“You’re quicker than you think, you’re faster than you think. We’re intensives. When we really do get focused, we really do move fast….”
Finding that focus sometimes depends on choosing a single, solvable problem, one step at a time. And we can do that. Really.
Transcript and notes:
Recorded 9 October 2023.
Hey everyone. Thanks for tuning in.
You know some days go like you plan and some days just don't. I wanted to try an experiment this morning and record myself recording a TikTok, so the TikTok could be the beginning of a podcast episode. Because I think it's important, and it's bigger than I can fit in three minutes. And yes, TikTok allows 10 minute videos, but I don't know anybody who's watching 10 minute videos on their phone.
We're all tired. We're all impatient. Whenever I poll people about listening to podcasts and how I might get more people listening in here, the answer is always the same. I listen to podcasts while I'm doing something else, while I'm somewhere else. While my mind, my body, are somewhere else. I listen to podcasts for company. I listen to podcasts to learn something. I listen to podcasts to fill the gap in my day. To help me commute, to help me do dishes, to help me fill spaces.
So no, I don't think anybody's gonna watch a 10 minute TikTok, but they might listen to a 10 minute podcast episode. You might listen to a 10 minute podcast episode about that thing that I've talked about here before-about dishes. About how you look at the dishes, and it's a giant mountain and then you do them and it took less than five minutes. Less than the time it took that you would have spent scrolling your phone standing in the middle of the kitchen.
And maybe, maybe you needed that break to just stand there and scroll and think about other people's stuff for three minutes while the pan got hot, while the butter melted. But maybe, maybe it would have brought you at least as much peace of mind to pick up those two bowls, that fork, and that scrap of napkin that you used to wipe the bugs off the counter after you had to kill them there. Because some things even you aren't peaceful about.
Anyway, I meant to record the TikTok that I made about that thing where you can do more than you think in five minutes. And I recorded it on my phone but I forgot to hit the other record button because I'm used to hitting record once and starting to talk.
And then I laughed ruefully.
And then I took my phone out of its stand and then I tried editing it and it worked okay. But then I tried uploading it to Instagram and that didn't work okay. And then I had to research video editing software for my phone and find something and download it and figure out how to use it on the fly. And then it went mostly okay, except that the video is about the size of my two thumbs put together for reasons that I haven't yet figured out.
And then I decided to upload it like that to Instagram anyway- the edited down version- which still had the end clipped off, because Instagram doesn't want me to say more than a minute and 30 seconds worth of stuff. Which is a lot less than the three minutes that TikTok seems to default to preferring and here- we are.
It's after 4:30. And I'm finally sitting down to talk to you about this thing that I really think is important, especially in these moments when it feels like all we have are moments. Everybody is tired, and I mean tired beyond tired. One friend described it as having had the oil light come on on her car and still continuing to drive.
And I said, listen, listen, get an oil change. And she reassured me that she had some plans to do some things that would restore her a little bit. And that was great. But we're all tired beyond tired. Everybody around me is collectively more tired than I can ever remember people being in my lifetime. And that's 48 years of paying attention to the people around me.
So sometimes I think there are days, there are weeks, there are years where all we have is moments. And sometimes, because time is a little bit stretchy, a little bit plastic, a little malleable, we can stretch it out. We can dive deep into a moment, into an activity, into an experience- all the way down. And suddenly, that five minutes expands and it feels like hours- in a good way. And suddenly, we can breathe for a minute.
I wear a glucose monitor for health reasons. And you know how I can tell that my cortisol is down? My blood sugar goes down. My cortisol goes down when I'm immersed in a project, even if that project seems a little weird. Through a convoluted series of unlikely events, I managed to get an extremely inexpensive kayak. And it's a good one. It was just really cheap. Used, of course. And she even gave me most of the stuff that went with it.
So I stop and take a little breath of gratitude for that kind of generosity and abundance in a world that doesn't seem to be able to think about those things very much.
And then, I still need a PFD. And my body is not the shape that they designed PFDs for. And this entire adventure eventually made me want to find somebody who specializes in Shibari to help me design a better PFD for people with round bellies. Because every single one I tried on, fell off over my head the minute I raised my arms. Which is not how a PFD is supposed to work.
Life vests are supposed to stay on your body. Even if you're limp, even if you're unconscious. Even if a rescuer grabs you by the shoulder straps. And none of these were doing it.
So we had to take a special trip to an outfitter that was a little further out and has a really great selection. And I was trying those on for a long time. They were really great. I tried them on and I tried them on and I tried them on. And finally I found one that sort of kind of seems to stay in place, probably. Which is, with my body, apparently the best I can do.
So I spent the whole day trying on life vests the, day before that. Going from store to store. Here, there, in the mall, everywhere. Do you have life vests? No, we have our winter stuff. Do you have life vests? We have three. We've packed ours up, let me go in the back and see if I can find some.
And still, even though I was in these busy, overwhelming shopping spaces, not even accomplishing what I set out to do- my blood sugar got so low that I had to be a little bit concerned about it. Not a lot, just a little bit. And yeah, I'm prepared. And yeah, I pay close attention. But I was shocked. I was like, What did I do right?
What did I do right?
And the answer is, I concentrated on something other than the trash fire that is the world right now. Something other than what was stressing me out. I had, for once, a solvable problem in front of me. And I was able to do the things one step at a time to solve it. Just one step at a time.
Remember when most of life seemed like it could be solved one step at a time somehow? For some of us that was longer ago than others. But that's the thing about this: you're quicker than you think, you're faster than you think. We're intensives. When we really do get focused, we really do move fast.
And sometimes moving fast doesn't mean getting the task done fast, right? If you're working on something that is tight, and focused and detailed and needs to be exquisite, moving fast might still mean moving slowly. But you can get more done in five minutes, in ten minutes. Sometimes you can stretch that time out until it behaves like two hours. That's because you're an intensive, that's how we are.
We can figure out how to make it work. We can figure out how to make it fit. But not by thinking about how it's going to fit. What we do is we give all of our attention to the problem in front of us, not to the existence of the problem, but to the actual action. To the movement. To picking up this bowl and putting it in that spot. To picking up this fork and moving it over there. One thing, another thing, another thing.
We focus on moving the thing forward one step at a time. And that is what we're good at. It's moving the thing forward, moving the thing forward.
Okay, let's take some action. Let's do something. Do you know how high my cortisol gets, do you know how high my blood sugar gets when I feel like I'm trapped behind a wall? Literal or metaphorical? It's not pretty and it's not healthy. But it's real. It's real. As real as blood chemistry is real. It is concrete and it is true. It is true that feeling trapped is bad for our health.
It is truethat we often have a lot to do that seems in surmountable. And it is true, that when we pick up this fork and put it over there, we can do a lot more in twenty-five minutes than we think we can.
So if there is a doable thing before you, even if it has a lot of steps, and you are in intensive, just start moving. And I know, I know starting is hard, especially if you've imagined that what you have before you is an eight or ten or fifteen hour task. But the odds are good, that you have mounded it up. Especially if you don't like it. You've mounded it up to be much more of a task than it actually is.
And the key promise to yourself is that you only have to work on it for fifteen minutes. And if you get only one tiny bit done that is still honorable. That is still in integrity. You promise yourself fifteen minutes and then we'll stop. And so you work for fifteen minutes and there's a timer and then you stop. Unless you want, genuinely want, to keep going. Otherwise you keep your promise to yourself. And that is the most important part.
Because when you learn to trust yourself to keep that promise, you can come back and do it again. Later, after you've had a rest and a treat.
Because we need pleasure. Or we don't move anywhere.
Thanks for tuning in.