I shall never be a multi-tasker.
Lately, I’ve been required to do lots of things in different places, (including an endurance shop at a real shopping centre – you know – a mall? *shudder*), and it’s reminded me of that special brand of demented skittering that can arise from being too focused on busy-ness and doing-ness.
In fact, I don’t believe that multi-tasking is truly possible, despite living in a culture that’s fervently embraced the concept. Although, I do think many are wising up to the fact that multi-tasking is a myth. And that often it’s just smoke and mirrors, used by those who are pretending to be efficient, or those who have trouble focusing.
Our constantly connected world is not only distracting, but seems to be chasing its own tail a lot of the time.
Not sure whether it’s my training or simply my nature, or both (I strongly suspect both), but even the idea of multi-tasking eludes me. I’m someone who tends to do one thing or t’other. And when I’m pushed to rush between many different tasks like a manic game of ping-pong, I will end at some point with my wheels spinning; and there will be the acrid smell of burning as smoke rises from my ears.
After years of my stolid intensity being considered a fault, (it may well be), these days I allow myself, unapologetically, to be absorbed in one task at a time. This means letting the world fade out, which is (possibly, alarmingly) easy for me. But I’ve worked hard and long at building this work structure for myself. And I’ve chosen having more time over having fistfuls of money, and pretty things. I confess I struggle at times with this. There’s no “right” way, is there?
When I’m working on something, I don’t realise that the toast is burning, and that Merlin, in his infinite capacity for thuggery (and jealousy) has thumped the dog* (again). I don’t notice that the dishes are lying in the sink, (I’m immune to their particular siren call). Social media gets switched off and forgotten, phones are not answered.
The above being the best modus operandi for me, is one reason why some years ago now, I decided to never work in office admin again. Admin – where so often people are required to be “on” all the time, but they don’t get to think very much at all. In fact, in one admin job I had some years ago, my first day on the job, one of the idiots** I had to work with said to me, “we like doers here, not thinkers”. Not the wisest thing a body could say to me. But in their frantic unkindness, they raced through the days, avoiding themselves – and their angry sadness – crushing every moment of silence as they would an enemy.
It was a warning to me not to forget, not to become so distracted from who I am that I could fall into the trap, as they had, of blaming the world for soul loss. Falling prey to daily decisions, the small ones, that steal us from our dreams. The ones that seduce us into believing we don’t have choices.
With some respite from the heat, I can now comfortably settle myself at my desk, in The Library (*snort*), and stare at treetops and hills that stretch out into a blue eucalypt haze. There are gum trees flowering, their blowsy, flame-coloured blossoms are Summer’s splurge amongst all the grey-green. They laugh at the heat and match its passion.
I commit this single view to memory, tracing each line and curve, and creaturely shadow: the satyr in the branches of the giant mountain ash, enfolding his dryad lover in his arms; a currawong family singing of death, or rain, or love, or all of these things. Wind and light, old spirits, fern filagree, the powdered blue where the sky rests on the mountain.
This view becomes a part of who I am, and all that I’ve loved. I listen deeply to certain strands of music, and the work unfolds inside the longest moments. Despite the briefness of the time available to me, it’s without distraction, and with only that view outside I’m inside the entirety of the world. This intensity of being is one that I find deeply restful, in an old, old, nearly forgotten way. A way that perhaps is now mostly only familiar to those of us born in the last century, before the constant blip, and beep.
*the dorje dog uses this fact as political leverage, so that when Merlin cuffs her, she runs to me with her best forlorn face on, “oh mum, the nasty beastie hit me, but I would feel so much better if you gave me a bone, or a liver treat. That would console all of my hurt feelings”. As for that velvetine fiend, Merlin, what can I say about a cat that is scared of chickens, yet torments a dog nearly twice his size, and who could snap him like a twig?
**people who work in admin are not generally idiots, of course. In fact, the vast majority are not. I just happened to luck out in this job, and these two bullies ended up as poppets in my freezer. True story.