Scene One

I am going through the house collecting dirty clothes and see that the rosemary plant on the windowsill needs watering. It is tucked in the corner of the room next to the La-Z-Boy. I stuff the laundry under one arm, grab the small copper watering can with the other, then somehow manage to knock the plant and its saucer off the narrow sill so that it flies into the air and down between the chair and the wall. Miraculously, the plant is upright, but drops of water, bits of soil and needle-like rosemary leaves are all over the wall, chair, radiator and carpet.

Self-flagellation immediately kicks in. Why do I allow myself to get distracted? Why do I persist in multi-tasking? Have I not read enough on the subject? I am a classic example of how time is lost and productivity goes down every time I attempt it.

I cast about for a calming mantra, and it comes to me: Focus on one thing at a time, and do it well. I put down the laundry. Pull the impossibly heavy chair away from the wall. Breathe in the scent of rosemary. Get out the vacuum, clean up the mess, drag the chair back. Water the plant, collect the laundry. One thing at a time. Do it well.

Scene Two

It is 8:43 a.m. according to my car clock as I back out of the garage, and the drive to my 9 a.m. tutoring job takes a minimum of 16 minutes. So I start beating myself up, yet again. OK, you have been up since 6:15. There’s no good reason to be rushing around at the last minute, trying to get out of the house. Why am I always five minutes late? Why not five minutes early? How hard can that be?

I remember my husband’s words as I flew out the door: “Hey – pay attention!”

(How well he knows me.) So I tell myself that now. Pay attention. Keep an eye out for potholes. Make sure I’m not going more than a few miles over the speed limit. Notice that it’s another sparkling, blue-sky day. See how much the dirty snowbanks have shrunk over the weekend. Breathe.

I get to my tutoring job at 9 sharp. My tutee is half an hour late.

Scene Three

I am working in my south-facing perennial garden, the only garden on this early spring day that is completely snow free. Although I did a fairly thorough cleanup last fall, I had left a few of the taller stalks for “winter interest” (and to give the chickadees a place to rest while taking turns at the feeder).

I strap on my knee pads and snip away at the tattered remains, but my mind will not release me. A recent falling out with a lifelong friend is all I can think about; a vast mass of hurt and indignation keeps rising to the surface. My gut roils. I am sick of tormenting myself about it.

Finally, I sit back on my heels and tip my face up to the warmth of the sun. I breathe deeply and focus on a lone robin’s song. “Cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up,” he sings over and over, showing off to his mate. I begin to recite my mantra: Look at what’s in front of you. Do one thing at a time, and do it well.

I go back to my task, clearing away the old growth, delighting in the green shoots that are revealed. Breathe. Listen. See. Smell. Feel. Be here now.

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