When making a large haul, all kinds of things turn up in the net. Even if it’s only books, rather than loads of paper, inscriptions and the things that fall out of books often give you some picture of the previous owner.
While whipping through a load of estate books recently, I nearly threw a newer-looking one in the discard/recycle pile, rather than the price, check, keep for myself, or donate piles. That’s because it was written in. The title was List Your Self: Listmaking as the Way to Self-Discovery, by Ilene Segalove and Paul Bob Velick (Kansas City, MO: Andrews and McMeel, 1996). Now one could goof on this book at length to begin with, as an interactive example of cheesy self-help titles, but the authors kind of make their point in the introduction, and in this case they got results. The owner was moved to record personal facts and thoughts. Most of her personal papers were simply discarded, and although she mentions teen diaries and adult journals several times, it is thought that she either destroyed these or instructed her executor to do so.
There are ten categories: Yourself, Daily Life, Business, Change, Culture, Men and Women, Greater Truths, Health, Growing Up, and Suddenly. Each includes thirty or so topics with a full lined page for responses.
Some of the headings are pretty silly. List all the smells that make you scream. List what’s under your kitchen sink. List what kinds of people should never drive cars. List what’s consistently in your garbage. List all the greetings you’ve used to answer your telephone. List all the warnings you’ve heard about the evils of business. List the dangerous things you have done for money. List those restrictions, from stop signs to gravity, that you can’t stand living with. List the way you feel when a car alarm goes off. List all the things that could happen to you when you park in an underground structure. List what you like to do after sex. List your surefire sexy moves and lines. List the drugs you’ve tried. List what you know about the human body. List all the things you do to stop hiccupping. Suddenly you’ve arrived on Jupiter. List the things you can’t live without.
Many are good though, and some of her responses are recorded as follows.
List the places you go in your mind when you want some peace and quiet.
-Back to our camp on the [X] Pond—many happy memories. -Fishing with [husband] in Quebec, Canada 250 mi. N. West of Montreal. What beautiful country. -Church—when children are quiet & well-behaved. -My easy chair in living room.
List all the names you’ve been called, endearing and not so.
-Bitch -Know it all -Opinionated -Judgmental
List what always makes you laugh.
-Tickling my ribs & feet. Doctors are forewarned! -Children when happy and/or surprised. -A good joke. -At or to myself over some stupid mistake of mine—example, putting mail in fridge.
List the ways you don’t care to die.
-Burn -Auto accident -Drown -Long term cancer
List the animals that really scare you.
-Snakes -Chickens -Feathered creatures -Horses and cows -Rats
List the heroic feats you’ve performed.
Olive says I saved her from drowning. I don’t remember.
List the things you’ve said that you’d like to take back.
Once when I was a wise, know it all teenager, I asked my mom—“Why do you hate me?” She surprised me by breaking into tears. So did I!
List the brand names you buy and swear by.
-Tylenol & Tylenol P.M. -Hannaford tissues -Helmbold’s hot dogs, bologna & liverwurst -Pam -Tide or All -Charmin -Most of Schwan’s products -Breyers ice cream
List all the modes of transportation you’ve taken.
-Horse & buggy -Horse & cutter -Model T, Maxwell, Auburn (cars) -Tricycle, toy auto-bike, 2 seater bike -Bus (school), bus (Greyhound) -El train, N.Y.C. subway, train -Auto -Jet plane -Ferry boat (Alaskan), river boat (nite line on Hudson), outboard motor boat -Dump truck -Snowmobile -Elevator, escalator
List the first thoughts that run through your mind the moment you get up.
-It’s another morning. Thank you God! -Let’s see what the weather is. -Paper here yet? -Where is my list for today’s activities? What am I doing today? -What’s for breakfast?
List the biggest turning points in your life.
-The ultimatum my mother gave me after I graduated from high school. “Get a job or enroll in a college!” After checking over the Help Wanted ads, I enrolled in [X College]—August 1937. -Graduation from [X College]—1941. -1st teaching job—1943, loved it! -My 1st marriage—I now embarked on 2-3 careers—housewife, teacher & secretary of our construction business. I enjoyed # 1 & 2—but soon had to give up #3—I disliked it intensely. -Loss of [husband 1]—moved back home & worked on a Master’s Degree. -When I said “Yes” to [husband 2] after only 2 months courtship. Married Dec. 1963. -Loss of [husband 2]—when I had to go it alone. Never had to stay all alone in my life before. It is scary.
List all the times you’ve gone off the beaten path.
Not too many, but I don’t care to list them.
List how you’ve contributed to the welfare of the planet.
-Teaching 10 yr. olds for 30 years. -Tried to lead a “good” life by helping others in many ways. -Collected & recorded many historical facts—preservation for future.
List all the celebrities you’d like to sock in the face.
No room for all.
List all the celebrities you’d like to have sex with.
List the ways the government lies to you.
Too many to list. Latest scare tactic by Bush Administration re Social Security, etc.
List all the magazines you subscribe to.
-Guide Posts -Good Old Days -Reminisce—a gift -Ladies Home Journal—going to drop
List the movies you’ve seen that were really worth two hours of your life.
-Gone With the Wind -Mame -South Pacific -Oklahoma
List the cultural spots you’ve visited that move you so much you are speechless.
Am usually not speechless.
List the times you said yes when you wish you had said no.
The times I sold off all the farm lands.
List the times you have consciously endangered your life.
Driving Dad’s Auburn back & forth to [X College]. It could really fly.
List those unanswered questions that have been plaguing you since childhood.
-What is heaven like? -Is there really a hell such as many “olde time” talked about? -Why do people mistreat animals—esp. kittens & puppies?
There are dozens of blank copies of this book available online starting at a dollar, and they had a couple of spin-offs, like List Your Self for Pregnancy, and More List Your Self. A few of these are written in, and there’s even an ex-library copy for sale!
What to do with this biographical book of lists? On the one hand our journalist seemed to want her privacy. On the other, it is a hokey yet poignant repository of late thoughts on a long good life, and better than many listless 1800s diaries I’ve seen that are mainly concerned with things like the weather. I know one of the women she included under “List all the people who love you for who you really are,” and it will go to her.
Shawn Purcell operates Balopticon Books & Ephemera
IOBA Standard, Fall Edition 2007, Volume 8, No. 4.