Open Tabs (not the bar kind)

TabsI read an article about taking a day off for rest. Another about why we should spend time doing nothing. I save a quote about how I am not being behind schedule to reassure me, even though I know I am always behind schedule. Another: “Reduce the noise; focus on the essentials.” I save a clip from a story: “Work harder in the areas that matter most, while accepting it’s sometimes okay to let the smaller stuff slide.” Good, good. These quotes and sayings, like incantations or mantras, will surely fix me.

I have so many open tabs. Literally and figuratively. My monkey-mind spins wildly at 5 a.m. when someone’s car alarm blares for the twentieth time, waking me again. Reminders, pieces of advice, worry about past events, emails filling my in box, filling my head. Things I need to do and things I want to do: household chores, phone calls, essays to write, books to read, movies to watch, a TV series to check out, friends to see, gift to buy, mail to send. And I can’t imagine what writer’s block even means, I have SO MANY IDEAS.

At work, I look up to my oversized monitor and see the dozens of open tabs in my browser simultaneously: work email, personal email, two different email platforms, the four social media channels I manage: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, the website I manage (at least two tabs for this — one to work in, one to preview), a digital archives collection, several New York Times articles I mean to read but will likely never get to if I’m honest with myself. Which I am not, and that is part of the problem.

Someone said we can’t actually multitask. That’s something only an actual robot (or computer?) can do. I remind my stressed coworkers we are not robots. We need to breathe. Am I breathing?

On my phone, even my small Safari browser has things I’ve left open for weeks, months? They are like some weird modern personal profile: writing advice, yoga workouts, visitation dreams, local farm shares, my husband’s latest record, personal spending plans, Modern Dog. One article reads: “Meditating on Your Death Could Make You Happier” followed by another, “Stevie Nicks is Having a Moment.” Sick insights into my psyche.

Nights I lie in bed and think about how much sleep I should be getting as I continue to hold the small screen up, wrists aching after a time, going back and forth between the same things as my desktop version of this mad device, thinking, reading, responding, another idea, should probably email that to myself so I don’t forget. My inbox has a minimum of fifteen emails in it FROM MYSELF.

My brain mirrors my computer in its complexity, its messiness, its endless ability to go in too many directions, its inability to ever shut down. I go analog and write lists by hand in notebooks that I stuff in my purse, on papers I tape to my desk. I find Post-It notes stuck to my dresser, my car’s dashboard, my computer screen at home. Some say writing things helps you remember. This is a blessing and a curse. I remember what needs doing, and how it isn’t getting done.

I am sleep-deprived after recent hot nights and the thoughts racing and the car alarm blaring and the cat jumping up on me. But I can’t fall asleep because I’m thinking about how my manuscript needs revision and I need to polish up the proposal and get my shit together and stop being so distracted.

I’m about turn 45 and I feel like have adult-onset-ADHD. That isn’t a thing, but it sounds like my thing.

So today, I subscribe to a magazine called Simplify. They will email me tips, quotes, articles, listicles about how to get things done, but also to remind me to live in the moment, clear the clutter, to get rest, enjoy nature, do nothing.

Surely it will fix me.


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