To Do Deja Vu

Every day I have a laundry list of things to get done and I’m not very good at remembering to do them.

If I REALLY need to accomplish something I send myself an email with the task written in the subject line and then I don’t let myself open it until it’s done. I HATE unread emails in my inbox, and I’ll keep checking and rechecking that unread email all day, so I don’t forget to do it. Sending myself an email is an almost fail safe way for me to remember really important tasks, but if I used it for all my to-do list items, it would lose its efficacy.

I’ve tried the reminder app that comes with my iPhone, I’ve used ToDoist, I’ve even dabbled in the Bullet Journal that Mel blogged about, but I can’t seem to make a habit of any of them. I don’t remember to write down what I have to do and then I don’t remember to check it when I finally have time to do things. If the item is not part of my regularly scheduled programming, there is a good chance I’m not going to remember to do it.

That’s all fine and good, until my to-do list starts piling up and toppling over. When the days march by and the list of what I needs to get done only grows, I start to feel panicky. Right now, my to-do list is feeling unmanageable and I’m realizing I need a new system.

So I opened up my Reminder App to start using it again, and found that almost every task that had been left unchecked months before was still relevant. I still need to schedule my daughter’s swim lessons, and take a bag of clothes to the consignment store and take another bag to the Young Families Resource Center and I need to update my budget and schedule an appointment with the plumber. Some of these have been done, multiple times, since I last wrote them in my to-do lists. Some are still outstanding from months ago, when I first wrote them down.

My life, at this point, is just an endless cycle. The number of the year on the calendar changes, the ages of myself and my children change, but most of what happens, day to day, is pretty much the same. My to-do list gets written, crossed off and rewritten and most of the items are the same.

On the way to work I was thinking about this too, as I watched the same scenery pass by for what I calculated was the 2nd or 3rd THOUSANDTH time. How many more times will drive down that particular stretch of freeway before I die? How many more times will I park my car in my school’s parking lot and trudge into my classroom and teach the same curriculum to the same aged students? There is no reason to think any of that will ever change, and knowing that I might have such a clear view of such a huge chunk of my future is kind of suffocating.

And then I remember that I’ll be lucky if that is what my future looks like, if I’m blessed with monotony instead of tragedy, because so many alternatives to that cut and paste future are so much worse.

I’ve written about this many times before, the realization that all the big milestones in my life are behind me, that my future feels like it’s less about me and more about my children, that my time to grow and change is done.

Sometimes I toy with the idea of making some monumental change to my life. I’ve rolled the idea over in my mind so much that it has worn smooth and unassuming. I don’t think I’ve legitimately considered making any real changes in a long time; I just go through the motions of wondering what if, of daydreaming of what could be. Even my aspirations are recycled.

I’m not quite sure how to wrap this up in a box with meaningful written on the side, or how to tie a shiny bow of well written around the top. It’s just something I was thinking about today.

Do your to-do lists change? How about your aspirations?


  1. Some items on my ToDo List could be from 40 years ago. True.
    But so many things in the details have changed.
    It only feels like you will live in the same rut always now, in truth things will change.
    You may enter by the same front door into your home for the next 40 years… or it may be a new door or new house. Who is on the other side of that door will also change, believe me a 6 year old is very different from entering to a 14 year old or 24 year old. And that changes you too. Also the you that is entering will be different because you are a work in progress and you change.
    I think the most profound changes are inside of us not external … not in being in Mexico or Siberia, not in who we live with, but in how we choose and learn and discover we have become.
    To do’s of library, recycle, grocery store, laundry, whatever are only the decorations on our tree of self. And thank heavens for having those decorations remain stable… world wide refugees remind us these are blessings and we need to remember to count them as such.

    1. What an incredible response. I wish you wrote your own blog. I would read and comment on every post.

      Thank you for helping me see past the present day. You would think I was old enough to know that things change even as it seems like they are staying the same, but sometimes it can be hard to keep perspective. So thank you for gifting it to me.

      1. WOW! You guys made me feel soooo good. Thank you.
        For the record I was about mid-30s and bemoaning something about life not being fair to my aunt when she, with terrific patience, explained to me that If Life was Going to be Fair… the Fairness Would Need to World Wide………. including all the 3rd world-ers women who were being raped and beaten and killed (it was a bit of time, sort of like today and ISIS) and that didn’t mean they would have what I had… but that all of us would change with major downgrades to my ‘unfair’ life.
        Needless to say it shut me up cold. And I have never forgotten it.
        It also taught me that we all need to be reminded on occasion to stop and count our own blessings, that the things we wish were different are often huge luxuries, that we are in reality so privileged and also so normal in our forgetting of blessings and very normal in our wanting and needs.
        I remember Jackie Kennedy was called an All-American Heroine for raising two children alone and having a job (which meant I was one too!)…….but for her it was with millions to make her life easier. But I think she was also sad a great deal, and her life was certainly not perfect. Or even glowing like on Fac*b**k posts.
        Which is why I so appreciate you and your writing. You help me count my blessings, you remind me of my normal humanity, you give me perspective and help make me a better, more aware, more compassionate, kinder person; capable of changing and improving on the current model of me. I feel so much less alone and less of a failure for not being perfect.
        So thank you. All of you. You are all such gifts to my world.

  2. I feel like this too—for me, its reading old posts on my blog or in journals and realizing the same issues keep circling around for me and I’m no closer to finding a solution. I like purpleandrose’s comment above since its from a bit of a further perspective. Maybe several years from now, when we are in a different “season” your to-do list and my entries will be drastically different, but we aren’t there yet.

    1. Oh, don’t even get me started about re-reading old posts and finding the same topics being tackled in the same ways over and over again. That REALLY gets me down. It’s one thing to have the same errands to do, it’s another to realize you not only are not meeting goals, but haven’t been for literally years.

      The thing is, change can be so subtle, you don’t realize it’s happening. And as we’ve been watching my daughter’s behavior, trying to see if the diet is actually helping, I notice how quickly I get used to a “new” normal, and start to expect her to be in a better place, because when she goes back to the way she was, I have no patience. And that is when I remember that things are changing, even when it seems like they are staying the same.

  3. Well, no my list doesn’t really change, but I LIKE it that way. I’m not a fan of change. That’s an understatement really. And most of the “change” in my life has been negative- death, loss, abuse. So, the status quo doesn’t seem so bad to me.

  4. I get this, but also feel comfort in routines, especially these days. I try to remember that the routines ARE the life, and they can be special and full of intention – it doesn’t have to be about the big events.

    My brain is pretty much in Evernote ( – it’s wonderful, syncs across all devices, includes reminders and voice memos, and I would cry if I had to live without it.

  5. Love purple & rose’s comment.

    This post made me laugh because I must have at least 5 apps/sites I have started to use and then abandoned, with long to-do lists still on them. Alas! Obviously that is entirely ignoring similarly decorated bits of paper. And I was just today commenting to a colleague that when I started my current university job I imagined we would identify problems and solve them and move on to others. But in fact, not so much — it’s many of the same problems year after year, though with (somewhat) different groups of students and faculty. Which is hardly surprising considering that both turn over with some frequency, and that that is even desirable (particularly for students, obviously with faculty it’s more complicated — sometimes good to see one leave, sometimes not).

    So. I do somewhat share your experiences and sense of it, but not entirely. I do figure endless repetition is much of what many long-lived animals (including humans) experience most of the time and in most of history, and at times muse about how silly I am to be irritated by e.g. food prep, considering what this would be like in the “natural” (pre-tech) human condition. But I empathize with myself at the same time … just because it has always been so (or worse) doesn’t mean I have to like it!

    I am among those who find a certain comfort in routine. I’m also fortunate to have enough more disposable income than you do (I surmise) and/or different enough circumstances in other ways (e.g. just one kid, and he’s older than yours) to be able to shake my life up in assorted ways that you either can’t or don’t want to now (e.g. family travel). And that helps (me) not feel reasonably free from too much routine.

  6. I wish I could upload a picture of my Get Off Yo Ass list. It’s 3 years old and all applicable. Lame.
    I am actually having SEVERELY premature empty nest panicking where I look at my husband and implore we find some mutual hobbies because we ONLY have 12-16 more years of SERIOUS parenting AND THEN WHAT? We better find some shit to do together or I’m going to go off on some weird fitness/soul searching retreat and then just STAY THERE FOREVER.
    We might take up rock climbing. My fear of heights is an issue though.

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