Fiddling with a necklace charm.
Twisting a ring around and around on your finger.
Gnawing on your lip.
Clicking a pen (Save me now! you people who click and tap and clack!! I can click and tap and clack, but if you do it near me, game on, buster!)
Concentration quirks. We all have them. Well, I guess we all do. Perhaps some folks don’t need to concentrate like others, but that’s a blog for another day.
Some folks just can’t concentrate without their noise-canceling headphones. I tried that in the last couple of weeks, and though I appreciate that they help with the ringing in my ears when all is quiet, I’m not a fan yet. My headphones aren’t entirely comfortable, and I ended up with a headache – or what felt like a weird earache – every time.
And Little Miss wasn’t a fan. She kept pulling one of the earpieces away from my head and letting it snap back into place, fearing I’d not be able to hear her fabulous plot twists if I canceled out the noise.
Come to think of it, this may be why I was in pain every time I donned the set.
When I was in elementary school (here we go again, down memory lane…), a kid in my class always had his tongue hanging out whenever he did his worksheets. He’d write away, all the while that tongue flapping this way and that. He did it on the playground and in gym when we’d have relay races or basketball drills. In the cold weather months, he had a permanent circle of chapped skin all around his lips from all that licking and concentrating. Poor thing.
I remember the PE teacher warning him that if he didn’t keep his tongue in his mouth when he was running, he’d end up biting the tip of it clean off.
I thought about that boy the other day when I was on the lawnmower. The zero-turn mower that I’ve tried to master over the course of the summer. It’s taken a bit of practice, as I grew up using a mower with a round steering wheel. Right, left. And foot pedal brake. Stop. Go. Simple.
Zero-turns are a whole ‘nother beast. Levers. No pedals. Like steering a rabid horse more than steering a car.
Mowing is usually soothing for me, seeing the progress down the lawn, strip by strip. The hum of the mower drowning out all other sound. The smell of the fresh-cut grass. The world just… melting away.
But just about the time I think I’ve gotten the hang of the levers and those tight turns, I get tripped up and there goes the soothe…
Anytime I get near the road – and especially if traffic is heavy – I forget everything I’ve learned. I see myself landing the mower in the middle of the street, causing a massive pileup.
It’s much better now than at the very beginning of the summer. But this last week, I evidently forgot everything I’d mastered.
And then I noticed it.
Especially when I’d get near the road and need to make a tight turn.
Concentrating way too hard on something that should just… flow.
And I thought about that little boy. With his tongue hanging out. And specifically the warning the PE teacher gave him. So I’d reset my mouth, readjust on the mower seat and try again. I’d be okay through the main part of the strip, then out the tongue would come, thereby increasing my concentration on the gears as I neared another turn and tried to keep the mower in the grass and out of the street—or out of a tree.
Then it happened.
On one particularly difficult strip filled with telephone poles, tie downs and a street sign, I forgot to replace my tongue thoroughly behind my teeth. I concentrated a little too long…
I think I still have all of my tongue, but not all of my blood.
I need a new concentration quirk, especially for the mower, I suppose.
That feeling of forgetting everything I once mastered? It’s showing up during writing times. I find my tongue hanging out, begging my brain to connect and find that “flow” state where productivity flies out of my fingertips… and the world melts away.
Little Miss offers me grape bubblegum and some of her soda stash. I tell her those are likely more addictions rather than concentration quirks. She begs to differ and pops bubbles and twirls her gum waaaay out of her mouth to prove her point, sticky everywhere.
I become frustrated. I’m losing control of my muse — again. It’s like trying to reign in a rabid horse, or a wonky zero-turn.
“Yeah, but my quirks are better than that,” she says, as she points to my face.
Where my tongue is hanging out the side of my mouth as I try to concentrate on writing this post.
I replace it behind my teeth.
Crack my knuckles, click my pen a few times, and reach for a wad of Little Miss’s gum…