The quacking of a thousand ducks

The body cries inertia. The false death of sleep is so tempting, so comfortable, but life is about movement. Life is of the soul, life is of giving. Heal thyself and then begin to heal the world.

Clear the cobwebs – clear the clutter – find the surface of the planet. OK, at least find the surface of your desk. Find the nuggets of clear thought that you buried in the clutter. Line up your ducks in a row and see how they quack.

With the clutter of his mind all pushed into a corner, he saw the whole picture laid out before him, the way it could be were the ducks in a row instead if scattered here and there, each quacking insistently to be attended. “Here!” “No, here!” “No, here!” cried the ducks, and the “there” slipped from his grasp.

“So much to do, so little time.” Fie. The time is plenty. The need is understood. The ducks push to the front, each demanding to be heard. But all that is actually heard is the quacking of a thousand ducks.

He closed the door, so that only he and the dog were in the room. He closed his eyes and took deep, deliberative breaths. He cleared his mind, thinking nothing, listening but not processing.

One of the ducks poked tentatively into his consciousness, and he pushed it back. And another duck. And another duck.

They refused to line up in a row.

And so he accepted the chaos. And it was almost as good as fighting it. And it was better than fighting it.

It is what it is. He was where he was. Wherever he went, in fact, he was there.

From that day on, the ducks still refused to line up. But they cooed for him.

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Choose your fire today, this minute

Every morning there is a choice to be made between light and dark, life and death, sickness and health. Words heal and words destroy. Choose this day, this minute, shall I heal or shall I destroy? The power is in the remarkable organ between your ears.

A choice must be made. Each day you choose life or death, light or dark. Making no choice is still a choice. The universe, they say, is moving inevitably toward entropy – and yes, at some point (in the unimaginable future) all energy will be used up – but you may use the energy at your command to serve the cause of entropy or to build.

Life or death, light or dark, building or destruction. So easy it is to destroy. So beautiful it is to build, to create and preserve beauty, to conserve for later valued use.

Choose to greet the light. Build the fire of warmth, not the fire that burns maliciously. Push, and overcome inertia. Lift, reach ever higher – crawl, then walk, then dance. All of life is art; what are you creating? What does your dance look like?

Light, not dark. In the dark, sounds are strange and unknown. The light reveals the beauty, reveals the joy, unleashes the known, banishes fear, generates knowledge. Serve the light and not the dark.

Good morning. Time to wake up.

The sweet release of the run

Run!

Pay no attention to the clock that says you are growing older. Pay no attention to the aches and pains and cricks and popping joints. Pay no attention to the words that lie just outside your reach and refuse to spring into service. Pay no attention to anything but the breeze.

Just run!

Run like the wind, like a puppy, tail flailing in the sun, so happy to be running.

Run because you can, run because you have to, run because because because because because —

Because of the wonderful thing running is.

The first of a thousand steps

Monday — the day of beginnings. The day the cycle starts over.

The exhaustion of Friday is forgotten, the frustration of Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday past, and here is another fresh start.

Rested and refreshed, we begin the journey anew. Another chance to get it right. Another opportunity.

The race is on.

3 basic tenets for getting things done

1. You get what you pay for. 
2. The currency is time.
If you spend two hours a night mindlessly watching TV, you have spent two hours. Your mind does need a rest, and distractions can be useful – but did you keep a pad and pen, or some other note-taking device, standing by to record any stray thoughts that could be useful later? Then you probably spent two hours. 
3. Currency is better invested than spent.
A practice I learned from David Allen, author of the book Getting Things Done, during a recent interview: Write down every stray thought that occurs that is not related to the task at hand, while staying focused on the task at hand. Come back to that list later and create a plan of action for each thought. Rinse, repeat.
I have already found myself getting things done a little faster and remembering other things that need to be done. The practice may solve the time management mess that has plagued me all these years.
You get what you pay for: Either the time is spent on the activities that make and keep you whole, or it is not. Invest your currency wisely; it is a finite resource.

A weird side effect of working ahead

I’ve noticed this in the newspaper business, where you’re always working on tomorrow’s paper. Sometimes I have to keep reminding myself it’s not tomorrow already.

After I’ve spent a whole day reading or writing “today” on stories that will appear Wednesday, and after awhile I start thinking it’s Wednesday already. I need to reassure myself that no, I didn’t miss that appointment I had at 4 p.m. Tuesday, because it’s still 2:30 and I have 90 minutes to get there, I’m not almost 23 hours late.

And now, working on a story I plan to release in March, I’ve started catching myself thinking that it’s February already. Fascinating.

I’m trying to work ahead so that the next Myke Phoenix story is finished (at minimum in draft form) when the new one is released. I completed Night of the Superstorm on the day before I released Invasion of the Body Borrowers. Now I’m working through Duck Man Walking, which debuts March 3.

People who write about setting goals often will say that it’s beneficial to envision yourself as already successful. What does success look like? Set your mind and grow into that vision. I’m finding that if I set I mind thoroughly enough while you work ahead, you need to extract yourself from that vision to get back to real life.

Because the story that comes out Feb. 3 is finished, I have to keep reminding my mind that it’s still late January. I find myself thinking I missed Valentine’s Day, but it’s still weeks off. It’s the “tomorrow is today” syndrome played out over a span of weeks instead of hours.

I suspect that’s a beneficial side effect of having a deadline – beneficial because when the task must be done by a certain time, a sense of urgency builds up. This common phenomenon first rears its head in school – try pulling an all-nighter for a project that’s due in a week; it’s a lot harder than pulling one the night before the deadline.

It’s important to stay in the moment and remember to live today fully, but dipping a toe into the future can help make the next moments more focused.

Lessons from our pooches in living life to its fullest

Willow The Best Dog There Is™

My friend Wally Conger writes about his furry friend Cheyenne’s unceasing enthusiasm for eating the same kibble every day for years.

I think if we pay attention, our canine companions teach us many things about making the most of our finite time on this planet.

Wally had one of those a-ha moments while preparing the meal for Cheyenne the other day:

Don’t you wish you could harness her kind of passionate eagerness for each day?

Because as someone whose name I’m too lazy to look up once pointed out, expectancy is the atmosphere for miracles.

Even the little day-to-day stuff you take for granted can bring inspiration and opportunity.

Read the whole post here.

TANSTAMT: There Ain’t No Such Thing As Multi-Tasking

I heard someone say the other day there’s no such thing as multi-tasking.

What this phenomenon is – “doing several things at once” – is really a constant shifting of attention from one project to another. One moment this item has your full attention, and the next moment that item has your full attention, and the moment after that an entirely different item is on your radar screen. Then you rotate around and this item has your full attention again, then that item and the entirely different item, and so on.

But is it your full attention? It takes a while to get into a rhythm on any task. Do you really get fully into that rhythm before you stop abruptly and work on something else? Would you be better served by focusing entirely on the first item until it is completely addressed, then moving on to the second one, and then the third?

Because you don’t have the time taken in the constant start-and-stop of momentum to deal with, perhaps it would be more efficient to “single task” the to-do list. Allot time to each of the tasks, but work them one at a time rather than “all at once.” The way the brain works, you’re really doing them all one at a time anyway, but with a scattered focus.

I suspect Curly in City Slickers had it right: The ultimate secret is: “One thing. Just one thing.”