an organ donor, click on www.donatelifeny.org

To learn more about arthritis, click on www.arthritis.org

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