Saturday, February 12, 2011

Roll Call

Someone recently told me that I'm "never present" and my mind is "always on a million things."

Well, duh.

Have you not read my blog profile? I've spent most of my life trying to find a way to drown out the noise in my head. Believe me...I know.

When I'm eating breakfast, I'm either packing 3 lunches or checking my email.
When I'm driving, I'm putting on my make-up or eating.
When I stop at red lights, I check my phone for text messages, clean out my purse, or tweeze my eyebrows.
And when I can't do more than one thing at a time, I'm thinking about the things I will be doing, need to be doing, want to be doing, or should be doing.

Yep. When they take roll call in life, I'm never actually "here."

My initial gut response to this person was to throw my hands up in the air and go: "Well, then, fuck it. Cause, really, I'm kinda tired of working so hard at Me. I'm kinda tired of constantly dealing with my crap, identifying what's not working for me and those around me...and really, if it's not noticeable, if I'm still in the same place I was Then...well, then, fuck it. I give up."

But then...well then...after the initial indignation was gone, I had to face myself, and I had to admit that perhaps being aware of a personal issue does not necessarily equal riddance of said issue. And that realization left me with: "OK. So now what?"

I can't change who I am. I can't change how I'm wired. I will never be Zen. I will never be that happy-go-lucky, easy-going, nothing-bothers-me, I'm-just-chillin person. And I've realized that no matter how many times I tell myself to just relax, to live lighter, well, it seems I'm just not listening. So I have to focus on the action. The behavior.

So I've come up with a little project, a little experiment, if you will.

Rather than beating myself up emotionally, I've been practicing consciously doing whatever it is I'm doing in that exact moment. I'm going to force myself, even if it feels unnatural, even I have to fake it, to literally be thinking about what I'm doing, and stick to doing one thing at a time.

Today, for example, I went on a run. Normally, the iPod starts blaring the minute I take the first step. And I don't stop fiddling with the playlists until I'm done with the run. Recently, I told Hubby that I couldn't run my upcoming half-marathon with my shuffle (which is significantly smaller than my iPod nano but doesn't allow you to control the songs played) because I like to change the songs and playlists according to "my mood." Hubby's reaction: "Good God, so you can't even download 100 songs you like onto a shuffle, run an event, and just enjoy the music that comes on? You even have to control the order in which the songs play?" I stood there, blinking, confused. It had never occurred to me to just go for a run and settle back and listen to whatever was coming through the headphones. Now, not only have I decided I will be running my race with the shuffle and not the ultra-controllable nano, but I ran today with absolutely no music at all. In spite of the fact that I strapped on my music player and popped in my headphones, I decided to try the hour-long run in silence. I focused on my breathing, I paid attention to my posture, I noticed the change in the weather from when I started to when I finished. It was very calming, and, amazingly, I didn't miss my Black Eyed Peas even a little bit.

Yesterday, I let the boys play outside in the front yard and on the street--their absolute favorite thing to do in the world, and something I usually pass on to Daddy. On the rare occasions I have been out there with them, I read a book in between my shouts of "Car!" or do my nails (yes, seriously), or count the minutes until I feel justified in taking them back inside. Yesterday, I put my cell out of reach so the texts didn't tempt me. I laced up my sneakers, and I played with them. I even played with the neighborhood kids. I raced Aidan on scooters, I sat on the floor and drew chalk outlines of the kids, I even tried out Ben's Razor 360 thing-a-majig. And, admittedly, I did not enjoy all of it. Admittedly, I thought a few times about the laundry that was waiting. I thought about the book I could've been reading. And I thought about how, the bottom line is, as much as I love to play boardgames, draw, paint, read, or spend time with my boys, the whole-hanging-out-in-the-front-yard-free-play-thing is not my thing. But it's okay. Because I was with them. And because I was There.

I have no doubt that this is going to be tough. I am sure that on more than one occasion I will find myself multi-tasking and barely focusing on any of the four things I'm trying to accomplish. And I am absolutely positively sure that I will find myself thinking/fretting/obsessing over something else while I'm doing something completely unrelated. But, hey, don't they say it takes 21 days for a behavior to become a habit (or something like that)?

Here's my hope in all this:
The ideal turn-out would be that after a while, I actually start being That Type of Person...the kind of person who doesn't worry (so much) about something until she can actually do something about it...the kind of person who is actually paying attention to the book she's reading to her kid at bedtime instead of planning the packing of her gym bag for the next morning.
But if that doesn't happen, then maybe I'll start being at least a little better at focusing on the really important stuff and eliminating some distractions, and get rid of that nasty habit of uber-multitasking.
And if in the end, Project I Am Here is a total bust, well then, at least I can say I gave it a shot...and obsess over that failure while I text, pack lunch, and re-shape my eyebrows.


  1. A journey begins with one step, sounds like you're making reasonable changes instead of jumping into something headfirst.

  2. Once again you've hit home with me - as I am CONSTANTLY multi-tasking and never "in" the moment and I am, without a doubt, NOT a chillin' kind of girl. But after this - I will try.

  3. Hi. I had to go back and read this post a couple of times, such was it's resonance with me! I could have written every word but the trigger for me was when my friend said she didn't generally rely on me for stuff because I am always so scatty. Hmmm. Scatty because I have a million things in my head but still after indignation comes acceptance? I too am guilty of being there but not present and even if I make deals with myself I rarely see them through. There is simply always something else that needs doing. So I love that you have made a deal with yourself...I am intrigued how it goes and will defo want to hear more! Thank you again for your's like you looked into to my mind to write this post and that human empathy is what good writing is all about; reader recognition. Lou x

  4. Oh this makes so much sense to me - it's precisely who I am too! I am engaged in the same effort you talk about here, and it is definitely not always easy, nor always fun for me. And often I fail. But I'm trying, and much of the time it's totally, incredibly, mind-blowingly worth it for me.
    Thanks for writing this. xox

  5. This is a CONSTANT struggle for me. I know exactly what you're wrestling with, and how hard it is to quiet that to-do list in your mind. Good work, kid.

  6. You ran without music. Wow. I can't stand to listen to myself breathe (read: huff and puff). Thankfully, I do have a good running playlist with lots of peppiness.

    Multitasking is a lot like going through a playlist in your mind, isn't it? Waiting for the right song to come on, figuring out which one you're looking for, trying to remember the one you were going to add ... It's so hard to turn it off. Kudos to you for giving it a shot!

  7. The more I read your posts, the more I can relate. This has been a work in progress for me for quite awhile. Actually, I gave up making resolutions this year and instead deciding to make the commitment to be present in every moment. I have reminders multiple times a day in my google calendar to take a deep breath and take notice. Where ever I am I try to fully experience what I am doing. It's so very hard some days. Other days it's liberating. Today I was walking with my son. I was late from work. It was past dinner time. I took a deep breathe and focused on the feel of his hand in my hand and the sound of his voice. I found myself really tuned in and we had so much fun.
    Great post. Truly. Awesome.

  8. You do the best you can. But it's hard. Because you are the mom, you are not 5, thngs need to get done...But it is wonderful to let go, to be there, when they are engaged, when they are so lovable...

    Just so you know, this is a constant struggle for me too. All you can do is try!


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