Thursday, April 10, 2014

Do We Ever Catch Up?

           My phone chimes at 6 am. It’s a text from a friend boarding a plane; he’s coming to town for 4 days. Surely this time we’ll catch up.  Since last we’ve seen each other he’s moved to a new city, changed jobs, survived a burglary and sold his home back in Nashville. Not exactly small things in the course of a life, (and in his case, things that have all transpired within a 2 month window, and certainly the kinds of things friends support friends through). Oh, we’re supportive alright. We just do it by texts and voice mail these days, after all, who has the time?
            Meanwhile, my college roommate, successful soul that she is, has business in Nashville today, after which she’ll drive to the farm for the night. Can’t wait to see the girl. Whether or not we can cram 2 years worth of catch up into a 24-hour window remains to be seen, but we’ll give it the ol college try, (pun intended).
            Another childhood friend lost a brother this week; pangs of guilt flood over me for not making the funeral, but the timing sadly coincided with Minsky’s emergency, which put everything on hold for a few. Had I made the funeral, plan was to take her her Christmas presents. They’ve been sitting on a bench by the door since November.
            I debate cancelling lunch with my brother, as I’m still adding tax numbers and have about 20 Thank You’s to write. On top of this, it’s about to rain and I HAVE to run a tiller through my garden one last time before I can plant, which, according to the signs, starts next week...
            Bottom line: Do we EVER catch up?
Seems everyone I talk to these days is dealing in it… “it” being this perpetual state of “overwhelm” that is like a constant buzz in the background of our lives. Either I only attract friends wired just like me, or our entire culture has accepted that this is the new vogue…. Living our lives in a state of “whelm” is just what we do.
            (“Whelm” btw, is a word. It’s a verb. It means to be covered over. Picture a wave, capsizing a boat…Add the “over” to it and you’re really covered over --a little flashback there to my “I Didn’t Know That” days, just fyi~) But the question remains, “When did “overwhelm” become our standard?…the benchmark by which we measure ourselves against the rest of the world and say “Yep. I fit in.”
            I try to recall if my grandmother’s dealt with this… (If they did, they covered it well for both were always present for me when I was around.) So what’s causing it and how do we stop it? Better question: Do we know that “it” is not natural? “It” is an artificial construct born of an artificial society.
            In large part I blame our time saving devices. Our cellphones, our internet, our iPads have us so wrapped around them (as opposed to the other way around) that we feel obligated to check in, text back, RESPOND dangit, to each and every thing that blows our way. Don’t know if there’s a new etiquette book on this, but responding to every cute forward that comes my way consumes gobs of time, much as I love reading them (which also consumes gobs of time). But the time it takes to read these things, respond to these things, forward these things, is taking away from the quality time we’d have otherwise have for friends and more meaningful conversations. I mean, how could we NOT have blocked off an hour to talk after my friend’s break in? (Granted, he and his wife were scrambling to get police reports filed and insurance claims in, but I’ve endured a break in. It’s one of the worst violations you can encounter, and trust me, they WILL need to process it…a LOT.) Why did I not drop everything the second my friend lost her brother? (Granted, it was anticipated. He was an older guy with many health problems and they weren’t always close, plus I had my own problems that day, but still. What’s happening to us? Where are our priorities?)
            We invent words like “multitasking” -- kidding ourselves that we’re getting tons done by doubling up, when it’s a biological fact that the human brain cannot focus on two things at once. What we’re doing when we say we’re multitasking is addressing poorly the two or three things we think we’re accomplishing, when 9 times out of 10, at least one of those things is going to require a “do over” for not having been properly undertaken in the first place.
            We do things mindlessly, buy things mindlessly, then complain we’re losing our minds when the clutter backs up and the stress overwhelms.
            If I knew how to fix it, I’d offer up the recipe right here and now, but best I can do is confess, “I’m guilty of it too.” I’d take a time management class if I had the time to work it in. But I have stopped long enough to notice that the things that are eating up my day are not the important things…(Time stood still when I had a sick puppy. Didn’t matter what was on the list that day, nothing was getting in the way of getting help for my baby.) And no matter how much I say “I’ll only take 10 minutes to feed the critters” once they wag, lick or nuzzle me, I’m stopping to hug them back, after all, these are the reasons we have puppies in the first place.
No, the things consuming my time are never the things that give back to me.…time spent with friends…time hugging pups…time laughing at silly goats. The things that gobble up my time are those piddly things I did poorly the first time around, that I’m getting to tackle again and again and again until I finally make time to focus and get it right.
I have serious concerns that we’re losing our ability to focus…and like any muscle, if it’s not used, it will go away. We’ve got texts to remind us; voice mails to prod us; apps to encourage us, but in the end, the meaningful moments in my life seldom (I dare say, “never”) come electronically. They come in moments of detached clarity, when what is real, rises to the top like cream, and becomes that one thing I want more than anything else, which is to say, a more meaningful, intentionally lived life.

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