In grade school, I used to check out of the tedium of listening to thirty children stand up one by one and recite their numbers from 1 to 100. I would daydream until the teacher got to my row and then Iíd wave my hand in the air and ask to go the bathroom. Any teacher who features this type of activity in her lesson plan is not likely to connect ďbut I have to go now!Ē and ďIím so bored I donít trust myself to count to 100 with a straight face.Ē Do the math. Thatís 3,000 repetitive utterances within the space of 30 minutes. To this day even thinking about it makes twitch.
Now that Iím grown, I find myself doing the same thing. When weíre 15 minutes into a meeting and still complaining about the rising cost of gasoline instead of the budget review and the action plan, I check out. I put on my meditation face and get very still. It makes people uncomfortable. Although thatís not my intent it gets results. Invariably, someone will shift in their seat, drop their gaze to the carefully prepared agenda, notice that a 15 minute discussion of gas prices is not on it and move us to the first item.
It never works to suggest to the teacher that an activity she has planned is mind numbing or to a committee that they should get down to business before the horse thatís taking a beating expires. Far better to put an expression on you face that says, ďThis is all so compelling that Iím contemplating my next move.Ē
I suspect that a number of us who became writers are actually masters of the art of the check-out. When decorum dictates that you return from a lengthy stay in the ladies room or whatever island in your mind youíve flown to, furnished and found delightful, you can always pull out a notebook and check out whatís going on around you.
Notes to self:
Cunning choker necklace Jacqueline has paired with retro blouse and boyfriend jacket -- look for one.
Sue Millerís new book is out Ė Google that.
As conversation whizzes over your head, you can snatch bits of it for the new characters you are developing to chew on.
Active listening or a furtive scan of the Wall Street Journal you have folded up in your binder of agendas and minutes could yield new themes for your blog, such as: Flirting with disaster Ė are you two clicks away from exposing yourself to career suicide?
Iím thinking of starting a checkout movement. I need to make room for all the writing Iíve been planning instead of engaging in the business at hand. Donít think it wonít be painful and shocking. I will begin with this pledge:
For the sake of my sanity I will try:
To stop recycling and all attempts to compost, quilt or perform automobile maintenance,
To avoid activities that hold mild interest for me in favor of adventures of the mind, body, heart and soul for which I have true passion and flair,
To shirk at least one deadline a day.
This movement has a pledge but no meetings, minutes or expectations of anyone but myself. Also, Iím not cancelling my monthly date with my Pinochle pals Ė they are a hoot and checking out the hand youíre dealt has some cosmic value.
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