My son caught me talking to myself the other day. This isn’t unusual. I’ve accepted talking to myself as a requisite part of being a writer. I talk to myself in order to work through ideas that sound reasonable in my head, though may not, and often don’t, aloud. But bemused and a little curious, holding his large bouncy ball with both hands, Further just stared at me. Suddenly embarrassed, I stopped talking and stared back.
You see, Hannah needed a chance to do some work around the house without Further undoing it, so he and I went on a little walk down the road. Further was throwing the ball, mostly at Wendell or Charlie, and I was taking the opportunity to work out ideas for an article, absently chasing the ball down when it got away. So out loud, pacing back and forth, I was conducting an interview with a professor I was planning to call the next day. In other words, though technically walking with my son, I was somewhere else entirely.
Because the reality is, I can’t just do one thing. I am a chronic, borderline obsessive multi-tasker, physically uncomfortable doing just one thing, even when it’s taking a walk with my son. And though I used to think this was a positive trait, one that would get me ahead in the world, I now as a father wish I could turn it on and off, that I could be fully with my son when I’m with him, not just as a guardian, but a participant in his life.
He’s growing fast. He’s developing his speech, constructing sentences, having opinions, running, jumping, dancing, singing. It’s a lot of fun. Hannah pointed out the other day that I couldn’t wait for him to be old enough to play with. Yet here we were, our chance to play together, and I couldn’t see anything but my work.
The phrase “to live in the moment” has always bothered me a little. I don’t know why. Perhaps something about it felt evocative of new-agey privilege, that I can be so fulfilled in my needs as to be able to remove myself from the world and just bask in my riches. But I get it now. It isn’t about being with yourself. Living in the moment is about finding the things that are important to you and those around you then being with them when they’re there. It’s a different kind of multi-tasking. It’s the kind that instead of doing two different things at once, one part of you deletes your distractions while the other part bends down, holds out his arms in the shape of a basketball hoop, and says the words he should have been saying aloud since he started this walk with his son, “Further, you wanna dunk it?