I like rituals and routines. Maybe it’s a consequence of my Catholic schooling. Those early elementary years at St. Bernard’s Academy and Saints Peter and Paul united the soothing predictability of First Friday Mass with the ordered humdrum of school days: the cubbyholes, the clean precision of true or false, the freedom suspended between PB&J at a sticky cafeteria table and an end-of-recess whistle. After years of grade school surrounded by women wearing habits, I became a creature of habit.
Most of my routines, of course, do not involve the stand-sit-kneel of church — Catholic calisthenics, as Danny calls them. Instead, I find a degree of peace in the easy, streamlined movements of my morning routine. Coffeemaker, cat food, shower. Westpark, Bissonnet, Weslayan, University Boulevard. So much is prone to chaos and disarray. Students won’t finish (or even start) the reading I’ve assigned. A driver behind me might fail to stop before bumping my fender. My grocery store, maliciously, will stop selling the delicious chocolate-glazed doughnuts I love. But at least my sock drawer is in order and my dinners are planned for the week.
In the most recent issue of Real Simple magazine, five experts suggest rituals to carve out that sense of wellness. Peter Bregman, described as “an adviser to CEOs,” suggests jotting down not a to-do list but an “ignore list,” or “what you’re willing to disregard.” One should reread this ignore list occasionally throughout the day, Bregman suggests, “to make sure that nothing on it is getting your undeserved attention.”
At first, Bregman’s idea seemed designed for an over-planner like me. I love making lists! I began to imagine a new routine dedicated to my ignore list. Five minutes after checking my morning email, I would pour a cup of coffee and scrupulously consider what nagging chores I could discard for the day, writing them in a notebook dedicated to the task. (I also love notebooks.) I even brainstormed cheeky titles for my ignore list. The Fuggedaboutit List. The Honey Don’t List. Don’t Mind Me.
(That last one inspired an “ignore list” theme song, to the tune of A-Ha’s “Take On Me.” Doooooon’t miiiiiiind meeeee! They’re gonna beat you up WITH that PIPE WRENCH!)
Anyway. I never really got around to the ignore list, and not because it’s on my ignore list. I realized that rather than reassuring me of all that I didn’t have to do, it would instead inspire me to commit all of those tasks-in-waiting to writing. Because really. I have a lot to ignore. And creating an ignore list would probably begin as a harmless exercise in stress management and end in a meltdown of cynicism and self-loathing. For example:
- Planning next week’s classes. That can totally wait.
- Cleaning out the refrigerator. What’s fuzzy today is just fuzzier tomorrow.
- Calling the vet about Toby’s shots. That’s cat-approved procrastination.
- Writing an abstract for that Upcoming Important Conference. Sigh.
- Applying to jobs X, Y, and Z. Because really. If I’m not going to attend Upcoming Important Conference, I probably won’t get them, anyway.
- Stopping by to renew lease. I am in a professional rut and will probably end up penniless and therefore homeless anyway.
- Reread conference paper and revise down to five pages.
- Empty dishwasher.
- Scratch cat behind ears.
- Return student emails.
- Reread article for next week’s seminar.
- Update blog.