Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Do you sometimes wish that you could go to a place where nothing ever happens, just so that you could be at peace with doing nothing? Think about it – if there was a such a place, then doing something would upset the balance of nature, and you as a thinking person don’t want to do that, so you’d be obligated to do nothing, which would be kind of sweet.

As you might expect, I do not live in such a place. There’s always SOMETHING to be done, whether it’s something mundane like dishes or laundry or cleaning or bathing or cooking, or something important like paying bills or working or spending time with the kids or bleaching the whites of my eyes. Truly, one can not do “nothing” if you consider that doing nothing means the absence of doing anything. Aren’t we all consistently doing something, like breathing or digesting or metabolizing or existing? We’re verbing all OVER the place!

In the past, I was guilty of being a wanna-be multitasker, all awhirl with activity, some of which was frenetic enough to undo what it was I was trying to do in the first place. I’d be doing laundry, unloading the dishwasher, cooking dinner, and trying to entertain the kids, ALL AT ONCE. I thought that having it all meant DOING it all, all at the same time, and that if I couldn’t multi-task my way to a perfect home, a perfect life, perfect wee children, and perfect job, that I wasn’t a success.

Just so you know, nobody TOLD me I had to do this. I just figured that as a person who was historically a fairly high achiever, I should be ABLE to do it, and do it well.

As you can imagine, this was not a good thing. I lost myself in the whirl of activity, of always having SOMETHING on the list to do, and more often that not having several somethings on the list that I felt needed to be done, and done right now. I sucked at delegating, expected people to read my mind, got irritated when the help that was offered didn’t live up to my expectations, and grew a perma-scowl. I did not do much of anything well, became a panicky control freak, exhausted myself, and grew a huge self-esteem problem.

I may have anger issues, along with a touch of passive-aggressive tendencies.

But no more. This year I embrace the zen of doing one thing at a time. If I’m washing the dishes, then that’s what I’m doing. I’m not washing the dishes while running a load of laundry while trying to help with homework and feed the pets. That way lies madness. If I’m helping with homework, then that’s what I’m doing, not stirring a pot of something for dinner while trying to balance the checkbook and talk on the phone. That way lie mistakes, forgetfulness, confusion.

(Um, wait. Maybe I’ll do TWO things, because the laundry can chug along on its own for most of the cleaning cycle. Yeah, two, max)

This new goal of being able to FOCUS on one thing at a time might seem to be a step backward to some people. I understand. We're taught that doing lots of things all at once is the sign of a being powerful person who’s in control of their lives and is “going places.” Well, after TRYING that for many years I have to call bullshit on the idea. Maybe I’m not a big enough stress puppy for that. Maybe I’m just not built that way, but I would submit that when we focus on what we’re doing, we can’t help but do that one thing better than if we tried to do other things at the same time.

OK, so maybe by scaling back my activity level I’m not going to have as much time for hobbies, but that’s OK. Hobbies can get to be an obligation too, a driver when they should be a passenger... If I can get to the end of the day and be satisfied that I’ve done the best I can with the day that was given to me, then that will be good enough for me.

So tell me, is this maturity finally making a house call, or am I on to something here?

More tomorrow, when we can all hope that this introspective mood will have passed.

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