Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Time to think

If anyone was paying attention, which was doubtful at that stage of the game (OK, Mom, I know you were paying attention -- I was really referring to my other two readers), the number of posts on this then-three-post blog decreased by 33% shortly after I started. Why? Because I was multitasking.

While addressing and stamping Christmas cards on top of the desk, and soothing my crazy, beside-herself-with-pent-up-energy-13-days-after-surgery-but-still-not-cleared-to-run-off-leash puppy under the desk, I decided it would also be a good time to go back and add an illustration to my post on procrastination and creative endeavors. After all, we are a visual people, are we not, fellow-Pinterest-junkies?  Somehow, in doing all of the above, I pasted an in-the-works post over the previously published post and hit save, thereby undoing countless hours worth of work and erasing it forever. (And no, I didn't have a back up copy. #rookiemistake)

For what it's worth, here is the offending illustration:
Via @Quotes4Writers

Not that anyone now remembers my Gen. McClellan anecdote, but if you did, I'm sure you would agree that this would have been the perfect visual accompaniment to the now-banished-to-cyber-oblivion post.

But I couldn't help but think about this little snafu while I was sitting at Costco waiting to speak with the pharmacy technician about my father-in-law's prescriptions. (He has nine that he takes daily and no prescription drug coverage. The saints who work at the Costco pharmacy are constantly trying to help me find ways to make it less expensive.) I had left my phone in the car, and since I didn't have the energy to navigate the land of wholesale milk and honey, nor did I want to admit that I couldn't go fifteen minutes without my phone, I was left on a bench with nothing but my thoughts.

My thumbs began to twitch.

I spent the first three minutes working on a grocery list for the smaller-portions store I hoped to hit next. Literally on the back of an envelope. Then, I spent a moment pondering whether I should actually purchase the three-pack of giant Band-Aid boxes staring at me from across the aisle. (You can never have too many Band-Aids, especially when your children have inherited your klutziness. Three trips to the ER for stitches before age seven for my older daughter, but that's another story.) And then, perhaps because I'm currently taking an online writing class and words are on my mind, my thoughts turned to this blog, the post that once was, and what I had lost forever.

Nothing like a little quiet time to dwell on six-month-old regrets that don't really matter anymore.

At first I was just annoyed with myself that in multitasking, I had lost something I enjoyed writing and spent time editing, not to mention a few pithy turns of phrase. And then I thought about the fact that I was just kidding myself by using the term "multitasking." Research shows there is no such thing. Just a quick sequence of starts-and-stops of multiple tasks that divide one's attention and diminish one's returns. And one's number of blog posts.

Sitting there on the metal bench, I didn't have the option of multitasking. This didn't stop my mind from jumping from one topic to the next, trying to keep from losing track of any of the myriad things I feel I need to remember on a minute-by-minute basis, but at least I was cycling through all these topics using only one source of information -- my own brain. Not the Siri-powered brain that lives in my pocket. Just my God-given brain… That used to be enough.

Yes, this is the second time I've used this same meme.
I'm out of practice on how to quiet that brain down. It didn't come with a "Sleep" option on the menu bar.

Gene, who cuts my hair, is an ordained Episcopal priest, a second degree reiki student, and a small business owner with an MSW, two rescue dogs, a two-acre garden, and a wicked sense of humor. Last week (yes, I made time for a haircut -- thank you for your applause), while I was stuck in a chair holding perfectly still with my hands literally tucked under my legs and a nylon cape velcroed around my neck, he said something to me that rang a little more true than I would have liked.  He was quoting his reiki master but, in typical Gene fashion, added that "anyone who has really read Matthew 5-6 should know the same thing." He said, "There is no moment but the present one."

Needless to say, his salon is a cell-phone-free zone.

No moment like the present isn't enough. We're working toward no moment other than the present.  If that's true, then I can let go of my six-month-old regrets and tomorrow's shopping list. (That doesn't seem possible, but like I said, I'm out of practice.) I can sit on that bench and ponder my father-in-law's prescriptions, his well-being, and our relationship without worrying about what I haven't done or have yet to do. Maybe then I'd be a little less likely to be annoyed at what I've lost along the way or what the current moment is keeping me from doing next. After all, aren't the times when my patience wears the thinnest those times when I wish I were somewhere else, with someone else, or doing something else?  I'm thinking about that in this present moment.

My kids are currently at sleep-away camp in a "no electronics" environment. When we went to visit my middle schooler after her first two weeks, she asked me, "Did you bring my phone?" Bracing myself for some serious whining, I managed a hesitant but firm "No," to which she responded, "Thank goodness." What?!? I managed not to say aloud. Who are you and what have you done with my daughter who texts as if her life depends on it?  Don't you love how just when you think you have them figured out, kids manage to surprise you?

The fact of the matter is that she was -- as usual -- one step ahead of me.  She was content with the present moment, where she was, and whom she was with. The school year FOMO (fear of missing out) had disippated.

Summer is a good time to see what happens when we revert to our God-given brains. So I've decided to follow her lead. When trying to figure out how to get somewhere, I think about it first before automatically plugging it into my car's navigation system. When trying to remember a fact I once read, I try to figure out the article title and/or publication before just plugging what I can remember into Google. When waking up, I try not to check email before I brush my teeth. Maybe I'll even learn my daughter's mobile phone number by heart before she gets home.


The real test, of course, will be when summer comes to a close and we are suddenly back in the routine.  When my God-given brain is over-committed and under-slept. How many moments will I consider to be real then? Will I remain a lily of the field or will I revert to being a Siri-fueled laborer and spinner yet again? Wish me luck. However, I'm not going to think about that right now. It doesn't matter in this present moment.

The campfire site at Camp Crestridge for Girls