Multi-tasking: a Cautionary Tale

I poured boiling water on my hand the other day. Not on purpose, I hasten to add. I was filling a hot water bottle (those cosy winter nights) while at the same time trying to nudge a kitten out of the way with my foot. Things wobbled. Grip loosened. And it was sore.

As I stood for ages with my hand under cold water, I realised that I’ve been doing this a lot lately: multi-tasking. It feels like a clever thing to do but apparently our brains don’t like it at all. We can do some things at once, like walking along and talking to someone, but if we try to do anything more, we end up confused, slow and incompetent. 

If you’re watching a film and hear a beep from your phone, for instance, your brain will become distracted (even if you don’t reach for the phone) as it wonders what the notification could be. Email from your boss? eBay item update? New Twitter follower? And so it goes. Until we have to wind back a few minutes on the film to catch up. We just can’t do two different things at once, not well at any rate. 

The world is busy and the flood of information just keeps coming; most of it pretty negative these days. So I’ve turned off notifications on my phone and am trying to have just one day a week with no screens (this means no news or doom scrolling either). I’m also telling myself to concentrate on one task at a time before moving on to the next thing. Already I can feel myself becoming lighter. It probably won’t be long until I’m eschewing electricity altogether and using candles instead. 

I’ll add it to my list. One thing at a time remember.

Ruthless Hurry

What’s taking so long?

More haste, less speed. Good things come to those who wait. Patience is a virtue. Some days I float around with a halo over my head, serenely putting up with delays and problems with an affable shake of the head. But other days I can feel frustration build and build over the tiniest things (a bluetooth speaker that won’t connect, for instance).

What’s going on? I heard a story a while back about someone who was struggling with anxiety. He asked his mentor for coping tips and the (slow) reply came: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

I love this. But I hate it too. It’s so hard to accomplish – especially in December when the flurry of Christmas shopping, Christmas events, Christmas stress just won’t let up. I’ll throw clothes into the washing machine while trying to feed the cats while listening to a work podcast and unsurprisingly my brain will just shut down. It’s had enough. 

Happy Advent

But I repeat the phrase pretty much every day, the word ‘ruthless’ is particularly appropriate. Be strict with your self-care regime. Say no if something feels wrong. Chop the dinner ingredients slowly and maybe, just maybe, a little bit of mindfulness will creep into your daily activities. Breathe out. Look around. It’s amazing what slowing down can do. And it brings patience in its wake.

Advent is the perfect time to sit and wait. Looking ahead with hope as the twinkly lights and candles brighten the dark nights. It’s delayed gratification in action. After all, what’s the rush?

Stand Still

Life is busy (December does this doesn’t it?) I’ve been spending a lot of time recently among trees. This poem ‘Lost’ by David Wagoner says it all. Press play, be still, breathe.

Poetry Reading

What Lies Beneath

We’ve been doing some DIY recently, trying to sort out issues with rising damp, and through the dust and grime there emerged one day row upon row of gorgeous old bricks. Amazing that something so lovely has been there all along, hidden behind layers of plaster and wood. 

It got me thinking about being visible – putting stuff out there for people to see and read. My travel memoir is a work in progress and I’ve noticed that as I tell life stories, I tell the truth about myself. Each layer of plaster comes away (not always painlessly) to reveal another brick – often discoloured, bruised or dented, but always beautiful in some way. Health, grief, love, travel, loss, fear – it’s all there, and it’s all universal, so I suppose it makes perfect sense to share it. 

Dust? What dust?

Imposter syndrome and counting numbers are all part of the journey – writing words that want to fly. They may find a home and land safely, or they may fly away. And that’s okay. There’s courage in vulnerability. Beneath the layers of shame and anxiety are lovely old stories that want to be told. Tales that have lain hidden too long.

I’ll continue to prise away the plaster to see what lies beneath. Treasures all, I reckon. Oh, and we’re keeping the open brick in the hallway.