You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men.
Two weeks ago, I had a mission. To slow down. To appreciate life. And I planned to approach it in a pragmatic way, in a step-by-step fashion. First thing was to take a single routine activity and slow it down. I even named what I was about to do “The Still Life Project” and wrote a blog post about it. That made it feel official. Something to which I would commit.
I knew it would require some effort on my part, as I tend to multitask and move from one thing to the next, sometimes without even finishing the first thing (who among us has forgotten about the finished load of clothes in the washing machine and two days later had to rewash to get rid of the mildewy smell? Don’t answer if this has never happened to you! It’ll depress me.)
That’s why I took on something easy. All I set out to do was sit down, every morning, with my cup of coffee and enjoy. I made it easier by saying that I only needed to take fifteen minutes of time to sit with the coffee and enjoy each morning. How hard could that be?
Well, I’ll tell you how hard. Very. Very, very, very, very.
Pouring the coffee into my body wasn’t the trying part, even though I bought a bag of pre-ground Peets coffee (I usually buy whole beans of the same variety) and the flavor was more bitter than usual. But bitter didn’t get in my way. It actually helped me to confirm my suspicion that I am not somebody who drinks my morning joe because of the taste. As I downed large cups of the bitter brew daily, I shed light on the real reasons why I drink my morning coffee: (1) to stay (or get) warm and (2)for the caffeine energy boost. Plain and simple
The hard part was sitting down while I drank the coffee. Sitting down without checking my email or Facebook or Twitter accounts. Without playing Words With Friends or Solitaire on my IPad. Without worrying about not meeting my writing goals for the day. Without worrying about not making it to the grocery store to buy food for dinner or milk for the next day’s cereal—or coffee.
For the first three days, I stuck to the plan. Drink coffee while sitting down for fifteen minutes and taking in the sensory experience. The smell of the rising steam (yum). The taste of the brew (yuk). The warmth of the cup in my hands and the liquid sliding down my throat. The sounds inside and outside of my home. The colors and shapes and juxtapositions of objects that made up the space around me. In typical newbie fashion, my mind kept wandering away from the sensory stuff, but in good faith, I gently brought my mind back to the the simple things, the of-the-moment things.
Unfortunately, my discipline didn’t last. Daily, I set out with the best of intentions. I made the coffee, sat down, began my meditation. But I didn’t want to forget to respond to the email about carpool. Or I had a plot idea that I was afraid I would lose if I didn’t write it down right then. Or the phone rang and I found it impossible to not look at the caller ID, even if I wasn’t going to answer it. Which I did on that fourth day. After about four minutes of being still. I hung up feeling worthless. A ringing phone can wait. As my father used to say when I’d run to get the line and the ringing would stop before I picked up: “If it’s important, they’ll call back.” Of course, back then, I was thinking that the boy I had a crush on had decided he liked me too, had gathered up the courage to call me but lost his nerve when nobody answered the phone (no cell phones or recorded messages back then.)
Every morning I tried again. But my resolve had weakened. If I convinced myself that any of those have-to-do-now items could be put off for fifteen minutes, I would absentmindedly pull up a game on my IPad or log into my email. By the time I’d realize what I had done, I’d have finished the coffee and more than fifteen minutes would have passed.
A part of me wants to give up. Call it quits. Dumb idea from the start.
But a bigger part of me refuses to call this project a failure only two weeks into it. I’m wondering if I woke up earlier and spent the fifteen minutes then, before my normal day begins, would I be better able to stick to my fifteen minute, sensory experience only rule? But I don’t like to drink my coffee before I eat. Makes my stomach feel weird. And I always need at least fifteen minutes or so after I wake before my body can handle the intake of food. So wake up thirty minutes earlier? But eating takes fifteen minutes, so wake up forty-five minutes earlier? Now we’re getting into the middle of the night, unless I change when I go to bed at night. Then maybe a five a.m. wakeup would work. But who am I kidding? I am not going to go to bed before 11 p.m. And this is getting way too complicated for my so-called pragmatic, step-by-step process.
I could use some help here. Do you ever allow yourself quiet time where you are only “doing” one thing (drinking coffee for example)? How do you let go of all the other things clamoring to get done? And please don’t tell me to just be disciplined without explaining how. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m an artist after all. 🙂
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