Career, Things I Can

22. Things I Can Glimpse: The Cathedral

To be deep in the overwhelm requires not just doing too many things in one 24-hour period but doing so many different kinds of things that they all blend into each other and a day has no sense of distinct phases. Researchers call it “contaminated time.”

– Hanna Rosin, “You’re Not as Busy as you Say you Are” at

I click send on a project that’s consumed most of the morning. Before a sense of pride dares peek up out of the foxhole, another directive slams down from above. In an email, a whole group of colleagues receives word that I will provide them with a collection of updated materials by Monday. I’ve been copied in on this but not otherwise warned. At least seven major deadlines are breathing down my neck, and they all come between now and the start of next week.

Aside from those concrete projects, the inbox is spilling over, three people are waiting for replies to pressing questions, and a series of delicate emails is in the queue. These will undoubtedly trigger frustrated comments and several more rounds of correspondence.

Numb to every bit of it, the only approach is to keep moving. I open the folders and start to plow through the documents.

Then I stop.

What happened to what I just finished? All that work, and that’s it?

Click, then gallop on?

We rush from one demand to the next, never giving ourselves time to pause when one task is complete. Many of us don’t celebrate our significant achievements, let alone our everyday ones. We may mark milestones when large public hoorays are called for — retirement party, anyone? — but in our headlong race forever forward, we fail to keep our eyes open for smaller signposts of success.Hell, this year my birthday came and went all but unacknowledged. It stings if I think about it, but who has time for thinking?

So this time, I stop. Only for a moment, I turn and walk over to my office window. The one small project I completed this morning took quite a bit of creative effort. It was, in fact, a noteworthy application of skills I’ve grown over 4-1/2 years at this job. A small smile warms me. I whisper to my quiet self that I just whipped out a bit of handiwork I couldn’t have conceived of in 2010. That is really something.

Across the hazy March sky and the greening city below, my gaze dips and lifts. The National Cathedral stands on the horizon as it always does. The scaffolding is off the towers. The branches of its neighboring trees are still bare. A little light scratches across the rooftops and then disappears.

Just one small slice of pride.

This is my gift. Overdue, but so very welcome.

3 thoughts on “22. Things I Can Glimpse: The Cathedral”

  1. This is such a wonderful and needed exercise in groundedness, in being in the moment and in self-recognition. The days in my office are quite like the one you describe – I’m going to try to put your very healthy viewpoint into practice.

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