“To succeed in your mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goal.”~A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
My mother was the kind of housewife who hated the mundane repetition of regular cleaning and dusting. She much preferred those jobs that required some degree of creativity. She loved to bake, crafting endless variations on a theme (a friend reminded me of her favorite – the ‘nondescript’ cake!), but she also loved the challenge of knitting complicated patterns, or sewing interesting designs (she once sewed me a bikini – I don’t think that one worked too well!). But like most girls of her generation, she was raised to be able to provide for her family’s needs, without the ability or the money to buy ready made from the store. She also came of age in a World War, and knew how to recycle, reuse and refurbish, to get as much use out of objects as possible. Once, when I asked her something about her childhood, she admitted that she used to love to start projects. Whenever she would go to her mother wanting to learn a new skill, or start something new, her mother would send her to the drawer of her unfinished attempts, and make her finish something old.
But those crafts that started out as educational for young girls, or even as hobbies and distractions (no smart phones, no Netflix, no Facebook back then) could produce useful articles of necessity. It is later that those quilts that used up old clothes and scraps could become works of art and items of historic and nostalgic value to a family.
Like my mother, I am not fond of those housekeeping jobs that you do, only to have to do them again. Clean houses don’t stay clean, washed dishes are dirtied again, more clothes to fold and put away, again. I am also easily distracted, starting off with one task, taking something into another room, seeing something there that needs to be done, then remembering what I had started, flitting like a butterfly, or a bumble bee, or perhaps a child with ADHD, from task to task. It is hard for me to focus even on the task of driving, especially when a South Florida sunrise peeks over my shoulder, grey clouds squeezing peach skies into the horizon, touches of pink highlighting higher clouds. And then the light! White puffy clouds backlit by a morning sun appear to be pierced by some divine Light, some indication that someone is watching over you.
I am also distracted by words, and thoughts bounce through my mind like random ping pong balls, unanswered questions almost make me miss my exit on the highway. I seem to lack that gene for single-mindedness, or lack the Zen-like ability to do one thing at a time (when you are meditating, just meditate. When you are driving, just drive). Recently, when listening to distressing news, I became distracted by the word Sanctuary and Sanctions. It seems that in order to coerce everyone to be of the same mind, the federal Government will impose sanctions on Sanctuary Cities. So those cities who are compassionate in their treatment of the unfortunate people who came to this country in their attempts to find a better life for their families, will have funds withheld. How can both words come from the same root ‘sanct’. So then I had to look it up.
My father (no housekeeping genes there either!) instilled in us a love of words, and insisted that we ‘look it up’ whenever we asked what something meant. To this day I encourage my students (whether English is their first language or not) to collect words. They may be medical, health related words, or they may just be words they are unfamiliar with. Keep a log, I tell them, start to learn and use these words that are not in your everyday language. (They rarely follow my advice). So it turns out that the ‘sanct’ in sanctuary and sanctified comes from the Latin word holy, while the ‘sanct’ in sanctions comes from another Latin word which means to ratify.
I am easily distracted. I stumbled upon the quote this morning, which coincidentally was from a man I read about for the first time earlier this week, a former Indian President. He was an engineer who had aspired to be a pilot, but ranked 9th in his class, and the air force was only taking 8 applicants. He went on to work with a cardiologist to develop the coronary stent, and he devised one of the first computer tablets that was hardy enough for use by healthcare professionals in rural areas. And yet I had never heard of this man before! Earlier this week I had been given a beautiful quote from an ancient poet called Rabindranath Tagore, another person I had not heard of before. And who knew that the developer of email was another Indian, and he was only 14 years old at the time!
I still admire those single-minded people, that are focused and driven and will not stop until the job is done. I myself recognize that the butterfly in me will continue to be distracted by the next random thought or idea, the next new bit of information that entices me away from the boring and mundane. We live in such a wonderful world, with so much that we do not know, we are fortunate indeed.
This Friday morning I hope you are excited to be alive, with all the potential of things not yet known, or not yet accomplished. I hope that you learn one new thing today! And that you do not get bogged down in the mundane and the trivial that sometimes threaten to overwhelm us.
Have a wonderful weekend Family!