Category Archives: London

on making lists


I like to write lists.

I like to write lists and then re-write them and then separate them and combine them and put some on sticky notes and others in notebooks. It’s not about remembering what I need to do. When I need to remember something, I write it on my hand.

On sticky notes I write the things that I need to carry with me, thoughts that require focus and energy today, things I want to resolve before the sticky side gets fuzzy. Sometimes I have multiple lists : groceries, to do, work tasks, ideas for gifts, books to read. I stick them all to my smart phone (yes, I know there’s an app for that). When I leave the house I decide which ones stay on my desk and which ones get to go with me: which thoughts I am going carry out into the world with me and which ones I need to leave behind.

I buy most of my books for Kindle, so there’s no need to carry my “books to read” list. But it reminds me I should make some time for myself. I enjoy thinking about what might bring someone a smile, and carrying around a list of upcoming birthdays and celebrations brings me a smile.

I procrastinate by making lists. Instead of just tackling an item on the list I might re-write it in a different order – strategizing about the best way to go about my day rather than just going for it. I can’t stand it when one list is written in two different colours of pen. I can’t stand it when lists are written in pencil. Some people would call this OCD, but Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is real for some people so we shouldn’t make light of it.

I write lists in bound notebooks when they require longer term attention, some are ongoing and won’t ever reach “completed” status…they’ll just eventually not make it onto the next revision. I can’t bring myself to cross something off that isn’t done, to simply decide it doesn’t get to be on the list anymore. After all, it was there for a reason. Maybe I write another list called “things I might do someday, if I have time.”

My long list of things I must do is tormenting me right now. It has been for the past couple of months as I try to balance my move to London, changes in my role at work, and constant business travel. Right now I’m in Sweden but my head is in London and my heart is split between Toronto and California.

So today I put “write a blog post” on my list. And I’ll get to cross that one thing off and maybe I’ll get some sleep. Maybe I’ll put that list aside and focus on the lists I like to carry around with me.

Books to Read

  • The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
  • Missoula by Jon Krakauer
  • Fast Girl by Suzy Favor Hamilton
  • Something by Oscar Wilde

Gift Ideas

  • A true story about military history that even my stepfather hasn’t heard of
  • “Welcome to the world” gifts for twins that will make their parents say, “of course that’s from their crazy aunt L”
  • Something my mother doesn’t even know she needs for travelling, but won’t be able to live without
  • Something my sister will love so much that she’ll try to make a DIY version for all of her friends

it’s what i do

A couple of years ago, I was spending a weekend with my grandparents in a Sacramento suburb. It was a particularly eventful weekend, as a local woman had disappeared from the grocery store parking lot down the street from their retirement village. She had just run out for a few errands then her car was found abandoned and her purse was missing. Her husband of 30+ years was on TV praying for her safe return and explaining there was no way she just took off, she’d never do that, it’s just not in her nature. The community organized search parties, volunteers combed the open fields nearby trying to hold onto hope that she’d be found alive and well. 

During a commercial break I asked my Grandma and aunt a question I already knew the answer to: “if you guys found my car abandoned in a parking lot and my purse missing, what would you think?” Grandma smiled and said she wouldn’t worry, my aunt said she’d probably wonder where the next postcard was coming from. Papa chimed in, “I’d check to see if you took all your shoes with you. If you were going to leave, I think you’d take your shoes.” 

No one would assume the worst. No one would go on TV and say the circumstances were suspicious. Not because they don’t love me or worry about me – they do – but they know me. I’ve never disappeared without telling anyone but can’t say I haven’t thought about it many, many times. Plus, it just seems like something I would do – if you know me. In the decade after leaving my childhood home I lived in 4 cities in 3 countries – averaging 2 years in each until coming to Toronto where I’ve been for about 5.5 years – my record.

I’ve been called adventurous, unreliable, brave, a flight risk. Some people say they’re jealous that I’ve lived in such great cities, but I’ll never forget the person who told me she felt sorry for me because I don’t have roots. In the past 5 months I’ve come to accept that she was probably right – I don’t really have a home. I have people all over the world whom I love and who love me, countless places I know I could go if I needed a place to go. But I’ve also come to accept that I don’t like staying in one place, I like to keep moving, it’s what I do. I take what is important with me and leave the rest behind. I maintain my friendships and preserve my favourite memories and move on to the next blank slate.

Five months ago I wrote about my most recent struggle with what to do next, and my decision to stay in Toronto: 

“I didn’t know if I should stay or go, I just wanted to be somewhere I could feel whole – somewhere I could silence the nagging feeling that my life is missing something. Sometimes traveling drowns out that feeling, other times it is yoga. Often I escape it when I’m laughing with my best friend, other times when I’m taking a bath and listening to Norah Jones…I’ve decided to stay here in Toronto, and to continue on the healing journey I started almost a decade ago…That nagging feeling is silenced for now, I know what I need to do and where I need to be.”

I think that was a nice thing to write on New Year’s Eve – a night notorious for making resolutions you don’t keep (I’m also still not in shape, nor have I finished my knitting project. And by not finished I mean not started). It was certainly true, at that moment and for some moments after that.

I think you see where I’m going with this…

I’m moving to London, England at the end of the summer. It is something to look forward to and something to feel hopeful about. I know what to expect: I know it will be difficult sometimes and lonely often and that I should make the most of it because someday this time in my life will be over and I’ll miss it. I’ve always loved London. I like the gloomy weather and the city’s energy and that I’ll be traveling around Europe again. It’s an amazing opportunity for my career and for our company’s growth. I’ll be back in Toronto often so I’ll have the best of both worlds.

I’m not overcome with excitement, nor am I nervous. I’m happy to be moving there but more than anything I’m feeling calm. This feels right – I don’t know if it is right but I know it will all work out however it is supposed to, and I’ve come to accept that this is just what I do.