Blurring the lines
Someone once told me that a man lives his life in neat little boxes, and either he is busy dealing with one box or the other, but rarely does he do two boxes at the same time. It’s called compartmentalisation, which is why – as per this person – men are so good at ignoring the dirty dishes when what they want to do is watch TV. They are in their “TV box”, and the dishes simply don’t fit – which does not mean they won’t handle them later, when they’re in their “let’s tidy up” box. Chances are by then their frustrated women will have taken care of them…
As per this person – obviously a man – women have never caught on to this mental box thing. Instead, we are all over the place, clearing away the dishes while wiping baby’s mouth AND watching TV. It’s called multi-tasking. And sometimes, I do wish I had a sequence of neat little boxes into which to order my life rather than attempting to do it all at the same time.
Leaving aside the discussion whether this is a gender issue yes or no, multi-tasking is exhausting. My minds boggles with planning laundry, food, work, while at the same time clearing up the kitchen, drenching the orchids and considering whether I need to wash the windows or how exactly I should present my re-structuring proposal to my client and mentally drafting a new post. This post.
Of late, I have noted that doing many things at the same time has a seriously negative impact on my concentration. A relatively new development which I put down to my new glasses, while hubby says it is age related. But then, he adds with a tender smile, so are the glasses. It’s one of those moments when the multi-tasking me is torn between wanting to kiss him and slap him. I do neither. Instead I go back to griping about my bi-focals while whisking the eggs together for an omelette.
Since some months back, I have the luxury of spending most of my time writing. Ok, so I have finished three books, edited two, started another, but seriously, compared to the output I achieved while I was working full time and writing, that isn’t so impressive. And the reason behind that is all this multi-tasking – my lines are getting blurred.
In fact, since I stopped working, I am always working – if that makes sense. Unfortunately, all the time I spend at my computer does not necessarily result in any output worth keeping, and this is because I write a bit, slip off to do some FB stuff, go back to writing, get an e-mail notification and hurry over to read the mail, go back to writing, remember I haven’t done my tweet rounds, and…You get the picture, right? And on top of this, I water the flowers, keep the kitchen polished, take the dog out for walks and keep the laundry hamper empty. Since I stopped going out for work, I have assumed the lion’s share of the responsibility for the daily chores – probably because I feel a need to be “really useful” as opposed to stringing words together into sentences.
What also happens is that because I am “always” writing, my brain groans and whinges, telling me all this creativity is killing it.
“What creativity?” I say. “Look, we’ve only done 900 words today.”
“Not my fault,” brain protests. “It wasn’t me who got distracted into that tangential excursion into the history of the Aztecs.” Brain scowls. “You don’t WRITE about the Aztec people.”
“No but…” I am interrupted by an FB notification telling me an FB friend has commented on my post. Brain groans in protest as I rush off to see.
“Right: where were we?” I ask once I’m back with my brain.
“No idea,” brain mutters. “Somewhere in the Milky Way? Nowhere close to where you should be at any rate.”
“Your brain is right, you know,” one of my characters chime in. My turn to groan as all those invented people in my head suddenly spring out of their various nooks and swirls, all of them looking at me with something akin to mild exasperation.
“Hi Alex,” I say, trying or a smile. “Look, I know I’ve promised to get all that stuff regarding you and Matthew and Samuel and Shoshannah and Rachel down on paper, but…”
“You’re squandering time,” she interrupts. She taps at my keyboard. “Nose to the grindstone, honey. But only one grindstone at the time, okay?”
“Err…” I say, and Matthew appears beside her. Have I ever said he has the most amazing eyes, this invented man of mine – well, Alex’s man, obviously – all greeny gold?
“We’re not getting any younger,” he reminds me. “And look at poor Kit – you’ve left her hanging there with that swine Godfrey, and Adam is beside himself, and…”
Damn. So I have. Poor, poor Kit, and from the look in Adam’s eyes, he is considering whether to disembowel me slowly or roast me on a spit. His large hand closes on the hilt of his dagger, eyes like shards of ice boring into me.
“And what about us?” Helle Madsen shoves her hands into her jeans. All shapely legs and taut bum, she has the men in my head looking her over, first and foremost her companion through time, Jason, and his lurking shadow, Sam. “Can we please be released from this limbo of not knowing just what you’re going to put us through?” Her eyes widen as blood blooms on Jason’s chest, as he sags to the ground, seeping red staining his hair and face. Oh dear: yet another mess of my creation.
“See?” my brain says, and my characters fade away into the background of its murky interior. “They depend on you, Anna. All of them.” My brain sighs. “You blew life into them. You see them through the choppy seas to harbour. That is your obligation.”
I suspect this is not the time to tell my brain my last two nights have been spent making the acquaintance of new leading man, Robert…
Other than discussing this with my brain – and yes, I am fully aware that is me talking to me – I also talk to my breathing, living dear ones. Unfortunately, the majority of them are men.
“I don’t quite see the problem,” says eldest son. “You have things to do, you do them one after the other.”
“Yes,” says middle son. “It’s not as if I break off midway through a complex genetic algorithm to go and cook supper.” Well, seeing as I wouldn’t recognise a genetic algorithm if it bit me, this passes over my head.
“Make a list,” youngest son suggests helpfully. “Then do them one by one, not all at the same time.”
Lists? I shiver. Lists are terrible things, black on white of what you’ve achieved and what you’ve failed to do. I turn to my daughter for support and receive an irritated snort. Her life, she indicates, revolves round lists – at least at work. Well then…
On a more serious note, I have concluded it is time to organise my life in boxes. One box is called Social Media and will no longer be allowed to swell like a happy amoeba over all the others. There are the various boxes labelled Work in progress, and then there’s one called New writing projects. That’s where Robert is patiently waiting, stretched out under a tree and wrapped in his heavy cloak. Another box is labelled Household, and I stick cleaning windows and wiping kitchen cabinets in that one. And finally, there’s a box labelled Nothing which defines the time in which I do absolutely nothing. I must admit to being rather daunted by this box: what, I’m supposed to sit under the flowering trees and twiddle my thumbs? My brain laughs. “Do nothing?” it says. “Close your eyes, honey and come along for the ride!”
I am un-blurring the lines, people. I am using mental boxes. Does that mean I’m becoming more like a man?
“I bloody well hope not,” says hubby, pressing a kiss to my nose. “But just in case, let’s put in a box labelled Release the inner woman.”
Huh. As if she needs releasing!