ANNA BELFRAGE

Step inside and steal some moments in another place, another time

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.

public-sleeping-child

Exhausted – and sleeping peacefully

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.”

The_Scream

Me, my brain & all my invented people…(Munck)

“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…

(c) The Fitzwilliam Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Monet – and yes, I can sit under those trees

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!

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15 thoughts on “Blurring the lines

  1. Welcome to my life, Anna!

  2. My life too! It helps when I live by the clock. I have free time to play on FB, read blogs, drink coffee, whatever, until my alarm rings at 10 a.m., and then it’s writing time for two hours until lunch. I may or may not get much done, but I put the time in. After lunch, I deal with the household chores, start supper, run errands, etc., then go back to the computer until hubby gets home from work. For someone who hates the clock more than anything in the world, I didn’t realize until just now that it controls me. Ugh! I gotta go – only 45 minutes until ‘write time.’

  3. I’m leaning towards a similar approach 🙂

  4. Guess I am a multi-tasker. Write one book while thinking about the next one while listening to and watching TV.

  5. Oh, Anna, thank you! I can’t tell you what a relief it was to read this post. It’s great to know I’m not alone.
    The truth is, I spend most of my life jumping from one open box to another. After a quick rummage inside I’m off again, scampering aimlessly through the maze of boxes.
    Sometimes (ie: often!) I rebel and push my way out through the box wall so that I can go and do something unscheduled instead – which makes me feel extra guilty later on. Guilt. Yet another box that needs shoving to one side. *sigh*

    Help! 🙂

    • Forget about shoving “guilt” into a box. It is more of a miasma, hanging all over the place. And you really must stop breaking out of boxes. One at a tiime. ONE AT A TIME – well, or so I tell myself…

  6. When I’m writing, editing, etc., I do not have the web/email/facebook open on the computer, so I don’t see those notifications or emails popping up, and I’m not distracted by web browsing. I usually save the social media for the evening when the creative juices have been zapped by the day job. Being in-between books at the moment, and doing more research than writing, I’ve been tending to social media business in the mornings, too. We’ll see how that goes once I get back into writing mode. Housework? Yard work? What’s that? Sometimes those get ignored when I’m writing. And fortunately, the kids are grown and out on their own, so I’m not having to cook dinner or make small talk – I miss them (sometimes), but I relish the freedom too.

  7. All I can add is that we are so alike! (So eager to ‘compare notes’) I have also been working more – since I haven’t been working. But, things will change, as I know you know and I’m so looking forward to 9th of May when I enter Uppsala University as an employee. Exciting!

    • Yay for that! And notes shall be compared (for those who don’t know – i.e. ALL other followers, Tofflan is my long-lost second cousin – we just found each other again after like 40 yrs :))

  8. Boxes? Lists? If I do those, I lose them. My life is littered with lost lists that pop up long after the chores have been done/forgotten/ignored/turned to dust. Instead, I drift hopelessly and erratically between chores, forgetting some, attempting others. The only time I am completely focussed is when I write. Chores and deadlines go out the window, birthdays are forgotten, meals are late, burnt or missed. Lol. If I compartmentalised, I would get lost forever in a dark corner of my brain, sitting crying, surrounded by boxes, contents tumbling in untidy heaps. No boxes for me.

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