I had coffee with my friend Miriam the other day. As we sat down with our cups at a local coffee shop, she said proudly, “This is my fourth thing today.” Miriam is a poet and a wonderful, rambling thinker. I was intrigued. What do you mean a “thing” I asked her.
She explained that every day she does ten things. They can be fun things, hard things, boring things, any kind of thing. (I was relieved to hear that our coffee was a “fun thing.”) She seemed to want to explain, with nervous laughter, why she did ten things each day, but I was already way ahead of her. Each day would have an order, a calculation, each thing I did would have a legitimacy – it would be a “thing.” No more would I slog through the day and wonder at the end, “what was that all about?” I would have a mental list of things that I did, proof of a good, productive day.
I wanted to learn more about the “thing way of life,” so I might master it myself. Would eating breakfast count as a thing, or feeding the cats? No, she said, those are just what you do every day to survive, or to make your cats survive, those do not qualify. Same with shower, reading the paper, watching the news. What about watering plants? I do that about once a week, not every day. Would that be a “thing”? This was a gray area, she confessed. If you needed to round out your list to meet your quota, then she guessed you could count watering plants. For further edification I asked what the first three things were that she had done that day. They included a phone call to an insurance company, cleaning out a cupboard, and taking a walk. I asked what she did if it was bedtime and she had only done eight things. “I read two or three pages in a book and knit a few rows of whatever I’m working on. And voila, I’m at ten!”
I imagine that I have lost some of you by now. We obsessive types can be fascinating to ourselves and irritating to others. Sorry, but I’m going to plow ahead.
Needless to say I jumped into the thing system with great enthusiasm, choosing eight things as my target for each day. The first day I couldn’t wait to darn a sock and hem a pair of pants that had been waiting for months to get my attention. (I had to email Miriam to check whether or not I could count the sock as one thing, and the pants as another thing. She said I could, but that each pant leg could not be counted separately.)
As the days went on I found that I was getting things done that I had been avoiding. Letters got written. Drawers cleaned out. A jacket went to the dry cleaners. I also realized that I was focusing more on what I was doing. “Ahh, I am re-potting an orchid. That is thing # 6.” Or, “Out for an enchilada tonight – what a fun thing.” By identifying the activity as a thing, I had a relationship with it that I didn’t have before. I began to understand what Andy, the guy on my meditation app, had been talking about: “During the day, notice what you are doing. Make it your focus. Even if it is something very simple, be aware of it, pay attention to it.” So for me, the “thing way of life” is not only practical and efficient, it verges on the spiritual.
Today is the last day of the month and I am wrapping up my blog, thing #7 for the day. I am thinking that I can count the blog as one thing and writing the notification email to my subscribers as another thing. If Miriam says no, then I will have to do an eighth thing before I go to bed. I could fold the laundry? Write a letter to my congressman? Mix a martini?
Or, I could visit Miriam’s blog site and see what my mentor is up to at: https://miriamswell.wordpress.com/