Can somebody tell me what I was doing?

I am a curious person. Sometimes it comes across as having the attention span of an autistic gnat.

I am easily distracted by everything. I frequently wander through the house and check out what each person is doing. I stroll through stores merely to see what is new. The Internet can swallow me alive. With a few clicks I can find out about bugs, check out the history of pencils and see what the weather is like in Tanzania. Why Tanzania? I have no idea.

The advantages to this quirk are few. I am a fount of trivia that often wears out my family. I’m easily distracted, and time slips away from me. It takes me four times as long as others to do the same thing.

For example, I will start to empty the dishwasher (a simple five-minute task). As the mugs are taken out and put away, I decide that coffee sounds good. After pouring some, I wonder if anyone else in the family would like a snack. So, I wander up to the first person I see.

I find my daughter working on a class project. The glue she is using is too old. I fetch another bottle. By the time I find the glue, I have set down my mug of coffee and deliver the glue.

Sure enough, she would like some juice. I go back to the kitchen and have to get a glass from the half-emptied dishwasher. I then see the rest of the mugs and realize that I lost my coffee. I begin to retrace my footsteps. After finding the mug, I am reminded of the dishes and return to task. Juice is long-forgotten until my daughter patiently walks in and gets it herself. I apologize, abandon the dishwasher one more time and continue through the house taking drink orders.

As you can imagine, it is hard for me to get anything done. A week flies by. It is difficult to write or even go through the mail.

I have tried to isolate myself to optimize concentration. I bought a laptop and tried to write in the car, on my bed, at a coffee shop or in the laundry room. You guessed it: I get distracted.

Frustration bred a dream of a home office. I wanted a place to call my own with a desk and a door. I researched sheds, read do-it-yourself books and finally decided to make my own office. The learning curve on foundations and roofs was daunting. And so, after roping a friend into the plan, we built a box in the carport. It’s just big enough for a desk and bookshelf. There is a door and a window.

In a weekend, two old women built a platform, framed the four walls, hung a door and enclosed the space. We are sore but proud. It’s not fancy, but we seized the day and went for it. Learning as we went, we cheered for every board measured correctly and every corner that came out square. My neighbor helped with the lock and doorknob. He would chuckle and say, “I never heard so much excitement over a cut board.”

What do you really want? Try something new. If you make a mistake, it’s not a big deal. You know how you got there, so retrace your steps, correct it and go on.

The sense of accomplishment and the joy of trying something new is immeasurable. Buy a guitar from a garage sale. Try to write a poem. Learn to fix a flat tire on a bicycle. It’s okay, everything that was ever accomplished was at one time done with a little curiosity mixed with courage and finished by trial and error.

And so, here I sit in my new office. There is nothing to distract me Except, of course, I wonder what everyone is doing in the house.

Did the phone just ring? Does anyone need some juice?

Kerri Hofmann lives in Federal Way with her three children.

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