Yesterday was a perfect example: I finished listening to a series of podcasts (8/23-10/11/09 if you're interested). I'd taken tons of notes, and by late afternoon I wanted nothing so much as a half hour to sit down with a cup of coffee to think through the implications (and applications) of what I'd heard. But there were dishes to do. I hadn't been to the gym, or responded to several emails, called my Mom to make plans for her birthday outing this week, or sent out the notifications for my next memoir class at Grub Street to people who've asked to be kept in the loop. I had things to do!
So I found myself caught in one of those tensions, suspended between my tangible to-do list--the one with items I could point to and say, "See...this is how I used my day!"--and my intangible how-real-things-get-done list. The second list features couch sitting, coffee drinking, and staring off into space on a disturbingly regular basis. And there's an asterisk at the bottom reminding me of this: thinking/mulling/wondering/contemplating--exploring what a new addition brings to my internal landscape--is what gives me ideas for books. And talks. And love. And conversations with friends about the way life is and the way we hope it can be. The things I look back on and say, "Well, I didn't make it to the gym, but I made some progress building life..."
I'd love to say that I left all the to-do list items undone, abandoned in a fit of creativity, but that's not true. Instead I scurried, scrubbing dishes and making phone calls. I brewed some coffee...and then remembered that the U.S. Open starts this week!
You'd think that would thwart my thinking, but actually it was the best backdrop possible, especially for contemplating things like pursuing a mission in the swirl of real life. More on why tomorrow. Until then...what helps you clear out space to think? Or avoid thinking, if that's what the day calls for?