Ageing by the book: too many ticks and crosses


I like lists. Writing them. Ticking the boxes. Moving on.

But sometimes I feel my life is becoming one great list, or worse, a monstrous database of lists within lists within lists.

A scatty bitsiness pervades my life.

I hear many retired people say they are busier than ever. Busy is good … up to a point.

But I don’t want my life to be bitsy or busy-busy. I don’t want to be swamped by daily, weekly, or monthly tasks, all apparently urgent and important. Life must have a shape, a larger structure.

I don’t like life to consist of management. That sort of list never ends. Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly tasks, tick tick tick tick tick. Clean the fridge, clear the drains, email notice of AGM, prepare the AirBnB suite for guests, pay tax, sort out a software problem, update a website…

Business-as-usual appointments never end either: gym, pool, choir, dance rehearsal, grandchild, dentist, Soup Kitchen, hearing clinic… All good or at least necessary, the etceteras would fill my computer screen.

Projects also produce a lot of lists. Adventures are projects: book the event, book the motel, book the plane, pack up, get on the plane… But at least ticking off that sort of list is fun!

I like projects. A project does have an end, you know when it’s finished, and completing it brings enormous satisfaction. My problem is that I’ve always got several on the go. 

I’m having a tantrum because I’ve just done a course on Strategies for successful ageing

The course from Trinity College in Dublin was excellent. I learned about new research, gained new insights and had old ones validated, and enjoyed some mild online socialising with other students.

Trouble is, each week brought new obligations, new lists, tasks to add to the lists. (As a well run MOOC ought to do!) For example:

  • Measure your own ageism
  • Improve focus
  • Learn something new
  • Introduce novelty
  • Map your wellbeing
  • Manage fear and worry
  • Fix your eating habits
  • Exercise in specific ways
  • Perform your life audit
  • Monitor your social engagement
  • Plan a street party
  • Try a strategy for being creative.

I know that all the guidelines in the course are spot on, based on excellent research, sifted by experts. But too much, too much, too many! Especially when I’ve just worked my way through my very own life audit.

(See my Boot Camp for Old Age if you can be bothered.)

So how to give later life a shape all its own, an elegant shape?

How to escape listomania?

At least half of the students on the course have figured this out for themselves, no sweat. They don’t feel a duty to improve themselves. They’re not getting their knickers in a twist. They feel just fine the way they are.

Where did I get that idea? Today I analysed (in a rough and ready way) the most recent 100 comments on one of the lectures on creativity. These amateurish statistics bear out my general impressions of the course, which is studied chiefly by people of at least 50 years old, as far as I can tell.

  • 45 were happy with their level of creativity and planned no change.
  • 31 had experimented with new creative outlets, or planned to.
  • 24 were non-committal, discussing the topic of creativity in general terms.

I figure — quit the list making. I’m doing fine, that’s obvious, and I didn’t need 5 weeks lite-study to learn that.

Nevertheless I will rejoice when one of my various projects swells up and dominates my days and weeks. Then those picky pecky pesky petty lists will fade into the background of my life.

All is well. Relaxxx…

11 thoughts on “Ageing by the book: too many ticks and crosses

  1. Bernadette says:

    Sometimes the effort to stay vital and engaged in life can become an overwhelming task.

    1. And that is surely an unsustainable contradiction in terms! Let’s take the bonus years more lightly.

  2. 1. Lively piece
    2. Er … that’s it!

    1. A perfectly sized and structured list.

  3. toutparmoi says:

    I’ve never been much of a one for lists, except when I lack a sense of achievement. Then I’ll draw up a list for the sheer pleasure of ticking stuff off. And I can think, wow, you have been busy. Mind you, my lists are likely to include things like: paint toenails, take library books back, water plants. Nothing too arduous.

    1. When I was a heavy-duty mother of four young children, my ego-boosting lists included trivia like “make beds” “clean teeth” — otherwise at the end of the day I would feel I had done nothing at all.

  4. Robyn Haynes says:

    Lists have a place – just not mine! Unless they’re about marbles and losing them.

    1. I remember marbles. Beautiful, useful, tradable, colourful marbles. Being spherical, they will not stay in a straight line long enough to become a list. Away they go in all directions. Yay.

      1. Robyn Haynes says:

        Somewhat like thoughts – the creative kind!

  5. Listomania — an apt term. I like to feel purposeful, and sometimes few things get ticked off Today’s list, but who cares? It becomes Tomorrow’s list. When a daughter was drawing a picture of family members I saw Me. “What’s that?” I asked about a square shape in my hand. “A list!” That was nearly 40 years ago and I’ve never found a cure. Don’t need one. Don’t want one.

    1. Exactly. Whatever works! Lists have a life of their own. How funny, your daughter-story! Phones are the new hands. Nobody saw me writing a list of blog topics 🙂