List-Making, Remembering, & Cultivating Gratitude

I am all about making lists. Grocery lists. Lists of gratitude. “Odes” to the people I love. To-do lists. Calendars. Prayer requests. Birth plans. Recipes. Long-term goals. Outlines for your thesis you haven’t yet written. Ahem.

(Some of you you might remember my 30×30 list–the 30 things I wanted to accomplish before I turned 30. As it turns out, I made it through about a third of them, but I also did something huge that kind of interrupted my life during this past year.)

I especially love to-do lists.

In fact, I may or may not put things on my to-do lists that I’ve already done just so that I can start my day off with a sense of accomplishment. But I do rarely accomplish all of the items on my lists for the day.

I’m not sure I ever have, actually. Not only are my lists impractically ambitious, but I often leave the list in whatever book I’m reading, or in my purse, or in the car, or by the computer where I don’t look at it until weeks later when the bills and books and other paraphernalia piled on top of it get moved.

It doesn’t matter though.

It’s the list itself that matters, or rather, the making of the list. It keeps items fresh in my mind that I need to do, that I want to do, and some that I just hope to do some day.

List-making, I’ve decided recently, can be a good discipline–discipline as something that is good, that helps us cultivate the virtues, become the people we are created to be.

One of my best friends from childhood turned 30 this week. I decided to buy a piece of posterboard and cut it into 30 sections, decorate each one with very eighties-style stickers from the dollar store, and address them like postcards. On the back of each postcard, I wrote one thing I love about my friend.

So that means I made a list. Thirty things I love about her for the celebration of her thirtieth. I wrote down silly memories, inside jokes, character traits I admire, things that remind me of her.

We’ve been friends for over twenty years, and let me tell you, it was freakin’ reakin’ fun making the list, making the postcards, dropping them in the mail at intervals to spread them out, and then laughing with her about them afterwards.

And it made me wonder: why don’t we do this more often?

Why don’t we sit down and really think about what we appreciate and love and care about most in each other, and–what’s more–why don’t we tell those people who are most important to us that, well, they are most important to us?

When was the last time you sat down and wrote a note or picked up the phone to say, “Did you know that I always think of you when…?”

Or “I have always admired [this] about you.”

Or even just, “You are amazing. Period.”

It might be a good habit to cultivate. You know, a good item to add to your to-do list.

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2 comments on “List-Making, Remembering, & Cultivating Gratitude

  1. Mary Lou White says:

    One particularly difficult year, we made valentines for each person in our family and at dinner, we each passed our valentine around the table and wrote on each other’s valentine what we especially love about that person. Even my surliest teenager was visibly moved. That was years ago and I think we all still have those valentines. I don’t know why we haven’t done it again. It was a very special thing to do and a memory I cherish. You are right – we just don’t take the time to let those closest to us know how very much we love them.

    • elizabeth says:

      That’s such a great idea, Mary Lou! Thanks for sharing it. Wouldn’t it be a neat thing to do annually?

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