One of my favorite old movies is “What Women Want”. Not just because I’m a sucker for all romantic-comedy-chick-flicks, and not just because in those days (14 years ago), Mel Gibson was looking quite fine. I love it because of the overall premise: after an unfortunate accident involving a bathtub and a hair dryer, the character Nick (played by Mel) can suddenly hear women’s thoughts. As he explains to his buddy in the movie, he can hear “personal, private stuff, the stuff no one on earth is ever supposed to hear.”
The beauty of this dilemma is that he varies between thrilled to have this new talent, and somewhat horrified by what he hears. He is a man who finds out how much women are constantly carrying around in their brains. One of the best lines in the whole movie is when he states that “women worry ALL THE TIME.”
What the movie misses, however, as Nick is listening in to various women’s contemplations, is the quantity of thoughts happening at any given moment. He hears one thought at a time per woman. What he doesn’t apparently experience is the rapid-fire multitude of considerations we have going on in our noggins every minute.
Part of being a busy Real Woman is the fact that our brains are running on express mode all day long – and sometimes even when we sleep. I recently joined in for part of a workshop about Multitasking, and how it is an ineffective way to work, even though we all attempt to do it. (I say I joined in for part of it, because I literally was double-booked and had to step out for part of it to go to another appointment. Clearly I’m a slow learner.) Rather than trying to give partial focus to several things at once, we really should focus on one thing at a time, and do it well. We also should practice mindfulness, which basically means “being in the moment.”
I get it. I really do. Especially the mindfulness part. We all need to be more present in every moment we are given in life. We should slow down, not spend our time constantly running in circles trying to do it all. It is one thing to get our bodies to stop multitasking…but how do we tell our brains to slow down too?
I realized the irony of this during my drive into work yesterday. Physically, I was doing just one thing…driving. I am fortunate to have a very easy, short commute – approximately 15 minutes in length. Yet in that short amount of time, I realized that my brain had kicked into some sort of warp-speed stream of consciousness. And I know that just about every other RW was likely experiencing a similar issue during her commute, or while getting ready for her day. It went something like this:
As soon as I get in, I need to take care of those emails and put through that project; wait, what time is that meeting? Darn, I wanted to try calling Dad then, so that won’t work, I’ll have to try him later; I need to run some errands after work; but wait, if I don’t do my lunch walk, I can instead run to Target and get some of what I need there; if I do that, I can go to workout later – wait, did I pack socks in my gym bag? –then I can do a short run to the grocery store. What were those two items I needed to add to my list? Dang, I just thought of them in the shower, why can’t I remember them now? We’ll need to do something quick for dinner before my son’s band practice, maybe panini’s or quesadillas; I need to remind him to decide who to invite to his birthday party. I wonder what kind of invitations would be considered cool for a teenager; Should we even do invitations? Oh, I’m supposed to check in with the doctor today at my treatment, do I have any questions for her? I really need to get some writing time in tonight and over the weekend; Ugh, there’s a fly trapped in here, roll the windows down; I think it’s going to rain, did I close all the windows at home? Oh, I meant to remind hubby to get dog food on the way home…..
Before I knew it, I was at work, and my brain was in overdrive. While I walked into the building, it was time to rein it in and focus on my work activities. I wondered what my husband had thought about on his ride in. Like all men, he probably focused on one topic…perhaps cleaning the pool after work, or preparing a work presentation…. Or he simply sang along with the radio. I know for sure he would have been horrified, just as Nick had been in the movie, to have a “glimpse” into what was going on in my head.
Luckily, I am usually able to eventually shut down all of these thoughts at the end of the day and get some sleep. But many RW’s out there are not so fortunate. I regularly hear stories of RW’s waking up in the middle of the night and not getting back to sleep because they start to think too much…. or they have truly complex and bizarre dreams. This only happens occasionally to me – most of the time I’m so exhausted that I sleep soundly; although I did have a dream the other night that involved being out with some co-workers at a pub that provided a large serve-yourself French Fry bar. Don’t know the meaning behind it, but I figure that’s not such a bad concept.
I like to rationalize this unwanted form of internal multi-tasking by believing that it is good to keep our minds active. I’ve read plenty of articles and heard professional speakers discuss how the brain is a muscle that needs exercise, and as we age, we need to keep it busy and healthy. However I’m sure those health professionals mean that we should be doing clever memory tests and analytical word and number games, not scurrying through our to-do lists and our worries to start our day.
I do believe whole-heartedly that we need to more often try to get to “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” I also believe truly achieving that mental state falls into the category of “easier said than done.” As we head into a long weekend, let’s all try to cut back a bit on the craziness. Slow our bodies down, and try to have a calm, rational talk with our brains to kick it down a notch or two. Let’s aim to be in one moment at a time – not 20.