Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Roller Coaster Perspective

I am weirdly bad at multi-tasking.

I say weirdly, because usually, somehow, it all seems to get done -- the Day Job and the editing and the taking care of my kids, and even sometimes the writing. I cook dinner and get everyone to their doctor appointments and I make sure the files are uploaded and I keep track of what needs to be done and what hasn't been finished yet.

And yet, every additional task pending in my mental inbox makes me feel anxious and fretful. I work best if there's a clear and simple path: Do this job, then this one, and then this one. When things conflict, I tend to get downright frazzled, and if you drop just one more task in my box, then a strange kind of stasis happens, where I get so stressed about getting everything done that I lock up and can't focus on any of them. I feel like I'm locked into a roller coaster, being pulled this way and that, a jerky, bumpy ride that periodically drops the bottom out from under me, and even when I can see it coming, I can't do anything to stop it, just ride it out and hope I don't throw up.

And I know it's about perspective. The important stuff will bubble to the top and it will all get done, and the things that don't get done will turn out not to have mattered that much, and all in all, there's nothing for me to be stressed about, because my life is good. But I have trouble pulling it together. I have trouble maintaining perspective. I have trouble staying off the roller coaster.

It happened to me four or five years ago. I fell into this mild OCD behavior where, every time I was stuck somewhere with nothing else to do (in meetings, say), I'd get out a sheet of graph paper and draw a schedule, trying desperately to squeeze everything into my life that I wanted to squeeze in there. I must have created dozens of those graphs, every one telling me the same story: Not enough time in the day.

I can feel it creeping up on me again. The Day Job is actually light on work, but that's adding to my stress since no work means I'm not sure I'll have a job in another two months when our current contracts have wrapped up. The editing work is piling up fast. My house is undergoing some repairs and renovations that are sorely needed, but it means a lot of my furniture and stuff is dislocated, which has me feeling antsy (and also is piling on the tasks, as I had to MOVE all the stuff, and there's more stuff left to move, and then I need to paint...) I'm still working on that prompt collection project with Lynn, and I'm trying to improve my writing promotion efforts.

I'm sitting at the tipping point. The warning signs are there. I find myself procrastinating, or locking in on low-priority tasks. My boyfriend suggests a date, and instead of being enthusiastic and happy to get to spend time with him, I waffle over how much of my schedule it's going to eat up. Co-workers invite me to lunch, and for just a minute, I resent the intrusion. I keep thinking things like, "As soon as I get through X, I'll be able to slow down and relax a little," except that I know there's no slowing down and relaxing, because long before X is done, Y and Z will have been added to my plate.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Tell me what you guys do, when life gets entirely too crazy, to make yourselves back up and regain perspective -- I could use the advice!

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