Day 269: “One Thing at a Time”

September 25th, 2010

“I am convinced that there are times in everybody’s experience when there is so much to be done, that the only way to do it is to sit down and do nothing.” -Fanny Fern

I have long been an overachieving multi-tasker. My addiction to how much I could get done in an hour or a day both charged me and depleted me. There was some perverse adrenaline rush that came with getting so much done. Rest was not a value; there was too much to do. Even when I wasn’t acting, I was scheming about how to fit more into my time the next day.

Like any boundary stretched beyond its limit, this intensity of living couldn’t hold itself together. Fatigue and mental exhaustion became normative. I spent years watching myself going along, one thing after the next until the inevitable snap. Often without warning, the whole picture came undone. The pace was overwhelming; the energy required was untenable.

Working at positivity has woken me up to the power of time in life. Filling every moment is a good way not to really be in it. Hurrying, the national set time in our culture drives us to our next tasks but leaves little attention for intention and interaction. A good day allows for a bit of both, a bad day is going so fast we don’t even know what is driving us so quickly; or worse still are unaware of the relating that we missed en route.

My newest objective is to learn to do one thing at a time. To eat and only eat; To talk with someone face to face and be listening fully without formulating a response; to write and consider only one topic, to follow a thought to its conclusion, to feel my body throughout the day. I work to retrain my brain in a singular focus and am resigned that sometimes it will look or feel like I am doing nothing.

I still have too much to get done, which is true for most of us. Increasingly, I am coming to realize that there is a momentum carrying us towards our goals even when we are not focused on it. I think doing one thing fully at a time might have a secret power of propelling ourselves into a future we want but sometimes are going too fast to see coming towards us.

I am developing a comfort in slowing down that surprises me. Sometimes I wonder with worry about where my ambition has gone. Then I rest, I meditate, I sit with my son on the porch and I come back to my work with curiosity. Ideas flow, the work comes to me without searching. Time is truly the most precious and perishable resource we all have equal shares of and I want to be present to as much of it as I can.

Pure presence is a positive mindset.

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