Thursday, September 5, 2013


I have five million things I should be doing RIGHT NOW.

So I'm blogging instead.

Oh wait, I can't stand the dryer beeping one more time.

One hour later...

Wait, the thing's beeping again...

Five minutes later...

And in the meantime I've done various household chores, fielded emails (some from other people who also evidently have too much on their plates and aren't being very competent as a result; trying to see the irony of getting annoyed with them...), talked through a minor job issue with Orangina, and sometimes just sat in front of my computer and worried.

Nothing's wrong, exactly. The problems in my life are decidedly of the first-world variety, and I remind myself of this constantly. Among other things we've had some improvements made to our house, with attendant comings and goings of men who drop things and make little messes and borrow household implements that are never quite the same again afterwards, and these are GOOD contractors...I think it's the absence of female supervision that's the problem.

And Wasabi is back at college after a wonderful few months in London, and Orangina has a job, and both of them are suddenly becoming much more self-sufficient and confident in their ability to interact with the adult world. I no longer have teenagers! My children are young women who make their own decisions! But they are, naturally enough, still at the stage where they solicit help and advice from the parent birds, and I'm certainly a whole lot more involved in their lives than my parents were at this stage. In Orangina's case, of course, this involvement is a lifelong business, but even here I count my blessings as we are definitely at the favored end of the intellectual/developmental disability spectrum.

And the list goes on, including the fact that I'm rewriting the sequel to The House of Closed Doors...and I'm feeling a little overloaded, by big things and small. Wrapping around all this is the undeniable fact that our lives are changing and we are starting to feel our way toward a different future. For the last twenty years our days have been dominated by the issues of raising children; schools have been a resource, a source of structure, but also a kind of benevolent dictatorship stipulating where we live, when we take a vacation and what time is bedtime. NOW we are free to make some radical changes, and I find myself itching to make them before we become too old and constrained by ill health or enforced retirement.

Somewhere around the New Year I made a 2013 checklist of things I wanted to achieve. Not, by any means, resolutions, just a reminder of what was on my mind during the quieter, more reflective post-Christmas period. I didn't anticipate a two-month-long stay in the UK at that point, nor that Orangina would get a job so quickly, so I think I can congratulate myself on having achieved six of the thirty or so items I started with. And looking at the ones I HAVEN'T achieved, and seeing which are still the most important to me, is a useful exercise.

And I need to make another list, of all the things I need to do right now, big and small. When I feel like AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGHHHH there are three things that help: writing about it (as I'm doing now), cleaning up my desk (because things get messy when I'm overloaded and then I get stressed about the mess, which makes things worse) and making a master list to guide me through what needs to be done. The way things are at the moment, the items on the list sometimes get swamped by another wave of must-dos, but just having the list calms me down and makes me feel more in control. It gets rid of that completely overwhelmed feeling that verges on a panic attack; a state of mind where I pretty much grind to a halt, and which is usually caused by having nothing I HAVE to do right now but many, many things I SHOULD be doing. Does that make sense?

And, I miss blogging. When I'm swamped, of course, I neglect social media and blogging as not being "vital", but in some ways they are. In the same way that over and above all other things, I try to exercise and eat right (training for a 20K, y'all! Ran five miles yesterday!), I should consider blogging as the essential outlet for my thoughts, a sort of public Pensieve. It's all too easy, when you have plenty of practical and urgent things to do, to neglect the business of putting your thoughts in order, and come to think of it I've spent very little time thinking lately because I've been doing in order just to get through my day without neglecting something that has a deadline attached to it.

I began this post running round like a squirrel trying to do ten things at once, didn't I? Isn't it interesting that studies now show that multitasking is not nearly as useful as we think? And now I feel slightly calmer, in a still-a-bit-frazzled kind of way.

Of course YOU don't really need to know all of this, and if you'd read this far, thanks for caring. You may have far, far worse problems than I do, and think I'm being a whiney cow. You may think that I'm doing this all wrong, and that if I just [insert solution here] I would be fine. You may think I should be caring about [insert world crisis here] instead (although, personally, I think that causes are a form of hiding for many people).

So, a question: what exactly DO you do when you're overwhelmed?