I blew it already. I had such high hopes of keeping this year’s resolution ALL year, without slipping. These resolutions are important. We really should be good role models for our children, shouldn’t we? And, of course, I foolishly thought that this would be an easy resolution to keep. I am finding that the art and skill of dawdling is taking a lot more attention than I had imagined.
Sadly to say, I found myself multi-tasking yesterday. I was riding my exercise bicycle, watching a movie, and knitting at the same time. Lounging in the dentist’s chair later in the day, I also had my knitting on my lap and managed to get about 10 rows done while the dentist did whatever he was doing in my mouth. When it came time to make dinner in the evening, there I was, making out my to-do list for the next day, scheduling an appointment over the phone, stirring the rice, adding broth to the chicken, and, naturally, I had my knitting on my lap, too. My mind was racing. What will I donate to our school auction? How on earth am I going to get all my sewing done on time? Did I just put cinnamon on the chicken?
What I can’t figure out, is why some people seem to think that multi-tasking is a good thing. They even brag about their ability to multi-task as though this is the absolute proof of their superior intelligence.
Who even invented that word? What does is really mean? I suspect that it means something like, “doing many things badly at the same time.” Moms everywhere, and dads, have a great deal of experience in doing many things at once, though not by choice. Some of us even become relatively good at it. I remember the days when my children were young and I would be holding a baby in one arm, nursing, and buttering toast with the other hand, all the while I was watching my toddler and trying to discourage him from climbing into the dishwasher. I could do almost anything one handed, even break eggs. Sure, I had to pull all the little bits of shell out afterwards, but hey, I could do it!
I also remember the day when I was so proud of everything I had accomplished. Two little ones, clean and fed and playing happily on the kitchen floor while I worked to clean up the kitchen and prepare dinner. I busily went back and forth between stirring the sauce on the stove, wiping down the counters, cutting up vegetables for a salad, and singing along with the latest children’s music playing on our old stereo. It was the perfect picture of domestic life.
Then the phone rang and someone knocked on the door at the same time. I quickly answered the phone and asked the person on the other end to hold on a moment. I answered the door to a neighbor wanting to borrow a couple of eggs. I invited her in and picked up the phone again, stirring the sauce slightly and turning on the oven to heat it up.
I had just turned down the opportunity to have a family portrait taken and receive a free 8 x 10 glossy photo, when my neighbor yelped and grabbed my sleeve. Smoke was pouring out from underneath the stove and little flames were beginning to appear. What the.....????
I dropped the phone and opened the broiler drawer that was underneath the stove and found that my son had decided that this drawer made a perfect bed for his stuffed bear. As soon as I had turned on the oven, we had fried bear. Fortunately, there was just a tiny corner of the bear that was actually flaming and I was able to pick it up with tongs and put it in the sink, turn on the water, and douse the flames quickly. By then, I could smell the sauce burning, the kids had managed to knock over the cutting board, and the vegetables were scattered on the floor. I could hear someone on the phone loudly shouting HELLO?! My neighbor had taken her eggs and run. I briefly considered returning the bear to the broiler and serving it for dinner.
I looked forward to the day when the kids would be old enough that I could go back to work. My goal was to have a job that didn’t require doing more than one thing at a time. So, what did I do? I taught kindergarten. But at the very least, I did have a 45 minute break every day.
Now that I am retired, I am determined to take life more slowly. A couple of years ago, my oldest son gave me a wonderful book, titled, In Praise of Slowness, Challenging the Cult of Speed, by Carl Honore, which describes the origins, intent, and benefits of the “slow movement”. It talks about how our culture has become dependent on clocks, how we schedule our lives and try to fit in as much as possible. Even our children’s play time is scheduled into “play dates” and we hurry to get them from play to music lessons to school to dinner to bed. It also tells how we can change this attitude towards life and time. I like the idea of a slow movement. What could be better? In the spirit of the book, I began reading, and two years later, I’m still on chapter two.
One of my favorite bits in the book, so far, is when the author talks with a Buddhist teacher about these subjects of time, living by the clock, and scheduling our lives. Nearing the end of their conversation, the Buddhist teacher suddenly looks at his watch and, very sheepishly excuses himself. He had an appointment to keep and would have to hurry to get there.
Like I said, dawdling takes much more attention than I realized. Going slow is an attitude change, even when life throws everything at you at once. It’s about having a balance, I suppose. I only know that if I’m not careful, I’m going to start multi-tasking again.
And that would never do.