Mental Crowding

In typical Type A fashion, I tend to take on more than I can handle and then get great satisfaction out of organizing my schedule to accommodate the overload. It’s a fairly predictable cycle. I’ll be floating along, busy, content. Then I’ll start to get a little restless and look for something to add to my plate. Sometimes it’s something small, like a sewing project, sometimes it’s big, like joining the board at Katherine’s school. I often feel slightly, but happily, overwhelmed for a period of time, then I find a new balance and start the cycle again. But with a new baby and now transitioning back to work, the balance has been all out of whack. I’ve been more than slightly overwhelmed… and I can’t get all the pieces to fit together.

In an attempt to manage all the pieces, I’ve determined there are the “must-dos,” (e.g., getting Katherine to and from school, making dinner, fulfilling my work commitments), which absolutely have to happen each day; the “should-dos”(e.g., cleaning the bathroom, updating the kids’ closets with summer clothes, scheduling that doctor’s appointment); and finally, the “want-tos,” (e.g., finishing Mockingjay, writing this post, going for a run), which really could be put aside, except that I look forward to these things and get grouchy when I don’t have them. So my solution is to stay up really late to try to do it all for as many nights as I can before I crash. Then I temporarily abandon the should-do list while I catch up on sleep. By the time the house gets so gross that I can’t stand it and my kids are wearing long sleeves in 90 degree weather, I’m better rested and can go back to staying up really late again. It’s not ideal, but it is working for now. And I am on my way to accepting that this is the new norm with three kids.

The part I don’t like is the mental crowding. No matter what I’m doing my mind is jumping around to the other tasks on my list, preventing me from enjoying the thing I’m actually doing. I’d like to be able to sing Wheels on the Bus to Alexandra without thinking about getting to the computer to respond to that one work email, and I might actually enjoy making dinner if I didn’t start worrying about what I’m going to do with the rotting CSA vegetables every time I opened the fridge. I don’t like when a whole day has gone by and I feel I missed out on half of it because I was always thinking about how I could have been doing something else.

It’s easy enough to turn off the technology, or at least designate time for email, blog reading, IMing, etc. so that it doesn’t invade my day (actually, this isn’t easy at all, but I could do it if I decided to). But other than that, I can’t figure out what to let go in order to clear mental space. Everything on the list seems necessary - either for general family functioning or my own sanity. I suppose something will eventually give, or it will be one of those things that works itself out.

In the meantime, I’m going to call upon the two places where I have always felt completely at peace. Places whose vastness creates a stillness and silence that puts everything into perspective (especially the above first world problems).  

Mont Sainte Victoire (view from Bibémus outside of Aix-en-Provence)


and the Sonoran Desert, outside of Tucson.

I can’t travel to France or Arizona, but even the pictures bring me a feeling of calm. And when their effect wears off (after all, they are only pictures), there is always Alfred Cat. Nothing like a furry friend to reduce stress. (Plus it’s about time he got his picture up on this blog.)