I have always been someone who spends a lot of time "just checking" things. It's not like I think the world will stop whirling frantically on its wobbly little axis if I don't look up every so often and make sure the sun is progressing across the sky in a timely fashion. But I do harbor the suspicion that if you don't rattle the knob of your door at least three time to make sure it's locked, gremlins will come along and unlock it as soon as you are out of sight.
Preparing for contingencies and anticipating consequences, that's what I believe in, because you've got to stay ahead of the gremlins! In order to do this well, not only must you Check on Things, you also have to Remember Stuff and Keep Lists and Plan Ahead.
The Remembering Stuff--well, I'm not as bad about remembering everything as I used to be; I now let myself forget things. (I also admit my less efficient memory might also be a result of aging--I'm told that memory impairment can start around, well, around 40.) I have one sister whose memory is even better than mine, though she uses it to remember political information (she was five or six during the Watergate hearings and can tell you everyone in Nixon's cabinet) and street layouts--she NEVER gets lost. Me, I use my memory to remember appointments, deadlines, obligations, significant historical dates, poems and passages of prose, what everyone has ordered for dinner when I go to a restaurant with friends, and details about other people's lives. A boyfriend once related a minor anecdote involving a bunch of people I'd never met and I questioned the details, saying, "How can that be? After all, your friend Maggie is allergic to cats."
He was driving my car (I don't really like to drive, especially not in snowstorms, and it was snowing) and became very intent on the road for a moment. "You're right," he said finally. "It wasn't Maggie. It was Melanie who kidnapped Mike's cat." He pulled up to a red light and put the car out of gear. "Damnit!" he said, slamming the steering wheel. "Your memory is so good, I can't even lie to you about anything!"
"Do you normally lie to your girlfriends?" I asked.
"Well, yeah," he said. "There's always been something I've needed to hide. And there's usually a point where I screw up the details of some story I've concocted. But normally when something I tell them doesn't add up, I can convince them that THEY are misremembering. I've never met anyone who remembers my life better than I do."
"Well, I'm glad I can be the one to help break you of this nasty, nasty habit," I said. And I did help. He's one of the exes I'm still friends with, and he's pretty damn honest these days.
The Keeping Lists part--not only do I have lists, but I have lists that are cross-indexed. I have lists of everything I've ever published, one arrange alphabetically by title of the work, another arranged alphabetically by title of the publication the work appeared in, and still another arranged chronologically by date of publication. I have three lists keeping track of unpublished work as well, including where and when I've sent it. And then there's my List of Things To Do, with headings like "Teaching" and subheadings for specific preparations for each class and activities planned for a particular day. To make this list, I have to integrate all my various course syllabi, and then add things like birthdays, doctor's appointments, social engagements. I would hate to live without it. There are other lists I could tell you about, but you get the idea.
All the lists are part of my effort to Plan Ahead. I know people who are beset by generalized anxiety about the future, but never attempt to allay that anxiety by Planning Ahead. I could have been one of those people, had I not grown up Mormon.
To be continued.
Read Part Two.