I'm standing in line at the grocery store, waiting to buy eggs and a few other essential items for the week. It's Saturday afternoon, and the store is crowded—everybody in the suburbs seems to be out shopping today.
The elderly female cashier is chatting with the woman in front of me, who appears to be complaining about a minor health issue. "I knew someone who had a brain tumour—can you believe it?—and she couldn't drive for weeks," the cashier commiserates as she puts the woman's items in her shopping bags at a leisurely pace. No one seems to be in any rush to finish this transaction...at least, no one but me.
I find myself gritting my teeth, barely resisting the temptation to roll my eyes. Why can't she just get on with it? I think impatiently, shifting from one foot to the other. The kids will be up from their nap soon; I need to get home. I still have to pack the diaper bag before we leave for dinner, and I want to throw in a load of laundry before we go...
Then I stop for a second and think about it. Am I really in so much of a hurry that I can't let these nice women have a brief conversation? Does it really matter if I get home five minutes later than planned?
Looking at the fabric of my life, I realize that I spend most of my waking hours rushing. Rushing to get dressed and ready for work before the kids wake up. Rushing to get the kids ready for daycare. Rushing to the GO station to catch my train. Rushing to get to work on time so that I can leave on time. Rushing home to get dinner on the table before the kids melt down.
Life with two small children—with both my husband and I working full time—is hectic and often exhausting. I'm so used to trying to cram every spare second with activities that I've become the queen of multi-tasking.
But here's the downside: I'm not
sure I remember how to "single-task" anymore. It can be difficult to concentrate on just one thing; I sometimes find myself flitting from task to task like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower, settling nowhere. And when I do have five minutes to do nothing, I find it hard to let go of all the balls I'm juggling. To just be present.
That means I occasionally lose sight of what's important, too. When I'm playing dress-up with my kids, I shouldn't be worrying about emptying the dishwasher or folding the laundry. Conversely, when I'm at work, I shouldn't be thinking about what we're going to have for dinner.
And when I'm waiting in line at the grocery store, I shouldn't be stressing out because I have to wait an extra five minutes. Instead, I should treat that five minutes as an unexpected gift of time to myself—because, as any parent knows, even doing errands without the kids still has the ring of freedom to it. That's what I'll strive for, in the future. Even when we run out of milk.