Losing Track of Time by Noreen O’Brien

Work, for me, is a holy place—a place in which I can easily get lost and completely out of touch with the world. It’s important and valuable that I have this ability at times, because all too often I can be distracted so easily by any shiny object.

On this particular day, I was behaving as my typical efficient self. I had done my usual litany of “stuff.” I opened the windows to the morning, completed a few household chores, prepared and popped into the oven a broccoli-cheese quiche, before the outside temperature soared in the blistering heat of August’s dog days, and a fresh cup of tea was sitting at my elbow as I sat in front of the computer in my home office.

Off I go, into work mode, getting deeper and deeper into the tangles of the World Wide Web as I sought ways to market books for a new project I had begun with a new client, a publisher of spiritual books. After a while, I pulled out my folder on thoughts I’d been noting for creating a flyer for each book I was to market. As I mulled these things over in my mind, I tried to remain present and keep an eye on the big picture, knowing how easy it can be for me to get bogged down in that scenery, in the place where it’s easy to omit an author’s name or the date or location of a book signing.

Every once in a while I could almost see a chem trail of delicious aromas float across the room and into first my nose, then my line of vision, just as we see in cartoons. Mmmmm, I’d think, someone’s got something good in the oven! Then I’d fade back into work mode, while the flyer began to emerge on my computer screen as I navigated the page using the tools in the desktop publishing software. Several times, during a couple of hours of work, I’d had a hint of aromas tickling my nose and sending signals to my belly. At least once, I thought, hmmm, someone’s doing a fine job of burning something!

Eventually I dragged myself away from the computer and found my way into the kitchen to set the kettle to boil for a fresh pot of tea, evaluating in my mind the progress on the morning’s work. When I reached for the kettle to fill it with fresh water, I was brought a little closer still to the present, and then even closer to a conscious thought about that burning smell. As I turned on the burner, bringing me closer to the oven where I could feel the heat of it, I knew. I had done it. I burned my quiche. So thoroughly, it was fit only for the compost bin. And the heat thrown from the oven over the span of that couple of hours heated up the house long before the summer weather temperatures could.

Yes, I’m quite capable of losing track of time. As well as being the most productive among us. But I can also be the one to be so focused, all I can cope with is the view and awareness of what is inside the tunnel with me. Nothing else exists outside of that space—not the timer going off, not even the alarm clock I later tried because I thought it would pierce my focus and help to lead me out of my near stupor. I simply must learn to accept that I can’t do certain things at certain times.

Oh, and by the way, the quiche may’ve been burned into oblivion, but my flyer was a big hit with my publisher client.

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