I used to be the queen of multitasking. I was an expert at juggling. I was a working single mom and I could do it all.
I got up before six, made breakfast for myself and packed one for my son, along with a lunch for school. I worked full-time and took on more at each job in an effort to prove myself worthy. I drove to dance lessons, swimming lessons, soccer, baseball, and parkour. I coached. I organized play dates and birthdays. I kept a house and a yard going and paid all my bills on time and maintained my friendships and did the shopping and looked after my parents when they needed help.
I took on-line classes and squeezed in a few hobbies here and there when my eating disorder permitted it. Bulimia itself is a full-time occupation. I made sure I spent a lot of my time on my son; I’ve always believed it was quantity, and not quality, that counts.
I was an achieving machine. I impressed everyone.
How times have changed.
I now do very little and my life feels manageable that way. I had one extra thing added to my schedule four times this week and I feel alarmingly overwhelmed. I feel my anxiety rising and panic pushing up. I can feel my depression pushing against the gates.
I used to thrive – or at least act like I did – on a robust schedule; now, when things start to look busy, all I feel is a sense of doom.
I no longer have the capacity to take on more than one thing at a time. I rarely manage more than one significant thing a day. I need the calm. I need to the quiet. A day with a packed schedule starts with me already anxious and by the end of the day, the sensation has become nearly unbearable. The urge to race home and hide in my room blossoms.
How did I come to this? How is it that I’m not able to juggle like I used to?
Or was it the juggling itself that was wrong?
I live life very slowly now. I do one thing at a time, always. I don’t even read in front of the television anymore. I race around nowhere. I try to do things slowly and thoughtfully. I’ve come to believe that the frenetic way I acted in the past made me more anxious and agitated, even if I thought it was necessary to accomplish three things at once because, reasons.
I try and live like this because if I don’t, in short order I start to feel overwhelmed. For a long time, I’ve berated myself for this. Why can’t you be the person you used to be? It occurred to me recently, however, and only recently because sometimes insights are slow to come, that I was sick when I was living that way. My eating disorder and depression were through the roof and floor and the only reason I was fighting to accomplish so much was that my self-esteem was in the toilet and I believed that I had to prove myself of value every moment of every day.
I’m also doing it because I’ve come to believe it’s the best way to live. Do one thing at a time and give that one thing your focused attention. Do one thing at a time because a singular focus helps with improving execution. Do one thing at a time because it helps you stay in the moment and that’s a good place to be; the moment is all we have after all.
In the early days of working on my recovery, I took my inability to take on a multiplicity of tasks as a sign of continued failure. I’m looking at it now as a good thing. Something that perhaps everyone could strive for. So many of us move to fast, and take on too much. And for what, exactly?
I asked myself that question recently. It was in a book. And I realized, I didn’t have any good answers. I can’t come up with a single reason why filling every moment and stacking tasks is necessary. Very few enjoy it, after all. Almost all of us complain when we live like that and yet we keep doing it for reasons that we can’t articulate or goals that are transitory or ultimately irrelevant.
Now that I’m a few years in to recovery, I’m starting to think it’s the better way to live. Slower, thoughtfully, and no juggling required.
Are you a multitasker?