by Mary Gulivindala
I am not unique. Americans live in a fast-paced world filled with deadlines, have to’s, hurry up’s, overbooked schedules and the internet highway … which leads me to a street called Exhausted. Can you relate? In order to “live” in this world, I have to juggle a lot of balls at once.
Up until recently I proudly wore a crown with lots and lots of jewels, which I received at my self-produced coronation ceremony. I am the competent, multi-tasking, productively functional Sovereign Queen of my Queendom. Oh yes, I can do it all!
Here are some examples that you might identify with yourselves, especially if you are a mother: While frying burgers for dinner in a pan, I also hold a conversation on the phone, usually confirming an appointment, carry a load of laundry upstairs while wiping up the dust bunnies off each step with my son’s dirty socks that I just picked up off the living room floor, drop off the hamper of clean clothes that we live out of for the week and then race downstairs and go flip the burgers. Then add cheese.
I don’t have time to go to the gym so I have incorporated my cardio workout into my life by running to work fully dressed with my pocketbook banging off my hip, pretending that I have to catch the train. I try to look very important by looking down. I’m up to two blocks. I have started to run everywhere because I think if I have to walk it, why not run? Burn those calories. If you see me, please honk. I need encouragement.
Another real-life example is while taking a shower, I brush my teeth, wipe down the tiles with a cleaning sponge and plan what I have “to do” for the rest of the day in my head. If my kids are around, I am usually shouting out, “Don’t forget your books” or “I won’t be home until late today” and their favorite, “Go take the dog to the park.” I continue to wash everything and spend the rest of my shower arguing.
Am I the only one? Do other people multi-task constantly? I carry a dust cloth in my home and wipe down everything as I walk around. I consider myself a professional picker-upper because I am constantly picking up a book, shoe or glass and depositing it where it belongs.
Recently this behavior started to wreak havoc on my brain. I can’t remember things. My memory is fizzling out. I know this because I ask my son, “Did you do your homework?” He replies with something, and then I ask him the same question about seven more times.
I’m also forgetting things. I never forget things. Recently I found myself running back into the house because I forgot my phone in the charger or a jacket or something else I needed. Yesterday I drove to CVS specifically to pick up cat food. Thomas, my cat, was down to one kibble. I did my shopping, pulled up to my home and Hello??? I forgot the cat food, which was the reason I went to the store in the first place. Luckily I didn’t exit the car and unpack the makeup I just bought, so I quickly drove back, with Thomas’ approval. It’s exhausting.
I have assessed this crisis recently and have tried to find ways to change this behavior. I am 45 years old, but my memory is 82. Time management is what I need, but I can not find a solution because I am the breadwinner, cleaning lady, cook, driver, coach, teacher and mother, and the list goes on. Some days I want to drive around with a crock pot in the back of my car just so I know my kids are getting dinner. Seriously!
This has become so problematic that I took it to my therapist, with whom I have spent the last few sessions addressing this issue because I can’t remember what we discussed in previous weeks. And this week I finally had a breakthrough. I remembered what my brilliant therapist said. Yea, brain!
Here’s the skinny. I hope this helps you too. I’m not losing my mind. My age could be a slight factor but not equal to the degree of my forgetfulness. I have been diagnosed as a chronic multi-tasker. I didn’t know this was a disease. Multi-tasking used to work for me but no more. It has turned its back on me, and I as well as everyone in my life is suffering. It’s a family disease. It affects everyone. The good news is there is help.
My no-nonsense therapist gives it to me straight. I am not being present in my life. (I secretly think she is a recovering multi-tasker herself, but I don’t know for sure, due to the therapist/patient boundaries.) My response, of course, was denial. Look at all I do. How can you say I’m not present in my life? My ego was being assaulted.
Eventually, when my brain calmed down and I was teachable, Lynn (not her real name) told me that by doing all these things at the same time, I wasn’t concentrating on any of them; therefore multi-tasking is affecting my memory. Oh, the shame. Finally, it resonated with me, and acceptance followed. The key here is balance.
Here is the suggested solution: I must meditate and be still every day with myself. By meditating and consciously practicing quieting my over-stimulated mind, I will achieve a renewal in energy and clarity. So simple and yet so frightening to trust that doing nothing is doing something. I have to do this one day at a time If want to stop the insanity. My name is Mary, and I am a recovering multi-tasker.
The irony is that I teach meditation and wellness. That, my friends, is what I’m usually multi-tasking about.
“Life coach” Mary Gulivindala is the founder of Blue Print Life & Wellness Coaching in Chestnut Hill.