I’m a working mother. Well, all mothers work, but some have two jobs. My professional life is squeezed in between primary school and after bedtime. I wouldn’t change having kids for a second; they are what ground me and remind me that overdue article isn’t as important as a human who needs a hug.
The intersection of my two jobs also means that I’m on the road with everyone else in Qatar’s early morning traffic grid. A fifteen minute takes about 45, depending on the time you leave. This photo is the scene outside the gate of my compound at 6:45 a.m. The gridlock is representative of any day of the work week from 6:30-9.
Traffic has given me a chance to work on my attitude. I breathe, every time I want to ram someone’s car. I call friends (using the car’s Bluetooth audio system). After 8 a.m. I can listen to the BBC World Service educate myself (most days I’m at my desk by 7:30). I am resolved to get more audiobooks on my phone.
This daily challenge reminds me that we can control one major aspect of life: our attitude. As for everyone or everyone else, well, those drivers better hope the deep breathing is working.
How do you stay cool on the road? Or keep your sanity doing mindless tasks?
I’ve been tossing around the idea of a themed Monday post. Mindfulness is something I’ve been practicing since my second pregnancy; many nights staring at the ceiling at 3 a.m. pushed me into meditation which is closely related. Essentially the two together ask us to focus; bring 100% of our attention into the moment. The scratchy sheet, the clicking of the clock. Surprisingly these tiny sounds make it easier to forget about the laundry, grading, or editing and usher in deep, relaxing sleep.
Here’s my first Monday Mindfulness post. Share your ideas for how to take a break from our continuous inattention.
I have a long overdue to-do list because of a weekend spent, well, weekending with family, friends, and children. Instead of multitasking, I was at the playground. Skipping late nights at the kitchen table, I went to sleep along with everyone else.
And while I was rushing around this morning, after a morning workout (check), the younger one, 10 months old was at the edge of my vision. He was rolling around in his walker, standing on the tips of his toes, gurgling at me with his energy.
I rushed into the kitchen for juice and a snack.
When I came out, he was dashing like a ping-pong ball around the living room, he was a caged specimen of enthusiasm, blocked from the clothes drying on the rack, barricaded from the wires on the television speakers.
We made eye contact; and he smiled. The connection was like a sizzle. I still had 1000 things to do; most of them overdue, many of them related to the release of my next book, furthering my academic career, applications for older brother’s school. But in that moment, since older brother was at nursery, I popped out some toys the younger one rarely gets to touch when Mr. 3 year old is around.
Foam shapes, a fabric tunnel, cushions squares for the floor. The little guy went wild. Dolphin like sounds of delight emanated as he crawled on through, rolling the tunnel this way and that. I watched him for a minute and took a mental picture of his joy. This, I thought to myself, this is happiness. This is what I will remember the next time I start to wonder what any of this is for.
Do you ever wonder what moments will flash before your eyes in the last seconds of your life? If, like in the movies, we get a lightening quick film strip of our lives, I hope mine is full of instants like these. For so a life is made, shared and remembered. Not from a to-do list.
That’s my Monday Mindfulness; you don’t have to take an entire afternoon to make memories. Make them in the flashes in between a workout and computer time.
I was talking – or messaging as many conversations are had these days – with a friend who was asking for help in how to interpret that persnickety of all insults, an office slight. She told me about the incident and then listed all the reasons it made her furious.
Her reaction triggered an image of myself a few years ago, dealing with difficult people in a confined setting: the strident, self-righteous indignant tones were so familiar.
“Think of murder as the number 10 on a scale of 1 to 10,” I said. “Where does this rank?”
“Four,” she typed back.
“Four?” I asked. Four was nearly halfway to murder. She explained the symbolic nature of the offending action and all the reasons her reaction was justified.
Our interaction reminded me of a talk I had in the first year I moved overseas.
“What is the worst thing that could happen?” Someone asked me in the middle of a rant about workplace antics.
“The worst thing?” I looked at her blankly.
“Yes, the worst.”
“Like losing being homeless?”
“No, the worst thing ever.”
“For everyone?” I had to think for a minute. “Nuclear annihilation?”
She had me describe it in detail. The flesh bubbling, then peeling off, having to live underground, the sudden scarcity of humanity.
“That’s your 10,” she said with a pat on my knee. “And compared to that, what’s this?”
In the 7 years or so since that conversation I have come a long way. The incident my friend was reporting was about a 2. But then again, it didn’t happen to me.