I recently sold a freelance article about mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;
On purpose,in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
In my article, I wrote about the message in burnt toast. You know the drill... you're rushing-rushing-rushing to be somewhere and your mind is racing in twelve (or twelve dozen) different directions. You're whipping a smoothie with one hand, organizing your paperwork with the other, and kicking the refrigerator door shut with a foot, while a steady chant of "Let's go! Mas rapido! Move it, Move it! Don't forget your cleats!" pours forth. All seems to sail along smoothly - for a while. And then you burn your toast. Cue expletives. Or, in my case, head-hanging and a deep sigh.
My kids and Rob know the precise definition of my sigh. I didn't even realize I did it until they pointed it out to me. Sometimes my sigh is wistful, but most often it's more of a huff. Once, I huffed loudly. Brady, then the wise old age of nine, grabbed his brother and said, "Come on! That noise means Mom is really frustrated!" and high-tailed it out of the kitchen, dragging his brother by the collar. Jonathan, then 6, replied, "No, I think she just has too much air in her mouth."
Nothing like a deadpan (badump bump) from your 6 year old child to snap you out of a foul mood.
But the message in burnt toast is this - slow down. Pay attention. Be mindful of what you're doing. Do one thing, and do it well.
I even warned, in the article, that sometimes we ignore the messages of burnt toast and it takes something larger, something worse, to wake us up. Something, say, like this:
This has been a NUTTY week and on Tuesday, I was just getting warmed up. I was still in low gear but I was already revving my engine, doing some calisthenics, cracking my knuckles in preparation for the ensuing onslaught of obligations.
And as I was rushing to get Brady out the door, already my mind danced on all the things I had to get done that day not to mention the rest of the week, and however was I going to manage to get them all done, and who put all this stuff right here on the counter?, and oh yeah I have GOT to return that phone call, and and and and and....
I shoved a mug of water into the microwave and pressed two minutes, as I'd done thousands of times. But the mug wasn't microwave-safe. And I reached in without looking and grabbed it. And it was CRAZY-hot. And I did that frozen-in-time 'WTF do I do!' thing. And then I jumped, spilling the crazy-hot water over my hand, and dropping the mug. (The mug did not shatter. I was of a mind to pick it up and give it another go, though. D*mn mug.) And then I let a few choice words rip as I ran cool water over my hand.
Well, yes and no. It reminded me to stop for a minute and slo-o-o-o-w do-o-o-o-w-n. And yet, all but the most minimal obligations don't just disappear because I recklessly burned my hand. My right hand. My dominant hand. *whine*
Things that are more difficult to do with bandaged fingers:
- Tupe. I mean, tpoe. I mean, type. HELPS IF I TYPE IN ALL CAPS
- Wipe (Sorry)
- Flip through 100s of soccer registrations over and over (and over)
- Tie shoes
- Wash dishes (a burn can feel fine until you run water over it... OUCH)
- File papers
- Put hair in ponytail
Things I can still do with bandaged fingers:
- Complete registrations for 100 soccer players
- Schmooze the people who can help make that happen
- TYIPE. Wait, rtpye. Caps only help - TYPE
- Photograph dozens of soccer players for ID cards
- Manage most prom details
- Manage details for soccer club's tournament this weekend
- Get boys ready for weekend of soccer
- Get Brady for weekend of prom
- Make 257 soccer-related phone calls
- Make 34 prom-related phone calls
- Drive boys all over northern IL
- Put things in "deal with later" piles
- Brush hair
But somehow, it all gets done. Whether you go through your duties in a manic craze or a mindful calm, the registrations get completed and the hundreds of phone calls get made. The corsage gets ordered and the team managers get called. The prom clothes get ironed and the plans get coordinated. The uniforms get passed out and the player photos get taken. Sometimes in the rain. And I even manage to crack a few jokes with the other club administrator -
Him – “I’ve gotta run home, deal with some loose ends, and I’ll meet you at 7pm.”
Me – “I’ve been leaving loose ends all over northern IL this week. Keep an eye out for them.”
Me (via email) – “blah blah important-detail blah blah question - *snort*”
Him – “I hope that means you’re laughing and not that you’re resorting to illegal substances to get through the week!”
And I didn't take offense, as I mistakenly do when I'm overtired and frazzled, when the parent coordinating the prom meet-up joked, "Boy, you're a lot of work, you know that?" after I called with my nineteenth question. (I have trouble wresting information out of Brady.)
I'm still smiling, and my blisters are healing nicely. The soccer players are carded and registered, and the first games are underway (and I don't have to be there until the gloriously late 11am!). The corsage is in the fridge, the date has all the details, and Brady's 45 second shower-and-get-dressed-like-NOW is arranged at my uncle's house after Brady's unfortunately-scheduled 5pm game.
But all that said, my cell phone is ringing again and there's a uniform shortage at the fields. I've gotta fly.
Er, I mean.... I've got to take a deep breath and calmly handle the crisis.