Tuesday, June 14, 2005

At Loose Ends

This is not going to be one of those posts where I lay out points in a logical order, and then wrap up with a sweeping, all-knowing conclusion. I really just want to share my state of mind with you and see if any of you feel the same way.

More and more these days, I seem to be at loose ends. By that, I don’t mean that I am losing my mind or am unable to function. I simply mean that something -- the disordered state of my mind, the fast pace of my life, the demands of daily existence, whatever -- prevents me from experiencing many things straight through as a whole.

That doesn’t explain it very well. Let me take another tack by giving you a few examples. Last week, when I was at home recovering from oral surgery, I started watching the movie “Sleepy Hollow” for the first time. I watched a bit of it the first day, got sidetracked, watched a bit more the second day, watched maybe 10 minutes more of it on Sunday, and I still have probably the last half yet to watch. When I do finally go back, I’ll probably either have to backtrack to figure out again what happened before, or else go ahead without getting the full import of the next actions.

At the same time, I probably have four or five other DVDs or tapes at home where I started watching them and at some point had to stop, meaning to go back and finish “soon.” Will I ever finish these? I can’t say.

I usually read a couple or three books at the same time. Not every book I read every day, but usually, the only time available to me to read is at night when I’m in bed, ready to fall asleep. I usually only get 10-15 minutes read a night before I zonk out, so you can imagine it takes me awhile to read a book all the way through. I read The Mill on the Floss awhile back and it took me about three months to finish. I just finished one of my favorites, The Phantom Tollbooth, again, but it took me a week, in fits and starts, in settings including my home, a swimming pool, and a doctor’s office. My 9-year-old daughter could have read this one easily in an afternoon.

If I get very long e-mails from friends, I sometimes read only a part and then save the remainder for later, “when I have the time.” Occasionally I just forget to come back at all. My scrapbook is four months behind, I have scores of household projects I’d like to do but have never gotten off the boards, and the only way I keep up with this blog is to seemingly steal time from other things assuredly more deserving -- like my family or my “real” job.

I know, I know, time management is a great thing, and I’ve got the books on my shelves to prove it. But I’m not sure this is just a time management problem. I sense it goes deeper than that. I sometimes feel I am spread over two or three lives, in two or three time zones, and it’s all I can do to remember what’s going on in each of them. As a result, I find myself more often than not thinking about some other thing somewhere else. When I’m talking to someone, or listening to a sermon on Sunday morning, I’m trying to concentrate totally, but I too often find myself wandering to other thoughts about other projects and other concerns (and pure daydreams to boot).

This is what I mean by being at loose ends. And I’m still not sure I have described it very well at all.

I can remember earlier days, in childhood and even in college, when things seemed to be simpler, or at least more compact. When I was a kid, and I got a new toy, I could spend all afternoon doing nothing but playing with it, and feeling totally absorbed and happy. Even a month later, I could still kill an entire afternoon by playing with that same toy (especially if it was Hot Wheels).

When I was a kid, maybe because we only had four channels, it was easy to choose what show to watch, and once it was on, I happily watched all the way to its conclusion, with total concentration. Even if it was something wretched or boring, I was focused. There was no “channel surfing” because there were no other real channels to surf to.

When I was in college, I can still remember how I had the time and focus to be able to watch a movie or read a book at an entire sitting. I was a big John Irving fan then, and when The Hotel New Hampshire came out, I can remember buying it about 4 p.m., going to my apartment, fixing a snack and a drink, and then proceeding to read it straight through without a break. I finished at 5 something in the morning, and for those 13 hours I was totally absorbed into that world the book created. No distractions.

Again, I have no answers here -- I’m not even sure I really have a definable problem. It’s just a feeling I’ve had for some time now, of being able to only experience the banquet of life in fitful wolfing downs of snack bits on the run, inhaling quick whiffs of gossip and news as I go, instead of sitting down and spending unhurried evenings with life serving up a full banquet with good, deep conversation to go with it.

Can anyone relate to this? If so, I welcome your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Yep. And I love The Phantom Tollbooth too!

Kate said...

Hoo boy, can I ever relate!

I feel like I can't even think a thought all the way through, because there are too many competing bits of information clamoring for my attention.

Kinda like CNN.

Jan said...

Oh, yes. I thought it was children that did it to me! I then found out I had a thyroid tumor with attendant depression. The medications for that helped me a great deal, as did a B Complex vitamin. Of course, I've gotta agree with Kate that all the competing information could be the main source of "loose ends." Not to mention, for me anyway, a certain amount of mid-life awareness of how much there is to do and how little time there really is. It was much easier to relax and enjoy a few hours of entertainment when I thought I would live forever!

Anonymous said...

Frank in Billerica says;
It was there in your post! And now in your sidebar!(Clock) TIME has caught up with you and your paying attention! When you were the child you spoke of, time meant nothing to you. (You were happy) Now it does and you're at loose ends to spend it meaningfully. Not quite so happy but ......... only you can finish this.

Anonymous said...

Frank in Billerica adds;
I gave up wearing a watch years ago, never missed it or anything important.

nightfly said...

Big M -

I understand the feeling, though with no family of my own, many of my distractions are self-imposed. Example - say it's Wednesday evening. Am I typing a blog entry, or replying to someone else's? Am I working on a story? Which story? (I've got at least four in progress.) Have I remembered to finish the schedule for the chess club, or the Bible study summary? And will I run out of clean socks before I get the chance to run off a load of laundry? Did I eat anything yet?

Life offers us so many more ends now, and technology offers us so many easy ways to reach for them. Having a few of them loose, once the exalted dream of the odd mad genuis or renaissance man, is now a reality for the masses. Call it the Democracy of Distraction, and congratulations - you've just been elected!

Katalina B said...

TOTALLY!!! (as in "...Can anyone relate to this?")

Ok..I'm old...but not that OLD, but I seem more recently to reflect on my life, where I came from, how I was raised, my values, etc. It seems that I am now viewing my life in increments or stages.

When I was young, I wanted to "hurry up" and to this/that, "hurry up" and go here/there. Basically, I wanted to "hurry up" and do, see, feel, go...well, I think you understand. Youth for me was "I want to "hurry up". (I can remember my grandmother telling me (because I was always saying/whining about time going too slow, "There will come a day and time in your life that you will find you do not have enough time and that it will 'fly' past you. So be careful what you wish for." Well, ya know...Dear Old Grandmother was absa-damn-loutely right!

Then came the mid-twenties/early-thirties... I had it all figured out! I could do it all! Hmm, let's see, I was a wife, a mother of a son and daughter, I was active in church, I was active in school, I worked a full-time job, I operated a sole-proprietorship lei business from my home, I was a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, I danced hula, I cooked most everything from scratch, I had creative hobbies..whew...did I leave anything out??? Oh and I was a proponent of Time Management--I HAD TO BE! I can remember thinking, "If you really want to do something, YOU WILL make the time for it." I just couldn't understand those around me that said they never had time! I really thought they were just making excuses for themselves! Wrong! Time is relative.

Then came my 40's. Kids graduating. Kids getting married. Kids having kids. And you know what??? Suddenly (or so it seemed), I became one of those people who said, "I just don't have enough time." Why was that? I no longer had multiple hats to wear as in my 20's-30's. In fact, things really were not as "busy" for me. So where was my time going? I really can't say...I only know...I did not have much of it!

Now I am in my mid-fifties. My husband and I think a lot about our retirement and where and what we will do when that time comes. (When I was younger...I NEVER EVEN DREAMED/THOUGHT ABOUT RETIREMENT. "Retirement!?! Whut the 'Hail' wuz that!?!) LOL... At any rate, I look at things/life so much differently now. Rather than looking for the "perfect blossom", I realize that "...they are all perfect..." I know that my life is not perfect, and yet I know that it is. It is because God gave me this life and I will live it as fully as He wants me to live it.

Muley, I can't answer your question..if there was indeed a question...I can only say that I can relate to your question...whatever that question was...

PS...now I know why I don't answer comments as often as I would like..because I never know when enough to quit!

Katalina B said...

Oh...forgot to add...
"Ah cain't wait for mah 60's-70's...whut'll ah be ah reflectin' ohn thay-enn???" (I know...I know...Hawaiian's aren't supposed to talk that way...I'm from 'southern' Hawaii!)

Oh..by the way...I really CAN wait...I just thought [er...wondered] what my outlook would be then...that's if I'm still able to remember what an "outlook" is!)