Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Back to "Do One Thing"


I spent some time with a friend yesterday helping her get wi-fi hooked up so that she could make better use of an iPad she had just bought. We don't get to see one another often enough and so it's a treat to get up to her house, hang out, and be of use. I was working at trying to get the wi-fi router working for a little while and we talked the whole time.

The cable modem is under her desk so I had to crawl under there and get the wires plugged in. About every other time I came out from under there, I banged my head to some degree on the underside of the desk drawer. It didn't hurt but it must have looked and sounded bad. On top of that, I was frustrated in my work to get the router working and so was searching online for solutions.

All the while, she and I were talking and she kept asking if she shouldn't go somewhere so that I could concentrate. "No," I said and meant it. There was nothing that I was doing that couldn't be done just as well with a friend to talk to. Then, as I was running a Google search and also showing something to her on the router, she chided me to "do one thing." Yep, she's been reading this blog and was throwing my words back at me. I like that. Gives me something to think about and helps me rethink an idea.

I'm a father of two young children, a husband to a lovely and thoughtful wife, and a teacher to a bunch of at-risk kids. There are few times in my life when I have the solace of only one thing to do. Even now, typing these words, I have a pile of paper on my desk to attend to and at any moment people will come through the door vying for my attention. I have music going in the background, traffic out the window, ideas on my mind of what my therapist and I will talk about this afternoon, the notion that I need to reschedule my doctor's appointment, wondering why the computer across the room is on, and a couple dozen other things. I also need to brush my teeth. But for now I am writing these words.

Doing one thing doesn't mean that I can shut out everything else in my life. For my money, I was doing one thing yesterday when I was hooking up the router, talking with my friend, and searching for solutions to the lack of data flowing through the wi-fi connection. I was focused on solving the problem of how to get wi-fi working. Sure, we were talking and that sort of thing, but it was all part of the larger whole. Doing one thing means being in the moment of that thing. I don't want to lose myself in thinking about what is to come, what has passed. I don't want to lose myself switching between tasks. Doing one thing means sticking with something and, I don't think I've talked about this much, enjoying the task.

Enjoying the task is easy when I'm out for a run, reading a book, or writing 750 words. It can be more challenging when I'm emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, or hooking up a wi-fi router. In the more challenging do-one-thing tasks, I like having a friend at hand to talk and keep me company. I like to daydream while I fold the laundry or sometimes just count how many pieces I fold. And this morning, emptying the dishwasher I made a point to pet the kitten each time I returned to the dishwasher from a cupboard. But even so, I was doing one thing, focusing on what needed to get done.

Back to my friend and the router. It came down to a simple solution. I had to power down everything, power it back up and let all the parts see one another. That done, we started to play with her iPad, downloading apps, getting used to the interface. We updated iTunes. We tried to get the printer to work, but didn't. Then it was done. We said our goodbyes, she paid me in fresh baked bread, and I got in the car to drive home. I thought about texting my wife to let her know I was on my way, but I figured that driving was the one thing to do just then. As I drove, the view of the lake from high above got me thinking of a poem idea. I drove thinking that when I was done driving, I might just have to get out a pen and some paper to write that poem. After that, well, I'd figure it out, one thing at a time.

Write on.