While in London, I made an effort to detox my NYC exhaust-ridden lungs by taking daily walks in the crisp English air.
And while repairing my lungs, I also tried to become a better person by listening to podcasts about everything from “How to Raise a Successful Child” to “The 8-Hour Diet.”
(Yes, 8 hours. We’ll revisit that on another day.)
One fine multitasking day, I listened to a TED talk delineating the reasons it’s important NOT to multitask.
- People are 1,000% happier when they are focusing on ONE specific task (Sorry I don’t recall the exact percentage as I was multitasking).
- People are far more successful when they focus on ONE specific task (These people must have an army of nannies).
- People are for more irritated when they focus on multiple tasks (True. But if I wasn’t doing multiple tasks I’d be thinking of how I was capable of doing multiple tasks, and I’d be irritated I wasn’t utilizing my time wisely).
I decided to put the podcast into practice:
I stopped in Hyde Park, took out my earphones, and decided to focus on the lake and ONLY the lake for an entire 5 minutes.
My thought process:
- Wow, the swans are so quietly synchronized. Pretty.
- Must be nice to be a swan – I bet they aren’t trying to unlock the keys to success.
- And exercise isn’t something they have to attempt to work in to their day! No 8-hour-diet for them.
- But seriously, how much can one swim around all day without getting bored?
- I wonder if it’s been 5 minutes yet?
So in case you are still reading this nonsense, here is my takeaway:
A focused life would be great.
But until someone figures out how to import the European workweek and gets Maya to stop asking me super important questions like “Should I have frozen yogurt from 16 Handles or Tasti-D-Lite today?” I’m thinking that the multitasking is here to stay.
Our vacation has been (almost) all about Maya for two reasons:
- To appease my conscience that I pretty much ignored her this year in favor of my career.
- So that I could say, to her future therapist, “But we spent SO quality time together. Even our vacations! I’m not sure where I went wrong?”
Truth #1 is that the only thing Maya wants (besides rolls of Scotch Tape) is time and attention.
Truth #2 is that giving Maya time and attention is the HARDEST thing in the world.
And yet, during this trip at least, I think I’ve been doing a pretty decent job of it.
London: We played cards, Boggle, colored, and I selflessly spent hours waiting in the hot sun as she played in the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.
Dublin: Ali and I headed here – without Maya – because I’ve heard that absence makes the heart grow fonder and I wanted to be fully prepared for round 2.
London: After working up additional courage in Dublin I once again gave Maya my undivided attention all over London – parks, restaurants, and the library. We even cooked dinner together (Truth #3: I lost it when she dropped an entire tub of sour cream on the kitchen floor).
Paris: Here’s where things got crazy – I was so inspired by my progress that I decided to leave my laptop behind before climbing on the Eurostar.
Maya was in shock. “But Mama, we are going to Paris for 2 whole days. You really aren’t going to take your laptop?”
I really didn’t. And somehow I didn’t miss it either. Instead we had hot chocolate and eclairs with friends at the Laduree, went swimming in our hotel pool, and rode ridiculously expensive rides at a fair ($10 for 5 minutes on a gigantic swing PER PERSON – how do people afford to live in Paris?).
We are now back in London where my conscience feels suitably appeased.
Which brings us to Truth #4: I think we are both looking forward to a little alone time.
A few minutes after I decided to Be Still for a little while I left for work.
After that (and yes, here I go complaining again) I came home, and in anticipation of our trip that evening I did 5 loads of laundry, packed Ali’s stuff, Maya’s stuff, my stuff, vacuumed the apartment, Swiffered, changed the sheets, and emptied the fridge.
Then, as I was washing a few last dishes, I noticed that there was brown water coming out of the kitchen sink.
Me: “Ali, there is something wrong with the water.”
Ali: “Hmm, that’s strange. Here’s my phone so you can take a video. Maya! Do you have your water gun? Let’s go out on the balcony!”
After that helpful conversation I obsessively ran the water for 15 minutes, taking videos to show our new landlord. I also grew more furious by the second that the dishes I thought were now clean in the dishwasher had to be run again.
And I won’t lie, I think I cursed a few times as I heard Ali and Maya enjoying an afternoon of water play without a care in the world.
Later that night, after we’d boarded our flight to London and I was consumed by the fact that our apartment building provided brown water as one of the perks, I had to ask:
Me: “Isn’t it bothering you that the water in our new apartment is the color of coffee?”
Ali: “What do I care? I’m going to London and don’t have to deal with it.”
How has my husband mastered avoidance techniques? I have no idea. But I’ve decided I want to master this useful trait.
Really I do.
Sometimes I surprise myself by doing something that goes against my typically selfish behavior.
My latest selfless act? I got off my lazy behind to immerse myself in the “Must Get Maya Into a Better School” process.
This rather time-consuming project, which, incidentally rivaled my college-entrance process, had a happy ending, which is great.
By the same token, this happy ending created a bunch of additions to my To-Do list including:
- Finding a new place to live.
- Writing countless checks to our various landlords, including move-out fees, cleaning fees, security deposits, first month’s rent, last month’s rent, pro-rated month’s rent, and a bonus check simply for the right to exist in a world where writing so many checks is actually a possibility.
- Researching and securing the least shady movers we could find (an impossible challenge).
- Packing up Ali and Maya’s sh@# AGAIN.
- Unpacking all of Ali’s and Maya’s sh@# AGAIN.
- Doing all of this all during Ramadan. AGAIN.
Aside from having some words with Ali regarding his insistence we pack and move his tacky bright red-orange Ferrari shirt (it has since been donated) and nearly losing my mind with Maya’s Lego hoarding tendencies (they’ve since been organized according to color and style)…
…I firmly believe I dealt with all of the above with a grace and level of patience that is typically foreign to me.
But today, with 30 days of fasting, the move, countless hours of work, and an excessive amount of hours Swiffer-ing (I am obsessed with our new wood floors) behind me, I’ve decided I just need to be still for a while.
Maybe for the first time ever.
There is a fork that resides, almost permanently, on our kitchen counter.
This fork is stationed approximately 1.5” from the fridge and approximately 1’ from our hanging cutlery rack. *
For a while, the fork’s constant presence on the counter befuddled me:
- Was the fork somehow falling out as I emptied the dishwasher?
- Was Maya using a fork to comb her Barbie’s hair again (not unheard of)?
- Did the fork fall from the hanging cutlery rack and shift itself 12 inches to the right, just to annoy me?
But my hypotheses only yielded more unanswered questions:
- Why was it always a salad fork? Why not a larger one?
- And why always a fork? Why not a spoon or knife?
And so I finally broke down and posed the question aloud, in my most neutral and least offensive voice, being sure to address nobody in particular so that I couldn’t be accused of pointing fingers.
Me: “Can someone please tell me why there is ALWAYS a fork sitting on the counter next to the fridge?”
Ali: “Because I use it to take the tea bag out of my tea.”
So now it’s the sugar bowl AND the fork, in a kitchen the size of a stamp. It’s also Day # 14 of Ramadan and I’m working on 4.5 hours of sleep each night, for the last week at least.
I may be overreacting here but I’m thinking we should rename the kitchen “Ali’s tea-making facility” and call it a day.
*I received lots of grief for adding this to our gift registry…I believe several people referred to it as “tacky.” But 14 years later I believe it is probably the most brilliant, and most used, gift we received.
GUILT-Y PAR-ENT SYN-DROME
giltē pe(ə)rənt sinˌdrōm
An illness that occurs in parents when they feel bad they can’t (or won’t) give you their full attention. This syndrome causes parents to give in on things they normally wouldn’t, in order to make you – and mostly themselves – feel better.*
These days it seems like my mom is never around, which means her “Guilty Parent Syndrome” is in full swing! And trust me when I say I’ve been taking advantage of things.
So far I’ve guilted her into buying me cool things like a magic pen (which I’ve already lost), an overpriced book from the airport bookstore (which I’d already read), and even a 6-pack of double-sided tape!
(I love Scotch tape more than life itself).
Note: One thing I will not ask for again? Help with my fractions. I definitely won’t make THAT mistake again.
But a few weeks ago I felt a bit guilty about taking advantage of the situation.
You see, I was in a magic show at school and Mama promised she’d be there, despite the fact it was at a very bizarre time of 3:45 pm. And despite her incessant complaining about the random timing she did make it! I saw her just as I finished my trick.
But she looked kind of sad, and I heard her telling my dad that it took her an entire hour to get from the studio where they were filming to my school because of some crazy accident.
So anyway, I felt bad because I think she missed the entire show. And I could tell she was lying when she said her eyes were red because her “contacts were bothering her.”
Still, I have to admit that I enjoyed the cookies she brought home for me. And the Tootsie Rolls and 2 Hershey Kisses she let me have later that day.
Yes, I’m imperfect. But summer vacation is coming, and Ramadan is a week away, which means Mama will be in the most horrible mood ever.
So don’t judge! Things are going to get ugly around here…I have to take advantage of the good times.
*This syndrome appears to only affect mothers…fathers never seem to feel guilty. About anything. Ever.
We went to Philadelphia for a last-minute trip this past weekend, where I proceeded to fall flat on my face, in the middle of a busy intersection, for no less than the third time this year.
(In case you are bored / want to laugh at my expense, you can read about one of my previous trips here.)
My thoughts during my most recent “trip:”
My new and very ugly Keds may be comfortable, but maybe the fashion world is trying to tell me that ugly shoes are ugly shoes. And if I continue to wear them, I will continue to suffer the consequences.
Myself, my sunglasses, and the contents of my purse may be sprawled all over Sansom Street, but at least my favorite jeans are relatively unscathed.
If I don’t get up right now, I’m seriously going to get run over.
Luckily, Philadelphia is not New York, and no less than three nice individuals ran over to assist. They guided me to the side of the road, offered to call someone, offered to get me ice for my knee, and then offered to drive me home.
I was kind of speechless. And that RARELY happens.
My thoughts after my most recent “trip:”
My fall was probably karma coming back to bite on me on the !@#, since it happened minutes after I left Maya and Ali at a gelato place, insisting that I needed five minutes alone, where nobody was asking me if they could have more ice cream, another latte, and what were we going to do for dinner?
((In my defense, the entire weekend was spent alleviating my working parent guilt by making it the Maya show. I endured several children’s museums, 60 minutes at the US Mint, many parks, many gift shops, and the “Please Touch Museum” which, incidentally, made me want to throw myself into the Schuylkill River (Ali concurred).)*
The takeaway from this post: I am severely uncoordinated, impatient, and lack an appreciation for museums. But my jeans are in good shape.
*Sorry for the double parenthesis. But mathematically, it works.