Sometimes a piece of hot buttered toast is the perfect food. This morning was one of those times. I overslept and woke up with a headache. Within 5 minutes I was on e-mail responding to multiple work demands. My dog sat next to me whimpering to go out. An index card scrawled with all my to-do's before going out of town tomorrow was on the desk in front of me. Too much. I've found that the "one thing" principle can be an antidote to "too much." A piece of hot buttered toast is a simple and calming "one thing."
I get the "one thing" principle from the story of Martha and Mary. A story I struggle with every time I hear it. Maybe it's because sometimes I see myself as the peaceful and attentive Mary, other times I see myself as the busy Martha resentful of the peaceful Marys. But what I always remember from that story is that Jesus said to Martha that only one thing was necessary. To be honest, I'm not sure I could tell you with certainty what the "one thing" was that he was referring to, but as a general principle I think it makes sense. When I'm crazed with "too much" I sometimes have to verbally remind myself over and over again to do just one thing--forget multitasking--do one thing at a time. Plan one thing. Cook one thing. Choose one thing. Finish one thing.
Back to hot buttered toast. M. F. K. Fisher offers another perspective on its simple pleasure in her book <How to Cook a Wolf first published in England in 1942 in the midst of significant wartime shortages and worries about the future. She writes, "If, with the wolf at the door, there is not very much to eat, the child should know it, but not oppressively. Rather, he should be encouraged to savor every possible bite with one eye on its agreeable nourishment and the other on its fleeting but valuable esthetic meaning, so that twenty years later, maybe, he can think with comfortable delight of the little brown toasted piece of bread he ate with you once in 1942, just before that apartment was closed, and you went away to camp. It was a nice piece of toast, with butter on it. You sat in the sun under the pantry window, and the little boy gave you a bit, and for both of you the smell of nasturtiums warming in the April air would be mixed forever with the savor between your teeth of melted butter and toasted bread, and the knowledge that although there might not be anymore, you had shared that piece with full consciousness on both sides, instead of a shy awkward pretense of not being hungry."
Right now, I'm tempted to interupt this post and get up and quickly move my laundry from the washer to the dryer. To continue, however, with the "one thing" plan started with the toast this morning I'll send this off first and then go move the laundry.... But the phone just rang and a fuse just blew [I am not making this up]..... Sometimes the "one thing" plan is hard to put into reality but it's always easy to choose a piece of buttered toast for breakfast.