The ‘Listology Methodology’ meant you got things done. Significant milestones were achieved. Tasks were closed. Lists were completed. Projects were finished.
It worked. It gave you success.
And in accordance with the ‘Listology Methodology’ Chloe had six lists in total.
Each Saturday afternoon Chloe watered, snipped and shaped all those lists to perfection like finely pruned bonsai trees. She measured her weekly progress and reflected on what she could improve the next week. And if she had somehow completed something that hadn’t been on a list, she secretly wrote it in and crossed it off. The satisfaction of it all was just simply divine.
However, there was one small issue with having so many lists, and achieving lots of personal goals on a regular basis Chloe realised. The unfortunate side effect was that no one actually wanted anyone to achieve anything. In fact, it was almost as if people took some sort of personal offence to somebody achieving great things.
“You’re so busy! How do you do it all? Where do you get the time? Where do you get the energy? Do you ever take a weekend off? You’re always doing something, aren’t you great”, they would all chime, all looking to take away from her achievements.
And one friend in particular that morning had decided to up the ante and staged a casual intervention against the “Listology Methodology” approach to life.
Lisa’s little fake laugh had been weird. Too breezy. Too casual. Rehearsed.
Their coffee and catch ups, which used to be a weekly event, had gradually descended into sporadic meetings. Nowadays they were lucky if they met just every four months.
Lisa had developed a hectic social life - hen parties, weddings, gigs, city breaks, and whenever she was back in the city she was always crippled with a hangover. While Chloe had an endless stream of marathons, triathlons, hiking trips, cycle races, surfing weekends, yoga retreats and personal development workshops on the go.
Their coffee date had all started out friendly enough.
“There’s a few of us heading out tonight” Lisa said. “Going to see a good band on in Coughlans if you want to come?”
“I’d love to but I’m doing a 20km run this evening. And I’ve got a Skype call tonight with this extreme bootcamp place in Colombia that I found online”.
And then Lisa said it. “You’re obsessed with all of your lists”. Followed by the fake breezy laugh.
Chloe reached for the jug of water and poured it into her glass. It would give her a few seconds of careful consideration before saying something she might regret.
Lisa - who had been stuck in the same civil service job for the last ten years, who spent all her money on drinking and clothes, who knew nothing about setting or even achieving personal goals – laughing at her lists. Well. Chloe would just keep pouring that water until she had calmed down.
“Well, the lists just keep me organised”, Chloe replied with her standard comment in these situations. Although this time her shoulders were high and stiff.
Lisa picked up her small teaspoon, and turned it around in her fingers for a few seconds. “What would happen if you didn’t have your lists do you think?” she said while smiling.
If it she wasn’t laughing, she was smiling. Obviously still trying to keep the intervention casual and breezy.
“Nothing would happen”, Chloe replied.
“That mightn’t be such a bad thing”, Lisa said as she continued to twirl the teaspoon around in her hands.
“But I like doing things. Lots of new things”, Chloe replied and stared at her.
“You’re a great woman for getting things done alright. Last year was a busy one for you, your first triathlon, the ‘Swim a Mile’, you hiked up those big mountains in Ireland. Seriously impressive. But maybe –“
“Italian as well”
“Oh ya, that too. But maybe –“
“And flower arranging.”
“Yes, that as well”.
“And don’t forget about beginner’s golf. Tennis lessons. Tai Chi. And learning to code”
“You learned to code? I didn’t know that”.
“Ya. One of those online courses.”
“Right. Okay. So...I know it must take some getting used to. Being on your own again. And it’s great to see you doing so much. But are you not totally exhausted?”
Being on your own again. Lisa had just thrown it in there like a grenade on a battle field and was waiting to see the reaction.
Chloe looked at her watch. She had things to do. Time to wrap up their chat.
“I’ve never been better and I just can’t tell you how good it feels to be challenged by new things. Seriously, I’m fine. Do you think we could get the bill?”
Chloe looked around for the waitress, but she was nowhere to be seen. Fuck sake.
But Lisa wasn’t done yet.
“Well...I guess, sometimes, because you’re doing something on one of your lists - which is great, I mean, don’t get me wrong. But, I guess, it would be nice to see a bit more of you. You know?”
Where was that waitress gone? Chloe really had important things to do. She had to put an end to this line of questioning.
“Look, how about we do a small run tomorrow morning? Nothing major, a short jog?”, Chloe said.
Lisa put the teaspoon back into her cup and looked out the small window beside her. “Thanks but you know I don’t run. Yeah, you’re right. It’s good to be busy, I suppose.”
They both looked down at their hands for a few seconds until Chloe finally saw the waitress and signalled that she wanted the bill.
A rock song came on the car radio with a deafening roar. Chloe turned the radio off with a snap and wound down the car window a little. She was nearly back at her apartment now, thank God.
Since leaving the cafe, she hadn’t been able to stop replaying everything Lisa had said, again and again and again. Round and round the sound bites went in her head, like a wasp that just won’t leave you alone as you sit outside on your lunch break in the summer. And no matter how many times you tell it to “fuck off”, it persists until it drowns in your glass of Coke.
Being on your own again. Is that what they all thought? And was Lisa the only one brave enough to say it?
Out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of her little red notebook poking out of the top of her handbag. She looked at it for a second and shoved it back in the bag. But she knew it was still there. Staring straight ahead she picked up the bag and threw it into the back seat.
Being on your own again.
She really didn’t have to do that 20km run. And that Skype call wasn’t confirmed yet. She could go to the stupid gig with Lisa. Not only that, she could just drive on towards the beach right now. A walk on the beach would do her good, help clear her head.
Yep, off to the beach, she decided. Carefree and careless. Just this once she’d freewheel and see what happened. No lists. No tasks. No ‘little jobs’ to take care of. No items to cross off. Free as a bird. Nothing to do.
Normally she’d have checked the tides in advance to make sure that the tide was out. If the tide was in, there was literally nowhere to walk and even turning up would be a waste of time. But today, she was going to go with the flow.
And why stop there? On the way home, she could turn up at the cinema - on her own.
And she’d choose a film at random without having read all of the reviews in advance. (But what if she ended up in some crap 2 star film?)
She could even go without pre-booking her seat online. (But what if she had to sit in the very first row? The last time that happened was when Lisa had messed up and booked the wrong seats in the MAXX screen and Chloe’s vision hadn’t been right for two days afterwards.)
Why not go completely bonkers, and go to the supermarket without a meal plan and shopping list. (But what if she forgot half of the ingredients and toilet roll? She really couldn’t forget to buy toilet roll.)
Yes. She could do all of this. And then she would be like them - disorganised, chaotic, lazy, meandering vagrants. And maybe sometimes, just sometimes, you needed days when you turned up to the beach and had to go along with the tide, whether it was in or out.
But seriously why would anyone want to do that?
There literally was nowhere to walk.
Creative writing work from Louise Bunyan.