I have always been a list maker. As far back as I can remember it has been routine for me to systemize my life with layers of words shaping the next day’s activities, work, communication, reports and generally anything that has been my responsibility.
I started this habit as a child and to this day you will find from one to several lists planted around my house. Is this a compulsion? Am I neurotic? I am a Virgo, born in September, and one prominent quality of this sign is the need to organize.

This practice has taken a variety of forms. In high school each plan involved school activities and was embellished with colorful drawings. I coordinated these daily arrangements in a large notebook which I carried with me from class to class. I would never cross anything off the list for I thought it ruined the artistic design but I needed the security of the pages to remind me of what I had to do. I was afraid I would forget an assignment or special activity if I didn’t write it down. With all the chaos in my life, I didn’t trust my brain to remember. I definitely was becoming dependent on my catalogue of personal business.

By the time I entered college in the 1960’s I had created a “mini daily notebook,” 3 ½” by 5”, filled with several colored insert pages depicting all the categories of my world, i.e. friends, classes, stuff to do, addresses, phone numbers, supplies, wish list, tomorrow, next week, next month. A few of my classmates thought I was nuts and played a trick on me. They stole the “precious planner.” I went crazy! The adrenalin was pumping; I was furious with these girls. It felt like I had lost my purpose, I wasn’t aware that this habitual recording of tasks was such an intrinsic part of my being. It was embarrassing. I decided to pretend it didn’t matter and said nothing. Instead, I created another one, this time bigger and better and under lock and key.

As my life became more complicated in my late 20’s, this habit escalated to an addiction. Several times each day I needed to check my lists, which by now had become a detailed card catalogue. I used 5 by 7 index cards, color-coded by type of activity. If the card became too messy with lines drawn through completed tasks, I would copy what was “left to do” on another card, starting a whole new list. The wooden box which held my “memory” was too bulky to carry with me so I would take only the cards I needed for the day. Sometimes in the middle of the afternoon I would check these descriptive details just to be sure I hadn’t forgotten something. At the time it didn’t matter to me that this was obsessive-compulsive behavior because I was totally dependent on my “paper brain” and couldn’t function without it. Besides, I kept my “index madness” secret and therefore didn’t need to discuss it with anyone. This was one of the many ways I tried to gain control over my life.

When I became involved with Joey, my ex-husband of 12 years, “I SurvivedDocumenentary.com,” my sickness gushed out of control. I attempted to organize the man, his daily activities and his personal affairs. I was convinced he would fall apart if I didn’t. I began recording for two. I have an incredible list story to share with you that will illustrate how warped my thinking had become.

Joey’s mother was quite ill and he hadn’t visited her in Boston for a few years. I had only briefly met his parents before we moved to California. I knew how much he missed his family and how important it was for him to take the trip back east. We had several garage sales with goods and pottery to pay for his ticket. For weeks I scoured sales at department stores buying clothes so that he would have the proper attire. I purchased a suitcase as large as a trunk for the one week journey. Then I proceeded to list the items that I was planning to pack for him with instructions on “what to wear with what.” This meant spreading out the articles all over the apartment and methodically counting and coordinating each item. The process took many hours of concentrated work.

Please, promise me you will read all these original pages carefully, as tedious as they might be, for I want you to see the excessiveness of my codependency and the need
to control another person’s life. I discovered theses sheets of paper hidden in my dresser years after I had begun recovery. I am sure Joey never read the list. Who would, in their right mind, every read something like this, let alone use it? It is not understandable. This may be one of the most unbalanced acts of my addictive personality. It is absolutely insane.

As I read over these lists today I am filled with a sense of pity for my former self. This speaks volumes to how I spent my time obsessing over my alcoholic man. I thank God for my recovery. An example of my good health is the form of list making I do today. I have one list for myself and my 9 year old daughter that I keep in our luggage. When I am ready to pack I check off necessities using the same list each time. Only after years of use, when it is tattered, do I make a new one. I consider this to be practical, not neurotic. As for my husband Bryan, he does his own packing.

Recently I took a trip East and packed the whole suitcase without looking at the list. When I arrived I discovered I had forgotten my favorite blow dryer comb. Did I freak? No. I considered it an opportunity to be inventive and create a new hairdo. It worked. I do believe planning saves time and organizational tools such as Palm Pilots and Franklin Covey Systems are helpful but I most enjoy a small tablet listing daily chores. This is no longer obsessive, just a reminder of “what’s up” in my busy world. What about you?

Author's Bio: 

Kay Kopit, accomplished artist, actor, writer, speaker and gifted teacher.

Kay Kopit grew up in the Midwest town of Clayton, Missouri. At the age of sixteen she choreographed as well as designed and made costumes for several high school productions. Here she found her passion for art and theatre.

Kay attended the University of Missouri where she received a B.S. in Art Education and M.A. in Painting and Ceramics. While in college she continued her interest in theater production succeeding in choreography and costume design for several major productions, including “Carnival” and “Once Upon a Mattress.” After graduate school she taught Life Drawing, Design, and Ceramics at the very prestigious Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri.

In 1969 Kay was inspired to move to the East or West Coast. By the flip of a coin (literally) she decided to move to the East Coast where she made Boston, Massachusetts her home. She was immediately offered a position teaching art at Lexington High School. After several successful years teaching Kay was determined to pursue a career in the arts and theatre and moved to California.

Kay moved to San Francisco where she trained with Wendell Phillips of the well-known Stagegroup Theatre. For several years she studied acting, dance, public speaking, and playwriting with reputable names such as Elizabeth Huddle of A.C.T., Peter Layton of The Drama Studio of London at Berkeley, and Sue Walden of the Improvisational Workshop.

Kay had continued success in her acting and modeling career. She appeared in many national commercials including: Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Hunt Wesson Foods, Totino’s Pizza, Shaklee, and many more. She acted as the principal spokesperson for several Industrial Films including: Chevron, Fireman’s Fund, Zenger Miller Productions and American Protective Services. Her print work was extensive including: Ketchum Advertising, Safeway, and Emporium-Capwell.

Most recently, Kay is the writer and producer of a documentary of her life story, “I Survived: One Woman’s Journey of Self-Healing and Transformation” which covers 15 years of living with an alcoholic. Although Kay was successful in her life, behind closed doors she endured pain, shame and emotional maiming. Her story is being told to help others overcome the debilitating disease of codependency.

Kay is now living an amazing life with her husband Bryan of 17 years (who just happens to be 19 years her junior.) To complete their family they adopted a daughter at birth when Kay was 54 years of age. Besides being a mother and wife she continues with her love of painting, writing, teaching and speaking on the subject of codependency. Her passion is not only the arts but to help people through her inspirational story. Her courage, stamina, and faith have given her direction and the gift of helping give others hope. Kay has several published articles and writing a monthly column for Recovery Times, has several published articles, lecturing and doing workshops for The Mandana Center in Oakland, CA.

Read more about Kay Kopit at www.ISurvivedDocumentary.com.