I started off today hauling polystyrene and musty, old cardboard boxes to the recycling center–and I ended the day contemplating a trip to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Let me explain.
I keep plugging along at packing up our house. Part of that process is the less-than-glamorous task of getting rid of 11 years’ worth of accumulated junk. In addition to the polystyrene and cardboard, I also recycled about two dozen gallon-sized cans of half-used, old paint, and one old computer, plus I shred a huge box of shred-worthy documents, and I dropped off a five-piece sectional sofa at the Salvation Army.
But today was also the last day of my oldest boy’s event in his National Championship. So on top of all of these grotty tasks, I also had to make sure he was at the gym on time and ready to compete. So at around 2pm I had to shift from dirty, mindless labor to high-adrenaline preparation.
And he did really, really well at this event–well enough, in fact, to qualify for a World competition in New Caledonia, which is (in case you haven’t guess it yet) off in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
I don’t think we will have the time or resources to commit to this trip, to be honest, but the point here isn’t whether or not we go to New Caledonia–it’s about how each of us, on any given day, needs to modulate between very different ways of being. One moment, I’m schlepping recycling. The next minute I’m celebrating my son’s major athletic achievements.
So does this mean that mono-tasking is an unrealistic ideal? Are we all, by nature, a tangle of multiple headings?
It’s important for me to distinguish between my (often failed) attempts at multi-tasking and the kind of modulation I am talking about here–from one context to the next, or from one set of responsibilities to another. The key, for me at least, is to be able to be attentive and present for whatever is in front of me right now–and then to be able to shift and modulate that attention to the next, new set of circumstances as they arise.
The goal: to be as present as possible in each moment in a series of very different moments–and to not let the memory of a past moment, or the anticipation of a future moment, pull me too far off beam.