I am a list-maker. Grocery lists. To-do lists. Lists of things I want to accomplish this month, this year, this decade. I’ve got lists of places I want to see, stories I want to write, books I want to read. I love my lists. And if I’m honest, I would forget half the things I want to remember if I didn’t make them. They are a way of organizing my errant, squirrely brain and using it for good instead of letting it run rampant in the world, storing nuts and creating chaos.
There’s the list of things I had to do last week: close two businesses, lay off 22 employees, write final paychecks for them, learn to navigate the unemployment system so I can help them get benefits, turn off all the lights, spend countless hours wondering if we did the right thing, if we should have done it sooner.
And the list of things I worry about in the middle of the night: Will we be able to hire everyone back when we re-open? When will we reopen? What will the landscape, the city, the world look like? Will other businesses and organizations I love survive this? Will everyone be okay in the meantime?
Or the list of things I worry about all day long: Will my parents be okay? Will my daughter be okay? Will my friends with cancer, MS, auto-immune diseases, heart conditions, lung conditions, diabetes, and other health issues be okay? Will people already teetering on the edge of not okay be okay?
I have a list of things that make me want to scream and stomp and weep and throw my glass of bourbon through the TV screen: leaders who think money is more important than people, leaders who don’t listen to people who know more than they do, leaders who tell lies, leaders who show no compassion, leaders who show contempt for those who do show compassion.
And the list of things that make me dare to hope that we will come out of this better than when we went in: leaders who believe in science, leaders with empathy, leaders who lead, people sharing what they have, people sharing factual information, people checking on neighbors, people delivering things to people who are too sick to go out, people taking walks, people doing art and baking things.
But there’s one list I’ve started making that I suspect may be the most important list I’ve ever made. This is the list of the things I’m learning and remembering and rediscovering in this strange time of chaos and quiet.
Being outside makes me happy.
Human beings need to make stuff.
We live day-to-day all the time, even though we fool ourselves into thinking we can plan for the future.
Don’t take more than you need.
We are all connected economically, physically, socially, emotionally in ways we can’t begin to comprehend, so we’d better act accordingly.
We can do better. We can be better.
This is the list of things I don’t want to forget when the world tries to return to whatever its new version of normal is. This is the list I want to remember when that world tries to suck me back into getting and spending and tribalism and forgetting. This is the list I want to tape to my mirror and recite like a mantra and shout into the void. It’s not complete. It’s not profound. But it’s the list I need most right now, and later, and for the rest of my life. ♦
Kris Dinnison is the author of a YA novel You and Me and Him as well as fiction published in the London Journal of Fiction, One Teen Story, and Young Adult Review Network (YARN), among others. She’s a small-business owner in Spokane where she reads, writes, and makes lists.