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.