It’s a simple thing, a tetherball poll.  One pipe, one string, one volleyball-esque orb.  4662194106

Behind the church, someone had set up a pole, and on the afternoons when Mom taught piano lessons upstairs in the choir room, I would spend hours swinging that ball around and around, watching the rope twist until just the give point and then letting it swing back until the momentum slowed, and I took my tiny fist to it with a “thwump” again.

At campgrounds, my brother and I took turns wrapping the pole in that skinny rope and hoping we could hit it hard enough to either zip past the other on the 6-7 rotations needed to win or to hit each other in the side of the face – a slight that would sting but not wound.

I miss tetherball.  Maybe because it was a sport I could actually master, but more, I think, because it was so simple. One task, one purpose, one focus.

Today, I have a list that fills a page and while I am grateful for the work, my mind feels scattered – like someone has thrown 50 tennis balls into my court and I have to return them all.

Writing requires tetherball focus – the ability to hone in on the one thing, to sink deep into myself, to linger there for a time while that winged, fog-like shape that becomes words has tight to gather and rise.

I wonder if maybe most of us don’t do things well if we are pulled too many directions, laying ourselves out on the rack of obligation. I wonder if our culture is sick with busyness, with action, with tasks.  I certainly feel sick, unbalanced, unwell.

So today, I’m returning to tetherball.  A thwump and the watching . . . as it all spirals up and comes back down. Shut everything else down. Sip some tea.  Settle in for the task.

Thwump, gaze. Thwump gaze.

Do you feel scattered, unfocused? How do you manage that feeling?