It's not journaling. It's listing.
This simple act can create magic! Auto-biographical list-making is a pathway to rediscovering fun or poignant memories, visualizing dreams for the future, and keeping a record of books, films, music, and all your other experiences that have touched you and made you who you are today. It's your LISTOGRAPHY.
I have been creating lists for years and I began to notice that most of them were autobiographical in nature. I would often come across a memory, like running into it on the street, and tell myself "I've really got to write that down" before it's gone. Making an autobiographical list is somewhat like meditating. You have to still your mind and hone in on a time period and let it recall what was probably efficiently filed away. In this way, making a list augments your brain's storage capacity. If it's in a list, then it's never lost. And once you've started the list, it's easy to add to.
A completed list on, let's say, "songs that remind you of loves from your past" might bring up feelings and memories in the unique way a photograph can and sometimes even more so. I can't make a list on "my favorite games from childhood" without remembering what it was like to hit the white cubes nervously out of the "Don't Break The Ice" game or my neighbor's dad conducting "Simon Says". So autobiographical listing can ignite our memory of experience which may include loves, fears, successes, etc. All of these pieces make a map of who we are: an autobiography.
I've used practical lists over the years to help inspire me and remind me to get the things done. Even a "to do" list can be autobiographical. Making a list of "all the countries I want to visit" fills me with the hope that I might get there someday.
I once made a list of "things I don't want to forget about my grandma". As I sat there thinking of things to list, I remembered much about her that might have slipped away. In a way, I felt as though I was honoring her. I realized that some types of lists are just that, a way to memorialize.
I started making lists when I was young. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was compensating for memory loss. I struggled with anxiety due to some trauma from my past. Certain parts of my brain grew stronger, like empathy, reading people, and fight or flight, but my memory abilities weakened. As a result, I discovered how much fun autobiographical lists can be. I was remembering the past but also became a collector of experiences to add to my lists. I’ve also used lists throughout my life to help with low moments, to motivate for the future, and to maintain my gratitude.
People often think of lists as boring old to do lists or grocery lists. Not so! You can make lists about your life that will actually help to change it or reimagine it. If I asked you to make a list of "what you are most grateful for", or your "favorite things to smell", or your "happiest memories", it will change your brain chemistry.
I also used lists to get me through difficult times, like losing my father. Watching him suffer and eventually pass was incredibly painful and destabilizing. I wanted to stay present and so… I made lists. I made lists on "my favorite memories with my father" along with all the details about his life he shared with me. I made lists on "things we said or did during our last couple months together", like watching Good Times reruns. I made lists on my worries, my fears, and care-giving advice. And after he passed, I made lists about "what I need to do next" so I didn’t remain stagnant (intentionally last on my list was removing his house slippers from the place he last left them). Lists helped me to get things done so I could move forward — exactly what he had asked me to do. Placing things in lists reassured me that it wouldn’t be forgotten and gave me comfort that I could revisit these experiences. The next set of lists I wrote after my father’s passing were about my future, "what my goals were" and "what I was thankful for." Lists to help me look forward. As my father would say, “you’ve got only so many years…enjoy them Lisa.” And I’m listening to him.
My mother's passing was also another destabilizing event. A few weeks before I lost my mother to cancer, I came upon her crying in her room. She said to me, “I am really going to miss eating a piece of toast.” This moment has remained with me as a gift from her. I regularly remind myself to appreciate the beauty of little things and to view my time here with greater perspective —which is hard to keep sight of sometimes. So I make lists: lists on "things I love", "things that make me laugh," or "days I would relive again."
If I asked you to list "memorable objects inside your childhood home", or the "places you've lived", a colorful assortment of memories would surface that are unique to you. Many of us don't have the time or inclination to write an autobiography, so I created the LISTOGRAPHY Books, and listography.com, to help capture all the experiences that make up a life in easy and sweetly CURATED lists. I've rediscovered many lost memories by making lists, and I'm glad I found them. I am creating a beautiful map of my experience here on earth along the way. The meditative process of making a list can create a new energy, ignite gratitude, and inspire --but most importantly, it's actually fun!
My mission is to inspire how you think about your life: where you've been and where you're going.
What a mystery it is to all be here together on this amazing planet. I hope you have a good life collecting the many wonderful elements of human experience --including a nice piece of toast!
Your life is unique. Now, make some lists about it . . .