List Making As Catharsis

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Am I seeking structure?  It’s all but impossible to make it through a normal day without putting pen to paper and concocting a list of some sort or another.  Lists of goals, lists of chores, or to-do lists.  Top fives, top tens, or top 100’s.  Favorite books, favorite movies, or favorite songs.  Today even, I spent a half an hour writing an overly long and detailed list of tasks and things to accomplish today and over the weekend, one of which was the actual writing of this essay.



My Most Influential Albums from the 9th Grade:

-         Nirvana – “In Utero”

-         Beck – “Mellow Gold”

-         The Flaming Lips – “Transmissions from the Satellite Heart”

-         Nine Inch Nails – “The Downward Spiral”

-         Soundgarden – “Superunknown”

I didn’t always make lists.  It used to be an occasional tool to help me remember to do whatever I needed to get done that day…and everything on said list would be significant.  The to-do lists I write for myself now include obvious things like eating lunch and taking a shower, keeping up with my daily blog, and reading a bedtime story to my son.  These are things that I won’t forget to do because I do them everyday.  So why am I writing it all down?  Why do I become a little more obsessive/compulsive with every passing year?  It’s like I get some sort of “warm and fuzzy” inside when I cross an item off of my list.  And so, these lists get longer and longer and include more and more trivial items, so that I have more things to cross out when I’ve finished them.  I can feel like I’ve done more.  I can feel like I’ve accomplished something.  I can feel productive.  And it’s stupid and it’s crazy, and it’s probably worse that I realize all of this and yet continue to do it everyday anyway.


-         pushups and situps

-         mow the grass

-         blow off the drive and walkways

-         trim back bushes by garage

-         sweep back patio

-         water the plants

-         take the dog to the park

-         shower

-         make breakfast

-         go to the grocery store

-         laundry

-         watch football

-         make lunch


To some degree I blame pop culture and our indelible desire to rank things for my inability to move past the list.  I grew up watching award ceremonies that declared what the best movies were, listening to radio programs that decided what the best songs were, and had lengthy discussions with friends as to who was actually the coolest member of Guns ‘n’ Roses (answer: it’s Izzy).  All of this cultural influence compounded with standard teaching methods and list memorization has created the compulsive task-recording, item-crossing mess before you.

A Short List of my (Ever Changing) Favorite Movies:

-         Jaws

-         Trainspotting

-         Evil Dead 2

-         Poltergeist

-         Being John Malkovich

-         Magnolia

-         Drive

-         Dazed and Confused

-         The Royal Tenenbaums

-         The Shining

And they never end.  I come up with any and everything to list, order, or rank.  It passes the time.

Most Overrated Bands from my Youth:

-         Red Hot Chili Peppers

-         Red Hot Chili Peppers

-         Red Hot Chili Peppers

-         Red Hot Chili Peppers

-         Red Hot Chili Peppers

These lists fill up page after page in my journals.  I don’t think there’s any real substance to them.  Sometimes, it’s honest opinions, or trying to be funny, or actual, legitimate shit that needs to get done pronto.  But I think most of it is just space filler.  Just my mind that won’t shut up regardless of how much it sees or feels or imbibes or tires.  This is the kind of stuff that keeps me awake at night.

Superbowl Winners and Losers of the Last 20 Years:

-         2013: Baltimore Ravens over San Francisco 49ers

-         2012: New York Giants over New England Patriots

-         2011: Green Bay Packers over Pittsburgh Steelers

-         2010: New Orleans Saints over Indianapolis Colts

-         2009: Pittsburgh Steelers over Arizona Cardinals

-         2008: New York Giants over New England Patriots

-         2007: Indianapolis Colts over Chicago Bears

-         2006: Pittsburgh Steelers over Seattle Seahawks

-         2005: New England Patriots over Philadelphia Eagles

-         2004: New England Patriots over Carolina Panthers

-         2003: Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Oakland Raiders

-         2002: New England Patriots over St. Louis Rams

-         2001: Baltimore Ravens over New York Giants

-         2000: St. Louis Rams over Tennessee Titans

-         1999: Denver Broncos over Atlanta Falcons

-         1998: Denver Broncos over Green Bay Packers

-         1997: Green Bay Packers over New England Patriots

-         1996: Dallas Cowboys over Pittsburgh Steelers

-         1995: San Francisco 49ers over San Diego Chargers

-         1994: Dallas Cowboys over Buffalo Bills

At night I think about this stuff and categorize it in my head, keeping me up for hours and denying me any rest.  During the day, this same kind of stuff clogs up my brain and ends up poured out onto paper amongst chores and things I want to buy.

This whole thing has been a waste of time.  I’ve accomplished nothing but crossing one more item off of my to-do list.  So, I guess there’s that.


Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit

One Response to List Making As Catharsis
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