In fact, on Tuesday afternoon, I came home late from work. I was so hungry that rather than taking a moment to begin making a real dinner, which I had been looking forward to all evening, I grabbed a leftover piece of cake from the fridge, and sat on the couch devouring it. Meanwhile, this was running through my head:
What should I do first? I know, I'll cut the onions, and put them on to simmer. Then I'll go check my email, and see if the neighbors have responded, so that I can run over and get the muffin tin. If they haven't responded, then I can make dinner, but if they have I can go over there, and have a little chat, and pick up the tin, and come back and finish my dinner. But I shouldn't leave the stove on, because we had the fire the on Friday. (Goodness, I need to clean the stove top too!) So I should really just check my email first, except that I know that if I do there will be 15 other things I find I need to do online. And, speaking of which, I really need to buy my plane ticket and pay my credit card bill, so I better do that first before I forget. Then I can sort my laundry, re-arrange the DVDs, hang the bulletin board, make coffee for breakfast tomorrow--oh wait--I don't have coffee. Maybe I should go to the store. Then I can pick up L's birthday present...if they have it at Barnes and Noble, which I doubt. And I need to mail those packages. And thank yous. And write those other thank you notes... Well, I'll just put some pasta on to boil and forget about the onions. But I had pasta every night last week...Man, I have to go to the bathroom. I wonder if the neighbors got my message...then I can bake...
I finally had to stop and laugh at myself. Here I sat, eating cake, and there was a litany of things going through my head, possible scenarios, to do lists that I never get done, all these things weighing on my mind, and they were all, ultimately meaningless. I thought about my best friend, who I haven't gotten to talk to for nearly a month, because of the demands of work, her family, her daughter, and our crazy schedules. She must have a million more important things to do--if only because the things she needs to do serve others. All my demands were my own making, and had little to do with anyone else. But they were SO URGENT in my mind that I sat there unable to act, worrying about what I was going to do...when I finally finished my piece of cake.Don't worry. I am fully aware of my ridiculousness. But, the fact is, as single women it is very easy to get wrapped up in yourself. And, if you are naturally gregarious, it is easy to wrapped up in the demands of others, too. But what you really need is balance. Your working hours, no matter how onerous the demands they place on you, must be for work. Your evenings need to balance your other interests with true and refreshing leisure. Plus, because you have the freedom to do as you like, you also have to combat selfishness, and try to live for others: your friends, you family, your community.
It's exhausting. And I don't have that balance. I don't suppose I ever will.
A professor of mine once told me that she found balance being single by consciously putting all her attention into the task at hand. If she was walking to class, then she was walking to class. She would drown out the constant stream of thoughts that said "What are you going to do when you get there, and what about Mr. X, what if he skipped class again. I hope Miss Y has her presentation ready. I really don't want to fail her..." and concentrate on walking, one foot in front of the other. Being fully present in that moment did more to focus her attention as she stepped into the classroom than the thousands of thoughts that wanted to push their way into her mind--which ultimately serve as a distraction.
Put this into practice. I tried it, when she first told me, and it really did help. I found myself prepared for whatever came up: if you are fully present at every step along the way, you will be more prepared. If you put your complete attention in, say, making dinner, then you will be able to devote the time after dinner to all the other tasks before you. But if you try to sort your laundry, and visit with the neighbors, and cook your onions, you're going end up with charred onions.