One of the fun parts of doing a degree in psychology is that you get to diagnose yourself with all sorts of conditions you always suspected you had but didn’t know for sure, along with a whole host of things you never knew existed. Of course, a person can’t possibly have all the things she’s diagnosed herself with so I think it must work in much the same way that reading your horoscope does. You pick out all the bits that you think match goodly (my goodness me why yes, I am creative and ahead of my time) and ignore the bits that don’t (what’s that word ‘stubborn’ doing in there?).
I don’t know that a penchant for notebooks and diaries could ever be considered pathological, but cleaning up my desk I feel forced to admit that there is something going on which might not be entirely healthy. That small collection of notebooks all currently reside on my desk and, with the exception of the trusty filofax about halfway down, all have been purchased in the last couple of months.This pile does not include the cascade of A5 clipboards, my diary, the notebook I keep in my handbag and the bajillion moleskine notebooks which are scattered about the room like the frangipani flowers in the driveway after that weird midsummer storm.
Each of the notebooks has a different function. I’m not going to go into those details because I started to write the list of what each notebook was for and nearly bored myself to death and I care too much about you to cause your death after you have innocently clicked through to read what is proving to be a rather tepid, insipid blog post.
A lot of the notebooks I have bought have been from the airport newsagent stands. I know that the airport newsagent stands are robber barons, but just being at an airport fills me with a sense of all that is possible, and there is nothing that says anything is possible like a new notebook. With each one, I am filled with a sense of joy that stems from a belief that here is the perfect way to organise my day, week, month, year. To prioritise my projects. To set out goals and objectives, integrating timelines and budgets. To write like a demon. To remember everything. To be in control.
I read a wonderful essay on the weekend Neat and Tidy: The New Magic in the Sydney Review of Books about books on tidiness. It includes an excellent discussion of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I do have a copy of that book. I tell you what though, reading it sent me to a whole new level of anxiety, because with every page I turned I knew that here was something it would be impossible for me to achieve. For one thing, I’m quite attached to my things. For another, I haven’t fully recovered from the six month period in which I cleaned out my dad’s, my grandfather’s and my own house. This cannot be helpful to me, I remember thinking this quite clearly as I read Marie Kond’s book. I closed it, and I have never bought a self-help book since, never even looked at one.
I think this recent spate of note-book and planner over-buying is something akin to those days when I filled my life with self-help books. It is an attempt to bring order, a deep-seated belief that the perfect way of ordering must be out there somewhere. Two things about this: first, I definitely need a place to write everything down and have a couple of lists going, and I do like to keep track of my dreams and my hopes and my ideas; second, I’ve read every productivity book ever written, spent a fortune on a billion productivity apps and I just always go back to the filofax, a whiteboard and post-it notes.
And look when I open my trusty filofax here is the quote I have written from Cory Taylor’s beautiful work Dying: A Memoir:
A bucket list implies a lack, a stor of unfulfilled desires or aspirations, a worry that you haven’t done enough with your life. It suggests that more experience is better, whereas the opposite might equally be true. I don’t have a bucket list because it comforts me to remember the things I have done, rather than hanker after the things I haven’t done. Whatever they are, I figure they weren’t for me, and that gives me a sense of contentment, a sort of ballast as I set out on my very last trip.
I think it’s time to slow down on the notebooks.