I have a distinct memory when I was little of my mom often saying to my sister and I, “I only have two arms.” I also remember being incredibly confused as to why she needed to point this out…as clearly she did not have more than that, that would be weird mom, what’s your point? Recently though, through teaching, working in an office, and trying to get my acting career truckin’, I’ve been understanding this phrase more and more.
To start, working with Kindergarten and 1st graders is a hoot. As I’m sure I didn’t, kids don’t seem to process the concept of waiting to share their idea(no matter how sweet or how smart the child) until they’ve grown up a little more. It’s interesting, the biggest challenge in teaching this age is not getting them excited in the lesson or motivating them to get involved, it’s getting the words out of your mouth that you planned on saying. Usually by the time I begin to give directions, I have answered about 15 questions regarding other things. These include topics like: what project we are doing, can we do what we did last week, can we draw unicorns, I don’t know how to draw unicorns, I went to dinner last night with my mom, do you like unicorns? In my Kindergarten Toy Design class, I even tried to get them to do this cheer that ended in them announcing, “DIRECTIONS!” Even at 5, they looked at me like I had ten heads. I never want to ignore any of their questions, but sometimes when you have 10 index fingers poking you saying, “Miss Virginia,” it’s time to pull out the, “I only have two arms” phrase.
There is a Buddhist idea to “do one thing.” In a nutshell, it emphasizes focusing on doing one task at a time, be it doing the dishes, reading a book, or focusing on work. The goal is to do this one thing fully, and being 100% present with the action. My biggest issue when I get stressed is I try to focus on everything at once, and therefore get nothing done. While living in Florida, I had a week where I kept coming home to the milk in the cupboard and the cereal in the fridge. Which is a real pain in the ass when you keep spoiling milk. This is an awesome article on the Buddhist idea:
And in case I’ve gotten too serious, here is the image from a greeting card my friend Helen sent me once. She wrote that it was a combination of things I liked and didn’t like: monks and roller coasters.
Also an example of Buddhists “doing one thing.”
Thinking about too many things at once in a city like this is also very easy to do. That is another reason to find little bits of the city to focus on when your brain is overloaded with trains, taxis, and people yelling “free comedy” at you.
My best suggestion of where to do this the L.A. Burdick’s on 20th between 5th and Broadway. Though I discovered it a few years ago, Christina and I went there during chocolate weekend and filled up on hot chocolate. They have single source hot chocolate (each from a different country, with distinct flavors), if you’re willing to spend $5 on a cup of heaven. The cafe itself is also a fantastic place to write, especially on a weekday afternoon when the rest of the neighborhood is tucked away in their offices. To finish up, I really want to thank everyone who has been checking out my blog lately. It really brightens my day. And in the theme of this post, I have many more things I’ve wanted to write about (including my adventures diving back into the world of dance, recent Craigslist interview disasters, and a fun encounter with Alan Cumming), yet am making a huge attempt this week to do one thing at a time. My goal is to catch up on these other stories in the next few days:)
Happy start of the week, everyone!
2 responses to ““I only have two arms.””
I think it’s funny that your L.A. Burdick is a nice calming place. Our is CRAZY BUSY, with a line out the door on weekends. Though I guess if you went on like a Wed night, it would be a little calmer.
I feel like I’m having the same problem with focusing on too many things at once. When you have 2 jobs, school, family pressures, and an active social life, I often feel like your mother “I only have 2 arms!”. I like the monk zen thing, only focusing on one thing at a time. What often works for me is thinking about the camino. I keep thinking that life has to be one extreme or the other, we are super busy with a million things going on and super stressed, or everything is calm and quiet and a little boring. But on the Camino we had both. Our lives were filled with calm and quiet, but we had purpose. This has become sort of my mantra when I start to get stressed “Calm, quiet, and with purpose”. It’s how I tackle each day. “Calm, quiet, and with purpose”.
Thanks for that mantra, Claireface. I used it today and it was incredibly helpful. My class went much better and traveling around NYC was generally calmer. If we were on the Camino right now I would probably yell, “Metaphors!!” As for the LA Burdick thing, it’s probably the way I used to feel when people would talk about Crumbs. I worked there and so I knew it was madness. But everyone else would squeal with joy when I worked there. I do hope you get some pretty awesome discounts on those chocolate penguins though.