What’s On My To-Do List

November 23, 2011

You know those really together women who work as life coaches, doing it all without breaking a sweat while cheerfully reminding the rest of us how much happier we’d be if we were just a little more like them? Well, G-d bless her, one of them has me on her get organized e-newsletter mailing list. Each week, she sends me easy Shabbat menu planners and Excel spreadsheets to get a jumpstart on holiday preparations.

In other words, she offers me a cup of water as I prepare for another lap around the track.

I’m envious of her calm disposition, but I still love hearing from her. By nature, I’m an organized person, so it’s not that I don’t have lists of my own or that I don’t plan ahead. It’s just that my lists seem to reproduce during the few hours a night I actually sleep. All the lists on the backs of all the junk mail envelopes in the world wouldn’t help me figure out how to tackle everything with the grace she seems to have. I’m treading water, but I’m not making it to the other side of the pool looking like Esther Williams.

My cyber-penpal, however, surely never forgets why she drove to the kosher butcher in the first place. She doesn’t buy sugar when she needs flour and when she can finally get out to an interesting shiur, she heads to the right location on the right night at the correct time. When erev Shabbat rolls around each week and I’m running hither and thither like a chicken dodging kaparos, I imagine she is already dressed in her finest, ready to greet the Sabbath bride without a trace of kugel batter in her sheitel.

She seems cheerful, readily admitting that without staying on top of things as she does she would surely fall apart, too. Thank G-d she writes only weekly because more frequent communication would force me to join a support group and I would be available to meet only at 3 a.m. in my laundry room between the wash and dry cycles. I just wish I could keep up with her.

I thought once that I might reach out to her because a while back I misplaced something vital, and I figured I could use her help in tracking it down. I’d already tried turning over a drinking glass in the kitchen cabinet and putting coins in the pushka, upending bins and emptying drawers, searching under couch cushions and in the pockets of coats not worn since last winter. I’d even enlisted my children, who joined me in my search, sort of, while they continued to play Xbox.

You see, what appears to be my routine, uneventful suburban life of carpools, homework, and housekeeping is more like market day in the shtetl, with its nutty encounters and negotiations, not to mention the pushing and shoving required just to hold onto my own cart. How I got caught up in all of this is a simple matter of faith and acquiescence. I had a plan that seemed quieter and more peaceful; G-d said He had a better, busier, noisier one; I deferred to Him. How I lost myself – the career-focused, put-together, less loopy version—in the chaos is not that great a mystery.

But now, when the places I need to be at the same time and the things I have to accomplish become so numerous they constrict my kishkes, I run downstairs to my studio. I grab some pretty paper and something to decorate – a mirror frame, a plate, that coffee table I never liked in the first place –and set to work. The smell of Mod Podge sends the oxygen rushing back to my brain, bumping me back onto the to-do list.

To be sure, I’m scribbled in somewhere between “Iron Shabbos shirts” and “Pick up cholent meat,” but I’m there.

Hope you will follow along. Check out my gallery on my website: mypaperedworld.com.