I am a list maker. I’ve been a list maker since I first learned to write and realized the magic that accompanies crossing off things accomplished. Sometimes, the more I cross off, the more I add to my list. I’ve had a list on my desk for about a month now that lays out all that I want to accomplish this fall. My Katie laughs when she reads it because one item is “Write a book.”
“You’re always writing a book, Mom, but that’s so cute.”
Yes, I’m always writing a book, but to see it on a list makes it real, makes it something that must be done and must be crossed off. It’s a means to an end.
When I graduated from college, my best friend and I sat down and wrote lists. They weren’t lists about what we wanted to accomplish in life or what our goals were for our twenties or beyond. We had those lists already, and they were getting longer and longer by the day. No, just for fun, we wrote lists of what we were seeking in the perfect guy. It began as a joke, a way of blowing off a steam about the fact that we were now four years older, four years more experienced and worldly, four years wiser, and still single. But as we compiled the list, we grew more serious, each of us reading each other’s lists and critiquing, improving, and offering further suggestions. After all, who knows you better than your best friend?
Within a year, I was engaged, and within a couple of years after that, so was she. I still credit that list with helping me focus on whom and what I wanted because, miraculously, when I met Ken, I was able to cross off all 25 things on the list, not 20 or 24, but all 25. Not everything on the list is as important to me today as it was then. Half of the things probably wouldn’t even make it if I had to write it all over again. One of the things was that I needed a man who would change with me as I grew older, who could adapt to any situation. That was near the bottom of the list, but well over twenty years later, I see that it should have been at the top.
So if I were telling my daughters to write their own lists (and no, I’m not doing that because this list is not a game – it’s a serious, what I want for the rest of my life list), but if I were telling them to write their lists, here are the things I would recommend they put at the top:
- He must be adaptable to any situation with the realization that life isn’t a long, superhighway. It’s a twisting, turning, up and down hills and mountains, country road with surprises around every bend. Be ready to change course and handle the wrecks along the way.
- He must share some of your interests but must also have interests of his own. While you should share the most exciting adventures together, it’s okay to do things apart; in fact, it’s a must.
- He should not say “I love you,” within a month or even two, and when he says it, he needs to look you in the eye and say it from the heart. Those three words should be the most important words he ever says to you. They need to have true meaning and depth. They are not a way to get you in bed or make you feel special. They are the three words that he should tattoo on your heart and his and be willing to put them into action every day for the rest of your lives.
- He needs to dance. He doesn’t have to like or be good at it, but he needs to be willing to do it. You should not be that one person who, at every wedding (and by the time you write this list, there will be wedding, after wedding, after wedding) or at every family party, dances with friends to every fast song and then sits by his side and watches everyone else dance the slow songs. It’s during the slow songs that your bodies communicate, and it’s during the fast songs that you let loose and have fun. Do it together. Even if he looks like he’s the star in a Steve Martin movie.
- Watch him carefully when he is with his mother. The old saying is so very true, how he treats his mother is how he will treat his wife. Is he kind to her? Respectful? Helpful? It’s okay if he complains about her a little. In fact, that lets you know that he’s not still hanging onto the apron strings.
- Never make him choose between you and his mother unless you are certain that he will choose you. If he won’t, then stop here. You don’t need to look at anything else on the list. BUT be careful about what you are asking him to choose because his mother will become your mother. Treat her as such. You will find that you will need her someday when there’s no better ally than her to have on your side.
- He must pay for that first date, and the second, and even the third. If he’s worth a fourth, then maybe you can treat, but don’t insist or overdo it. A true gentleman expects to pay. It’s a matter of respect. If he doesn’t want to impress you, then what’s the point?
- He must care about how he looks. This isn’t about vanity. It’s about respect. If he doesn’t have respect for himself and the way he appears to others, then he won’t have respect for you. Of course, if his phone is full of selfies, or he can’t stop glancing in the rearview mirror to check his hair, then ask him to stop the car and let you out. Walk away, and never look back.
- Your family must be as important as his. Do not let him or his family make every decision concerning your social calendar. If he won’t spend time with your little sisters (even when they’re being bratty), then he will never be a good brother-in-law or father. If he dates you, he dates everyone in your family and must be willing to accept and spend time with them.
- Most importantly, he must be kind. To you, to your family, to his family, to your friends and his, to his colleagues. He shouldn’t be a pushover or passive aggressive, but genuinely kind. He must always think about others, especially you. “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” St. Basil
So there’s your start. Your list will be longer and will include trivial things like “Must listen to _______ music,” and “Doesn’t eat all of the popcorn,” and that’s okay. You will have to live with this person for the rest of your life. Have fun, but think it through, and when you’re finally able to cross everything off, you will feel more than accomplishment. You will feel completion.
Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble. Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks. Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.
You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.