Lately I’ve had the disturbingly consistent problem of losing track of what I’m doing within a period of only about 3 seconds. My brain catches a glimpse of a task that I need to attend to while I’m at a computer or at my desk, but by the time I move to give the task the necessary attention I’ve already forgotten what the task was supposed to be. In fact, this is exactly what I was doing right before I opened this document and started typing. I figured if I stopped trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing and instead just did something that actually focused me and gave me a history of what I was doing, I’d have better luck. So far, so good.
Writing provides a narrative that allows for both a direction forward and a scattering of bread crumbs behind. Even if I forget where I am, as long as I have kept some kind of pace I can figure out where my head was. It just struck me that I go in and out of habits of talking to myself, and maybe I should go back to such a habit. Maybe that internal dialogue, like writing, would help me keep track of what I’m doing. When they try to cart me away to the institution, please tell them that I’m just trying to figure what I’m doing from one moment to the next.
(I still can’t tell you what it was that I was about to do before I started writing this. Maybe I’ll think of it later this morning (when whatever I was supposed to do but forgot smites me with some of its undone repercussions) or maybe later today or maybe tomorrow or maybe never. If I knew what it was I’d forgotten, I’d better understand its timeline, importance, and impact on others.)
Besides writing, the other focusing thing I lean on is coffee. This morning I made a couple of cups in the French press and poured it in my portable mug. Before putting the cover on I took a sip with the warmth, the aroma, and the liquid all exposed. It’s interesting that, besides the caffeine, there’s a whole set of emotive sensations that come along with the cup. It used to be that coffee was something I’d occasionally imbibe in for an extra boost, but as I sought more and more of these boosts (especially in the midst of writing a dissertation and having my first teaching gig), the coffee became a routine. Not “routine” in the sense that it was a chore, but a ritual that had a place in my daily life. Coffee is something I look forward to in the morning, and some days it’s the image I toss into and around my psyche to pull myself out of bed. If I’m upright, I can make a cup of coffee. There’s motivation and comfort in that cup.
Yesterday I read about a guy named Dan who makes a coffee run each week for all who are sitting through chemotherapy at a clinic in Detroit. It’s a tradition that started when his father faced weekly treatments, and one that continues even after his dad’s death. Dan basically just takes orders from anyone in the clinic at the time, heads out to Starbucks, and comes back with the requested talls and ventis, mochas and cappuccinos, black or with cream. The point of going to Starbucks is that it’s more special and catered to each individual. In the end, though, I imagine the point is to have something comforting, maybe even distracting, from the long, boring process of chemotherapy. I suspect that there are many ways for one to be distracted with his own thoughts while having a toxic chemical infused into her system — thoughts of life, death, disease, or just utter boredom — and the chance to focus on the simple comfort of a cup of coffee is substantively helpful. At least a little.
So I’m grateful to coffee, and I’m especially grateful that I can enjoy it as a way to focus my thoughts, rather than as something that I need to distract me from other contemplations. And, currently, my cup is empty. So I think I’ll go fill it and try to re-remember what that task was that I let slip so easily a few moments ago.