I used to make a lot of lists in high school. I would sit int he back of the classroom and divide my attention, able to listen to the lecture and still make my lists. I would write out all of my family member’s names (and I have a lot of family members), arranging them in order of age, then in order of appearance in the alphabet. I would write them in print, then in cursive. There was something about filling the page up with blue or black ink that was intensely satisfying to me.
And when I was finished, I would crumple the paper up into a tight wad and deposit it into the trash. Or sometimes I would carefully fold the paper in half, then tear it into two pieces, then four, then eight, arrange them in a little stack and throw them away. It was all rather OCD, but not the result of any disorder. I just don’t sit still well. My friends got accustomed to the sounds of swift tears of a sheet of paper, three times per page.
Sometimes I would write out all fifty states, in alphabetical order, singing the little songs I learned in grade school that helped me memorize the order, but I would always forget one or two without fail, then have to wrack my brain in order to remember the forgotten one.
Sometimes I would come up with an animal for every letter of the alphabet, then do it again, then again, until I ran out of v (vole, vixen, vampire bat) or z (zebra, zebu, zebra fish) or x (x-ray fish, xenops, xerus). Then I might start with foods, or countries.
Sometimes I would make crossword puzzles.
Sometimes I would make up entire game shows, designing a double round of Jeopardy with trivia about my family that we could play on an event night I would plan later.
Sometimes I would list out every one of the X-Men, in the order that they joined in the comic books. The originals (Iceman, Angel, Beast), the new team from Giant-Size (Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm), the New Mutants (Cannonball, Wolfsbane, Mirage), right down to the break-out teams in the 1990s (Excalibur, X-Factor, X-Force). Then I would carefully assign the people in my life a role from the team, writing their names next to the characters that best matched them, their personality traits or strengths. This one could keep me busy for days as I figured out the roles, moved them around, arranged little team-ups.
After the X-Men, I might start on the Avengers. Lay them out next to the X-Men in alphabetical order and pit them in an imaginary arena, eliminating a contestant one at a time with a single ink line until only one remained.
And then fold and wad, or fold and rip, rip, rip, then trash.
I’m 37 now and I still make lists. I have a list of every biography I have ever read, written in alphabetical order. When I read a new one, I make a new list, carefully adding the correct person in between the others. And when the new list is made, yup, I rip up the old one in the same pattern.
And now, here I am on my blog, making a list of the things I like to list. And I am at peace with my compulsions.
So, to all you listers out there, maybe some day we can make a list of ourselves.