While the Kettle Boils

Those who know me agree that I am one of the most organized people that they know. I have replied, when they say that, that I am organized because I am lazy: I do not like the time that is wasted by searching for things that aren’t where they should be; or doing work over from scratch every time.

Now that I am working from home, I consume much more hot tea than I did working in an office. In the office, I was always getting up from my chair to go to meetings, to greet people who popped into my office for advice, or to pop out and get advice from others. Now all those interactions happen through the computer screen, and it becomes too easy to sit in the chair for hours and hours. So whenever there is a break in the action, I pop up and make a cup of tea.

For all my efficiency, I make tea the old-fashioned way, with a kettle not a microwave. Some quality about water boiled in a tea-kettle seems different to me than when it is boiled in a microwave. So I fill the battered and heat-stained kettle, set it on the flame, and wait.

At first, waiting for the kettle to boil was another inefficiency. At first, I would go back to my desk, start to work, and then have to be interrupted to get up, go back to the kitchen, turn off the flame and pour the water from the kettle into my mug.

It never seemed like enough time to do anything. It wasn’t a long enough time that I could start it and then get something meaty done – like putting in a load of laundry, which gives you 30 minutes in which to run out to the grocery store or walk around the block a few times.

And, at the same time, staring at the kettle, it seems to take a lifetime for the water to boil.

Then I timed it. Do you know how long it takes my kettle to boil?

Less than five minutes. Five Minutes!

There are a lot of little things that I can cross of my list in five minutes.

I can exercise: five minutes is enough to do a couple of sets of ten leg raises: front, back, and side. As well as 10 of those ankle-strengthening things where you sink down into chair position, then raise up onto your toes. Which has the added benefit of counteracting the effects of sitting at your desk, hunched over the computer.

I can do the dishes and clean the kitchen, wiping down the counters and backsplash. There never seems to be time to do this in the morning, at lunch, or after work.

I can pay a bill online. No fun, but practical. And with the added benefit of avoiding late fees.

I can play with the cat, who never seems to get enough play and always craves it, dragging her string-stick through the house to lay it at our feet and yowling when she doesn’t feel recognized. She’s getting old; five minutes satisfies her now.

I can meditate. Although a five-minute meditation feels like nothing compared to when I used to meditate three times a day for 30 minutes each time, it feels like a lot now that I have lost that habit, replacing it with blogging or skimming the net. [Side note: Want your life to feel great? Build the habit of meditating three times a day for 30 minutes each. Amazing!]

So now, when I get up to make tea, I don’t see the five minutes as Waiting (something I hate) but as a gift of time.

I read something the other day where someone said that “I don’t have time” is the biggest lie we tell ourselves. That time is a construct that lives inside us and that we can stretch it to allow for an infinite number of possibilities, if we let it.

And it’s true. Think about the things we do that are a time-sink: skimming the web; watching TV. We seem to have all the time in the world for these things, which do nothing but fill time with nothingness. When we finish an hour of watching TV, we don’t have anything to show for it: it hasn’t put a home-cooked meal on the table, brought us closer to friends, or left us with a house that is cleaner to live in. It hasn’t helped a child learn to read, or given comfort to those in need. It hasn’t helped us improve our health or lowered our stress. All it has done is distract our brains for 60 minutes from the things that need doing, from the infinite possibilities that exist for us.

I haven’t given up the habit of television yet – in fact, I gave in and finally started Game of Thrones, a temptation I have been avoiding for seven seasons – but I do give myself four or six five-minute breaks throughout the day, while I am waiting for the kettle to boil.

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