I am writing this to avoid writing something else. I am at my most articulate when procrastinating. I would say it’s part of my process but that’s a lie. I don’t want to write the other thing, so I’m not doing it. I’m doing this.
But the truth is I’m doing this, and I’m doing seven other things. Don’t believe me? I’ll count them for you: 1) Checking and responding to email; 2) Making a to-do list for work; 3) Planning my weekend activities; 4) Listening to a voicemail; 5) Checking Instagram and Facebook notifications; 6) Worrying about The Thing I’m Not Writing But Really- Really-Need to Write; 7) Eating lunch.
I would venture a guess that many of you reading this do the same thing. We are multi-tasking machines, at work, at home, at play. We’re never just doing one thing at a time; having a conversation while you’re still scrolling through social media, talking on the phone while flipping through cable, or my absolutely worst, getting ready for the day or cooking dinner while being on conference calls. I’m always doing while listening, looking, reading, absorbing. My life is full of noise and information. I imagine most of ours are.
And I wonder if that’s part of why I am (we are) exhausted and itchy all of the time. Why I feel like I’ve inherited my mothers pathological inability to sit still. It drives the cat bonkers-I’m never standing in one place and he HAS TO KNOW WHERE I AM AND WHAT I AM DOING AT ALL TIMES ALWAYS MEOW. It starts to become a chicken or the egg issue: am I anxious because I’m always moving and doing, or am I always moving and doing because I’m anxious? I’m an ouroboros of frenzy.
On an animal, critter, rat-brain level I know this is unhealthy. That while multitasking is a great and helpful skill, this amount of diffuse focus means I’m never luxuriating into any one activity, just skimming the surface of engagement on each thing. Some days you’re in the flow and multitasking feels effortless and productive, but lately, for weeks, months, it’s felt like the amount of plates I need to keep spinning is untenable. I’ve lost track of which plates can fall and which can’t-a bad sign. When everything is equally important, it’s impossible to prioritize, and prioritizing is how we keep it all from going off the rails.
I was thinking about this last night after I left a work happy hour, where I was forced to put on high heels and a smile even though I’d worked an exhausting day, I was starving, and just wanted to crawl in bed. I showed up already angry and sick to my stomach from a lurching trip through crosstown traffic, and too-low blood sugar due to being too busy to eat a decent lunch. I was unpleasant towards people who didn’t deserve it, who were only trying to give me a nice evening. I didn’t like anyone or anything; I resented having to be there. When I finally did leave, it was oppressively hot and humid outside; a storm had been building all day-actually for the last few days.
And I could feel it building in me, too, like the need to scream or cry or rage. Full of electricity and menace. The energy has to go somewhere. It has to dissipate somehow. Something had to give, and it looked like the only thing that was possible to give was me. Just as the clouds cracked open with lightening I opened my door, and crashed on my couch. For 20 minutes I laid there, motionless in the dark, just watching the storm roll in, the rain pour down, no phone, no tv, no computer, no voices. Just me, the cat, and the storm. I felt every ounce of tired, every moment of frustration, every tense muscle. I breathed, deeply, for the first time all day. One breath in, and out. One thing. Until my storm passed.