November 12, 2014

Overload


I've long heard that women are better at multitasking than men, yet I seem to be cursed with tunnel vision. I am, and always have been, an all-in or all-out girl. My mother loves to recount a race when I was in the third grade. Once I realized that I was going to come in 'second', I abruptly stopped a few feet from the finish line and let everyone pass me. If I couldn't win, why bother?

In middle school I would assign myself papers on topics that captivated me (the role of women in Arthurian Legend, the political implications of The Beatles), and completely ignore my actual assignments. I still get slightly queasy recalling the journal I was supposed to keep in 8th grade English, chronicling the 'Guest Host' in each chapter of the Odyssey... I let it slide all term, until I was thoroughly screwed and had to report to the principal (and beg my mom for help). 

If I set my mind to something and I am determined, I can accomplish almost anything. But I have never felt as though I had any control over what it is my mind gets sets to... inspiration strikes at random, and my focus is so intense that everything else gets pushed to the margins. 

Having children has been the most profound antidote to my one-track brain. No matter what pulls at me, the needs of my kids always stay at the forefront. During my first year as a mother, it felt absolutely natural, because what compelled me was motherhood, almost singularly. I consumed studies, philosophies, products, activities, and it was a very satisfying pursuit. 

As the years have passed since giving birth to my son, my interests have opened up again, and I find myself driven by various causes, projects, jobs, and topics. In essence, I am still that obsessively focused girl that I was before motherhood, but now that my children take up a huge piece of my available brain and time, there is little left over to parcel out among my passions and commitments. It sucks!

If I have four things to do, I am physically incapable of giving twenty-five percent to each... my only option is to dedicate a hundred percent to the first item and then desperately race to give another hundred percent to the second, only to fail. So stuff just doesn't get done, especially mundane stuff that doesn't hold my interest (like house and paperwork). And as my gray hairs and dark circles multiply, James is always quick to point out that my own well-being generally ranks low on the list. 

This is a long way of saying that I am falling short; here, there, and everywhere. In the space of each day, I am happy and fulfilled and frustrated and defeated. I don't know, maybe I will work it all out over a long nap once the holidays have blown through... until then, I'll just put one foot in front of the other. 

9 comments:

  1. I think it's easy to raise the bar for oneself when the babies turn into preschoolers because the intensity of parenting them changes somehow (I get more sleep for sure), but really it is still very intense. I like to think about the older women in my life and the things they have done since they raised their kids. It's impressive and inspiring (things like getting a master's degree, starting or picking back up with a career and putting another 20 years into it, growing a business - basically lots of things that I feel like I'll never do for all the laundry and dishes. But I will and I can, just probably in another few years instead of RIGHT NOW). All of this helps me be more patient with myself.

    And OMG. You are the kind of middle schooler that made me LOVE teaching them. Those paper topics are awesome, in spite of the work you weren't doing. I mean, come on. Schools should be capitalizing on that kind of creativity and energy. Not sending you to the principal (although I'm sure your principal got a good chuckle).

    When I taught middle school (which I did for 8 years) I loved hearing about the novels and plays and businesses that my middle schoolers were working on. Sometimes it made me feel like the assignments for my class were pretty uninspiring. I hate that middle school gets such a bad rap.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lilly, you put into words so well a feeling I have felt about motherhood and a bit of perfectionism. I struggle with the single-mindedness and desire to give 100% to each thing. It is an impossible ambition when you have kids who need you and pull you in a million directions. I understand, and I know it will get easier.

    I think Adah's right, time when the kids are in school helps with the intensity. I love how much of yourself you shared in this post. I just eat that stuff up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lauren, I think you're right that it might be part perfectionism. I also feel that it has to do with never getting trained out of a kind of artist's mentality (and never had any models growing up of anyone that worked non-creative or inflexible jobs)... I am just awful at time management and the more I take on and try to balance along with the endless pull of motherhood, the more I realize how valuable it is to be able to say something is 'done enough' and move on to the next responsability. I will literally set out to work on something until 11PM, and suddenly the sun is rising. Not good, for a number of reasons. Hopefully I will improve, the kids will get older... and it will get easier! :)

      Delete
  3. Also, let the record show that I have a project for someone else that I should be working on AT THIS VERY MOMENT, but because I only have ten more minutes before I have to walk out the door to get the kids I will instead add just one more comment to the multiple very long comments on these lovely, thought-provoking posts that you all are writing this week!

    I am seriously contemplating starting a blog so that I feel like I'm pulling my weight with this fantastic community of writers and livers-of-life!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your comments Adah, I appreciate that you are able to believe that you *will* accomplish everything that you want to, just not right now. I really struggle with being overwhelmed in the moment, and it is so important to maintain that long view. And please do start a blog! I would love to hear more :)

      Delete
  4. I read one post from housetohaus, that she enjoys one afternoon time out, sipping tea by herself by the grace of nanny she just hired only for one time a week. I guess people need a frequent 'time out' to rejuvenate, some quality time for yourself, catch up with books, do what you like.I am also bad at multitasking and I'm architect too! So many clutters.. Don't have any suggestion on that :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that idea Anna. I am always inspired when I hear of people (women in particular) who can show themselves the respect to carve out that time. Maybe someday that will be me! And I think architects, as a whole, tend to be poor at time management. They need to teach that in school! :)

      Delete
  5. In your "free" time you might enjoy reading (or listening to) "Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time" by Brigid Schulte.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sounds like something I could relate to Lauralou, thanks!

      Delete