Has this ever happened to you? You’re heading to another room to get something you need, and when you get there you see something else you wanted to do, so you start on that; on it goes, until an age seems to have passed, and you return to the scene of your original unfinished business, much bemused.
This has been happening to me repeatedly as I try to get us unpacked from our Spanish sojourn, and to put our house back together the way it was before we packed countless things away in preparation for renters. There’s so much to do, so much low-hanging fruit, as the saying goes, that I hardly enter a room before I’m presented with dozens of little tasks that need my attention. Whatever thought sent me to the room often evaporates, and I begin on something else.
Everything has to be done, so it’s not a tragedy that I’m being this disjointed, but it tends to be a bit disorienting, and is apt to create what I hope is a mistaken impression that as far as my memory is concerned, the lights are on, but nobody’s home.
What I need is a strategy, and I’ve got a model I can use. Each year when my extended family gets together, we play a lot of volleyball. Some of us play several times during 2 weeks of the year (that would be me and my family). Others are on their high school volleyball teams. Some of my siblings play about 6 hours a week with a group of highly skilled players, and regularly join tournaments to play 2 on 2, etc. They’re very gracious to let us amateurs play with them.
We usually play in the evening, when the sun is shining strongly into the eyes of one team but not the other, so the policy is to switch sides after 10 points have been scored. For both the very skilled and the merely enthusiastic, switching sides can lead to a bit of confusion about the positions of the players. Most of us find that it’s easier for us to keep our formation and rotation order if we point to the position on the other side that corresponds to where we’ve been playing, and walk the way we’re pointing.
How hard can it be, you ask? Harder than you would think. It’s not just the spatial rotation; it’s the fact that we may not have been in the position we’re leaving for long enough to get really fond of it; when the play is fast, we’re moving around a lot, and can be rotating often. Crossing the court we’ve also got to high-five and congratulate those on our team as well as on the other, and maybe defend ourselves from the players that try to pants those they meet on the way (friendly games, yes, but also perilous!). Then there’s the transfer of sunglasses from those headed for the shade to those about to be blinded by the setting sun. With all that happening, it helps to point to where you’re going (and hold on to your shorts).
Perhaps this principle can help me in my current situation. Let’s say I’m going upstairs to find the white duct tape so that I can try to camouflage a repair on the fan cord that the barn squirrels’ babies apparently used for teething while we were in Spain. Physically pointing won’t really help me stay focused en route, but I could talk to myself so that, as they say on the London Underground, I’ll “have my destination in mind.”
I can’t guarantee that I’ll make it even then, but the odds are better. There’s so much in this house to distract me (I was actually coming upstairs to get the bathmat for a load of laundry when I decided to begin this post); more than there is on a volleyball court. But at least here no one will be trying to yank my shorts or take my sunglasses. If I make it successfully, High Five!