Real Lists vs Fantasy Lists

            Everybody makes to-do lists now and then.  As we get older, our nows seem further back in history, and our thens become obsolete.  So to keep track of the void between the two we need a list to keep things straight. But what kind of list do you make?

            My husband is very fond of making lists.  When he gets ready to go fishing or hunting, his list fills up two pages of college-lined paper.  There are things to bring, things to pack, things to sort, things to find.  I must admit that part of the length of his list includes things to bring/pack/sort/find for everyone else, too. But that is another story.  His real “to-do” list reads more like an instruction manual, all bullet points being checked off before he takes off to the wild blue yonder.

            I make my share of “to-do” lists as well.  Mine usually consist of mundane things to remember:  take ground beef out of the freezer for dinner, call Teresa tonight, write a check for my son’s lunch fund.  Practical, important things that I need to remember to do so that my day — and life — runs smoother.  My real list also extends to calling work or home and leaving voice reminders to myself in case I misplace my physical list.  I can’t help it if my list barely fits on the back of a sticky note; my real list is limited by energy and time and the phases of the moon and how many sticky notes I have.

            But what exactly is a fantasy list?  How is it different from a reality list?

            A real to-do list has tangible edges.  They have beginning bullets and ending periods.  Real lists can be scratched off one line at a time.  Progress can be made and seen through ledgers and spreadsheets and check marks on college-ruled paper.  Real “to-do” lists create deadlines and goals, culminating in that “feel good” sensation when you cross off a task that has been completed.

            A fantasy list, on the other hand, is as wild as clover in the field.  Each task reproduces itself every time you turn your back, manifesting into a half dozen more fuzzy bullet points on your list.  Fantasy lists are things you dream about, things that may or may not come to fruition.  Fantasy lists may have a foot in reality, but often it’s a child’s size 2 shoe, something that, for all practical purposes, couldn’t hold you in a mud hole if you tried. If you are able to check off one line on your dream list you are doing good.

            Fantasy lists can include a wide diversity of ideas and ideals.  Lose weight often tops a lot of lists.  Variations of this task are:  lose five pounds in three weeks so that you fit into your jeans, or lose 25 pounds by next summer so that you can fit into a bathing suit.  Pull weeds is often another chart topper.  It doesn’t matter if you have mums in a pot or a vegetable garden on the hill; weed pulling is often an arduous task that takes forever and seems to produce no long-lasting results.  Fix the squeak in the (fill in the blank) is a good one, too.  How long has that lid or chair or washing machine door made that high-pitched, irritating noise?  How much longer can you endure it before you finally take care of it?

            There are other bullet points on a fantasy list that are full of good intentions but most times get lost on the sidelines:  sew the falling hem on your pair of brown pants; give the dog a bath; call your sister.  Sometimes the list is full of ideas triggered by others:  find a recipe for a spaghetti squash, something like Emeril’s but with not as much garlic; look up how many Academy Awards Tom Hanks has won; call Jill to see if she wants to go to the café for coffee or to the pub for a burger, and if she wants to do it next Thursday instead of tonight because your son has baseball practice at five and the café doesn’t serve alcohol and a beer would really go great with that cheeseburger.  These are innocuous-looking thoughts that have the intention of being done, but somehow never get checked off the list.  This is most likely because a few points from the “real” list sneak onto the list, taking precedence over the more drawn-out ones, and we never seem to get back to the ones that were triggered by our wandering mind.

            Once we step up to the next level of a fantasy list, the bullet points look more like a doodle than a black dot.  The list gets more complicated in an ethereal sort of way: find out how much a flight to Cancun would be in February versus July; check out the price of cottages in the North Woods, say Eagle River or Sturgeon Bay; research the difference between inter-galactic space flight by nuclear fusion and nebula-to-nebula propelled travel for that science fiction story you are writing.

            The edges of the “to-do” list may get a little fuzzy, but that doesn’t mean that these ideas aren’t earnest.  These tasks are just as important as calling for a dentist appointment or making sure we pack aspirin for the trip.  They are just a little harder to maneuver; they are not weighed as heavily as the ones on the “real” list, and are scoffed at by those whose bullet points are five words or less.

            I just don’t get it.  Fantasy lists are just as important as real lists.  And I’m sure that if my husband sat down and made a fantasy list with me, he would be able to move that hunting trip to Alaska right up there to the top of the list.

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