My To-Do List

Every morning my sweetheart asks me “What do you have today?” And every morning it irritates me, because it means — or I take it to mean — “What tasks are you going to do today?”

Many of those tasks are things that must get done but that I don’t particularly want to do, like managing money or cleaning things or making my tech work better. I make lists of those tasks but they’re not really what I’m going to do today.

The real answer to the question of what am I going to do today is think, because thinking is all I ever want or intend to do.

The answer does not change. It is the same every day. I get up, do my morning toiletries, do some physical therapy, feed the cat, and make coffee all with the goal of sitting down to think and maybe write.

My whole goal in life is to have the things I don’t want to do simplified enough that they become routine and don’t take much time so that all I really need to do is think.

Now thinking is a complex practice. It is not just sitting in a chair and thinking, though I like to start there. It involves elements of all of the following (even though some of the following can be means of distraction as well):

  • Movement — not exercise just for the sake of exercise, but walking, Tai Chi, Aikido, and other types of movement that are not only joys in and of themselves, but bring ideas to mind.
  • Reading. Reading can also be used to relax or escape, but it is my primary source of ideas from others. It can include social media and even news reports as well as thoughtful essays and articles, nonfiction, fiction, poetry — all forms of the written word.
  • Lying in bed in the morning letting ideas come together.
  • Talking to other people.
  • Listening to other people. This includes both conversation and listening to lectures.
  • Meditation.
  • Writing. Ultimately writing, because it is by writing that I figure out completely what I’m thinking about.

It is also important to note that thinking — or at least the way I do it — is not an orderly practice.

In order to have enough time to do the thinking I aspire to, I need the following things:

  • A good place to live, with reasonable comfort and privacy and access to books and tools and other necessaries.
  • Good food to eat.
  • Good health, so health care and exercise, and awareness of issues from age and illness.
  • Friends and community.
  • And, of course, an income.

I have read, of course, of great artists and thinkers who had wives who made it possible for them to do their work. And in the past many people had a staff of people — horrifically, many of them owned that staff of people — who made it possible.

Even if I could afford a staff, I don’t think it’s a good idea for people who think to be that removed from the details of life. If I hire someone to, say, handle my money, that can mean I’m not paying attention to how that money is being invested. And in the modern world, how that money is invested matters.

Also, I don’t think some people should do the shit work so that others can think. So I also need to:

  • Acquire and prepare food.
  • Keep the house reasonably clean — laundry, the occasional project, etc.
  • Make sure I’m taking care of my physical needs: washing, health issues, doctors, etc.
  • Deal with other people about the small things as well as ideas.
  • Deal with financial matters, since this is still a fucking capitalist society.
  • Deal with political matters, even ones that do not come close to the ideals I’m working with in my thinking.
  • If I want others to read or listen to what I think, turn my thinking into stories and essays and put my work out there in ways that others can find it.

But that’s what I do. I think.

Everything else is just maintenance.

2 thoughts on “My To-Do List

  1. I like the way you position thinking as the center of your day. I was raised by a parent who believed that You Are What You Accomplished Today, and I am still working my way out from under that. There are the chores that must be done (my list is remarkably similar to yours), and then there are the projects that I do because 1) I actually do like to … (baking, beading, etc.) and 2) they yield a product (look! doughnuts! I am worthy of continued existence!), For things like thinking–especially thinking that doesn’t yield an immediate product (along the lines of “I wrote 500 words today!” or “I figured out the problem with that plot wrinkle”) I something have to disguise it with exercise or a long walk, so I don’t feel like I’m just being self-indulgent.

    I like your attitude better.

  2. I’m not stellar at it yet, but I am at least clear on what I want. I’ve wanted this all my life and always treated jobs and assignments as something to get out of the way so I can think. Not sure I’ve ever put this into words before.

    It is good to turn it into something someone else can read, because I like to share what I think, but it doesn’t fit neatly into word counts.

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