Four days into Spring Break, I was restless – checking the email on my phone every few minutes. Making lists. Running through calendar items to see what I had coming up the next week.
I was getting up earlier too. I crept into the home office, my head wrapped around work, trying to get a few things done before my daughter Sweet P, awoke.
I don’t know whether it was the squeak of the chair or the clack of the keyboard, but she always woke up about the same time I sat down at the desk.
She’d come in, wrap her arms around me and tuck her head in the crook of my neck. I’d feel her warmth and swell with soft feelings.
Then, I’d feel myself becoming impatient.
Attention to Everything and Nothing
I wanted to get back to the work routine. I had stuff to do. I wanted three hours straight to get the requests off my desk, and make the calls, and finish the correspondence. I needed time to write more than a sentence. I was so behind and feeling overwhelmed by it.
Sometimes, I would slip into the office, while she was practicing piano, or taking a bath. When she was reading or playing the tablet, I’d settle in for my own screen time and return emails. “I’ll be just a moment,” I’d say. But the moments were becoming longer and I was feeling more like a collage – a picture parent made up of fragments of different roles.
My attention was everywhere and nowhere. I made quick, impulsive decisions. Gave rapid-fire yes answers — or grumpy nos. I made typos trying to hurry. Forgot to send emails.
I was really spacey.
Until, I remembered that life is not a To-Do List. It’s one huge experience made by rattling back and forth between other experiences. When we miss that – when we do all this stuff without paying attention – we miss a little of life. And we feel just plain crazy.
So, at the peak of craziness, instead of trying to do it all, I decided to stop it all. To do nothing. To wake up without a plan. To go with the flow, which for this Type-A Momma, was a tough thing to do.
I decided to live deliberately. Do one thing at a time. And soon I felt better. My connection deepened with my daughter. And guess what? When I did go into the office, I was more creative and less frantic there too. I made fewer mistakes. Produced more.
When I acted deliberately I paid attention to what I was doing, rather than thinking ahead to what I needed to get done. Each life experience began informing the other. Everything got easier.
Some other things I noticed:
- Sweet P’s vision for the world, which I learned while we worked on a jigsaw puzzle, is mostly amazing. Aside from the sheer numbers of animals – stuffed and real – that she intends to care for, I think we’re in good hands.
- I was still feeling deep-down sad and disappointed over a deal gone bad two weeks ago. I hadn’t allowed myself to think of it much because it left me feeling insecure. This time I paid attention to those feelings. It felt icky. But, then, I understood it better and by the end, the disappointment moved on.
- I say, “OK, honey, just give a minute” A LOT. And that the minute goes so much longer. I’m not comfortable with that, so I think I’ll mostly stop doing it.
One afternoon, I even just sat out on the front step. My daughter spied on the neighborhood from the tree in our front yard (my deliberate tree-climbing days are WAY over). I didn’t have my phone with me. Not a book or notebook. I felt the sun on my hair, and smelled fresh-cut grass in the wind. And right there, I came up with an opening for a story I’d been struggling with.
Clarity in the Moment
In each moment there was a new kind of clarity. Peace really, that came from giving my attention to one thing at a time.
Today, we’re in back in the routine. When she hops the bus to school, I will head back to work. I can’t wait. I love it. And, my to-do list is long. I’ll work hard, but, I’m no longer going to hustle mindlessly.
I’m going to be deliberate. Give my attention to this moment. Then the next. Piece by piece.
This will require me to form so new habits. To slow down. It won’t always be easy. And I don’t expect to do it well 100 percent of the time.
But, when we do this, even sometimes, our minds clear. We make fewer mistakes and feel less stressed. Impatience and irritation ease a bit and we become kick-ass productive. When we give our attention to the moments of our lives, we find more moments to savor.
At the end of one of my deliberate days during Spring Break we went around the table sharing our goodnesses — the things we were grateful for.
My daughter looked at me and said, “Remember when I was drawing and you were reading and we were just there together – not talking or anything but, still, just there together?”
“Yes, I remember.”
“I liked that the best.”
Me too, honey. Me too.