The Inefficient Multi-Tasker

In Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist writes the following words, words that resonate so deeply within my tensed muscles that I nearly felt relaxed to read to them:

She writes, “This winter, I got the kind of tired that you can’t recover from, almost like something gets altered on a cellular level, and you begin to fantasize about what it would be like to just not be tired anymore.”

Have you ever felt that way? Not just exhausted but exhausted. It’s the difference between needing a good night’s sleep or a short coma to recover. When I read her words, my worn out cells muster up their dwindling strength and shout in unison, “Amen, sister! Amen!

Shauna goes on to explain in the chapter “Things I Don’t Do” that her exhaustion comes from the need to do it all, so she prioritizes the things she wants to do and documents the things she is willing to give up in order to make room for the good. It’s simple, really, but it’s worth mentioning to the masses. I think we’ve all gotten into the habit of biting off more and more to chew until we find ourselves choking on things we really didn’t have any interest in chewing in the first place! Let’s face it. We live in a Pinterest-happy culture where monthly magazine articles encouraging us to be better hosts, chefs, crafters and lovers have been replaced by an unending, streaming barrage of prerequisites, each more ornate, more detailed, and more defeating than the next.

It’s exhausting trying to keep up.

I’ve recently begun the task of down-sizing from a personal phone and business phone to one phone. You think it would be easy enough: Inform your friends that you’re changing your number and make the switch. And perhaps it used to be but now my number is used at Walgreens, if I forget my care card, or Panera, or Biggby, or the grocery store. It’s on file at my doctor’s office, my dentist, my alma mater, my Facebook, my mail accounts, and my bank. It’s linked to emergency alerts and prescription reminders and my favorite clothing stores. Trying to remember where my number is stored is maddening! Do you know that I have four e-mail addresses? Yes, four! One for junk, one for work, and two personal accounts that reflect my name change. No wonder I can’t remember anything if it’s not written down in my calendar! And let’s not even get into whether I’ve stored that calendar date on my work calendar, my Google calendar, or my iPhone calendar! *Phew*

How did my life get so cluttered? In my effort to multi-task, I’ve rendered myself nearly useless in every category that I want to grow. And I’ve found myself juggling e-mail addresses and calendars full of repeat or bogus information!

If I, like Shauna, evaluated my priorities to establish the “things I don’t do,” I might come up with a list like this:

  • Excel in the kitchen. My husband makes incredible meals and he enjoys cooking. I should be satisfied with some passing grades and move on.
  • Pinterest projects. I hate them. And aside from basic artwork, I have every awareness that I am no good at them.
  • Maintain a spotless house. Dogs shed. And my time is too precious to spend every minute with a Swiffer in hand.
  • Hold regular hair appointments. I get my hair cut when I am painfully disheveled or when my bangs grow over my eyes and I can no longer see.

Making lists of don’t are not easy because I find myself engaging in a bitter argument against the dreamer in me. I want to be able to cook gourmet meals! And have perfectly manicured fingers at all times. And eat organic and gluten-free. I want to be able to sing along flawlessly. And I need to have a magazine house that prompts people to wonder if anyone actually sits in the rooms. Oh and if I could sew my own designer clothes! I also need to become a runner and have the best behaved dog. I need to host large dinner parties on the weekends and always put my clothes away. I’ll get up to working out four days a week and down to a size 4. And then I’ll send birthday cards to every friend and relative to make sure that it gets there on time.

Can you see why I need to get rid of the second phone??

Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

It’s cold. More accurately, it’s 50 degrees but the Internet weather site states that it feels like 44. My logical brain tells me that if we were just leaving the icy grip of winter, this weather would be warm enough for short sleeves and rolled down windows, but it isn’t the break of winter and instead we’re coming off a few days of 80+ degrees. My fingers are nearly numb from the cool air and open windows!

Today’s “fall weather” prompted me to take the long way home from work so I could stop by Baker Book House. Baker Book House is a wonderfully modern looking bookstore that I’ve only recently discovered sells Christian books. I’ve been meaning to stop by and today’s weather offered the perfect excuse. I entered, knowing that I was going to pick up a book by Shauna Niequist, and began perusing the aisles. Imagine my delight when I came across a soft cover book written by none other than my church pastor! I picked it up and walked around until I could flag down an employee to point me in my intended direction.

Here is what I like about Shauna Niequist and her books: 1) She’s delightfully honest and charming and raw; 2) She writes the way I hope to write. I love her ability to jump from subject to subject but keep the reader engaged; 3) Much of her descriptions are filled with Grand Rapids staples which makes me feel connected, like we share in some great West Michigan secret together. Having already read Cold Tangerines, I had the choice today between Bittersweet and Bread & Wine. I chose Bittersweet because this period of life is more focused on finding beauty within the sorrow for me and because I don’t have a kitchen table to gather friends around – so Bread & Wine will have to wait.

Now I’m 61 pages in and have just finished a beautiful chapter on friendship and girlfriends and making time and my head is full of things to think about…

Cold Tangerines

I have to share: I am currently reading Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist. I picked up this book after the pastor at Ada Bible suggested it during one Sunday several weeks ago. Well to be fair, I really picked it up at Barnes & Noble shortly thereafter when I went with my boyfriend to pick up a devotional someone had recommended for him to read. The book jumped out at us both having just been encouraged to read it and we decided that we would both read it with me breaking in the pages first. (The thing I tried to warn him of, though he will not fully understand until he gets the book in his hands, is that when I read a book, I underline and circle and double-underline anything that strikes me – thus changing the tone and pace for the next reader. It’s never good to let me read a book first.)

Anyway, in these pages (particularly in the chapter entitled “Visions and Secrets,” I have found a voice that speaks for me. Of writing, Shauna says, “Words are the breakdown through which I see all of life…When I write, I can see things that I can’t otherwise see, and I can feel things I can’t otherwise feel. Things make sense…”

If you want to understand why I write, it is already written in her words for you to read…