I have a bad case of multitask-itis. It flares up every once in a while – mostly when I have to wait for something. Or someone. Or when something doesn’t turn out as I planned. Which is probably why I first noticed it when I became a parent.
You see, I do not like to wait. I plan things as well as I can sit still and plan them, then execute immediately. This worked well as a single person. Not so much when I got married. As a mom with four kids and assorted special needs, this now regularly blows up in my face.
The almosts happen when my impulsive side meets my
stubborn determined side. Like you, there are things I wish were a little different in my life as a mom. Laundry, for one. Why can’t it just stay done? Or tantrums in supermarkets. Really? Must we put the sugar cereal in reach of a toddler. Or in reach of my 8 1/2 year old with ADHD who often acts like one?
Because of my condition, when I get frustrated in one area of life, I compensate by over-dosing on productivity in others – it’s easier than sitting still in the frustration. Can’t control this thing, so I’ll go for the kitchen floor! I think as I grasp at a sense of normal. Case in point? My oldest daughter is battling intense mood swings this month with her bipolar – to the point of slamming a door so hard she punched out the door frame recently. Which was a one-way ticket to respite care so the family could have a little peace and relaxation.
In the weeks leading up to this, I’d been absorbing the stress and intensity – trying to diffuse its effects in the lives of her younger sisters and maintain some sense of normal in my marriage and home. So faced with a peaceful respite weekend ahead, I instantly felt the urge toward 16 errands begin to coil around my neck. You know, combining something like taking kids to morning activities, then dragging the rest of the family to grocery shop, return movies, and stand in long lines with kids at the post office to get passports to visit my sister in Mexico.
Know what happens when I give in and react to stress by adding more like that?
- The toddler falls asleep in the car, an hour earlier than usual. And she’s a motion-sensitive time bomb when carried from car to bed.
- I realize the car is much lower on gas than I thought.
- And, once at the gas station, that I left my wallet at home.
- And that someone’s favorite lovey got left at the first stop in the errand chain, they think… really, it could be anywhere, and they can’t live without it.
- My husband gets annoyed at the hectic line up instead of falling in love with me all over again for my smart, energetic plan!
Why can’t I just control one teeny-tiny part of my life… right now?? I whine.
Because it’s not about control. It’s about experience. Experiencing the sweet smell of my toddler’s curly, sweaty, baby-fine hair when I pull her sleeping body from the car seat. Experiencing the miracle of my 4 year old’s face when she finds her lovey at the third store in the search.
Even experiencing the cacophony of emotion and frustration in my body when I deal with my oldest daughter and her mood storms. Feeling it all. Breathing it all in. Allowing it to wash over me. And then letting it drift away. Which sometimes is a days-long process. And being in it with the tough stuff hurts like a foot, fallen asleep, and the pins and needles sensation intensifies. Or sometimes it’s acute and builds like grabbing a hot pan with my bare hand and the burn that stings for a week afterward.
But it’s life. And it’s MY life. Nobody else gets to live it (even when I don’t want to!) So I enlist my stubbornness for that when I start to feel the impulse to make things crazy instead of be in the moment. I’ll even close my eyes and spend 20 seconds fully feeling, hearing, smelling, sensing myself and what’s around me. It’s a habit of checking in with me. And it’s a great anti-parasitic agent for those overwhelming moments in life.
What will you do to fully experience today, no matter what it brings? If you have something you’ve found helpful in those moments, I’d love to hear your ideas too!