I spent the afternoon doing just about nothing. After escaping the smothering warmth of our 85-degree-apartment to play at the children’s museum this morning, I put Squish down for a nap and set out to make the most of my three hours of “quieter time.” Manchild, of course, had different plans.

“Mom, I want to play the Loser game.”

“Mom, I want to print something on the computer.”

“Mom, it’s my turn.”

“Mom, why are you doing that?”

“Mom, I want to play with the blue cards, not the red cards.”

“Mom, why are mobs made up of bad people?”

“Mom.”

“Mom.”

“Mom.”

“Mom.”

I put my earbuds in, turned on a podcast, and tried to scrub a 5-month-old vomit stain out of our rug. Hence the “doing just about nothing.”

But I will say that it surprises me to no end how much I am, eventually, able to do, what with all the nothing I do all day while fending off answering questions from a 4-year-old, saving a 20-month-old from falling off the furniture, and trying to maintain an attitude of patience and love while my sticky skin (which is bombarded by the sticky skin of the two little clingy martians who, apparently, will whither and die if they don’t make contact with the mothership every 5 minutes) screams for solitude.

When I was in school I spent most weeks looking at the lists of papers and midterms and labs and social events and thinking, “I’m going to die.” When I was pregnant with Squish, I resigned myself to a winter holed up in our apartment, never so much as leaving for a gallon of milk. And, most recently, I was sure that training for a marathon would take over my life and I’d have next to no fun for four months straight.

And guess what? I’m still alive. I wandered the city freely during the winter of ’09-’10. And marathon training eventually became just another part of the day.

Surprise!

It’s true that I tend to start out with low expectations, but certainly that can’t account for everything. There is something to be said for adaptability. By my last semester of college, I could look back on my first and say, “I could totally do that again,” not necessarily because the work was so much easier then, but because I learned how to handle it, to organize and prioritize and fantasize in a very productive way. And these days, when so much of my time belongs to “Mom” and not to “Lizzie,” and I am continually finding new responsibilities to fulfill, I try to remember that.

I try to remember that I don’t have to do everything all at once. In fact, I can spend a lot of time doing “nothing.” But adding a little here and a little there and sneaking in a few seconds to send an e-mail while Manchild uses the restroom before coming back to claim his seat at the computer so he can click his way to 2048 on iCal, will eventually allow me to stretch and grow and be focused when I need to be and relaxed when I need to be and before I know it I’ll be cruising through my to-do list without even realizing I was working on it.

It took me 543 words to say that, but Mr. Emerson said it in 30: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do. Not that the thing itself has changed but that our power to do it is increased.”

Someday I’ll be able to write like that, too.

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