“It seems to me that one of the great luxuries of life at this point is to be able to do one thing at a time, one thing to which you give yourself wholeheartedly. Unitasking.” ~ Cooked; A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan.
I sat in my girlfriend’s backyard gazing at the cross on the hill. I loved the three years that I lived in this place; the hours melting away as we caught up with each other’s lives. Unitasking. Undivided attention. It is a luxury I rarely allow myself and as I admitted this to my girlfriend, we toasted with red wine and her decadent brownies.
Hard as I try, my weekends fill quickly. On Friday afternoon two hours of work time was dedicated to merging calendars and penning my paper calendar in technicolor. I had conflicts, this weekend, and my drive south was in jeopardy of being cancelled. This girlfriend has been scheduled on my calendar since early May; with a few revisions. How to juggle it all?
The hubs swooped in; our family split-in-two; encouraging me to skip a familial obligation to visit my friend. Cultivating friendships. This is my constant struggle. Life always gets in the way and, multitasker that I am, try to do it all. When stretched thin by the quantity of obligations, the quality of my work and time suffers. It is a work in progress to condition my brain to focus on one thing at a time; day by day. Living simply is harder than it appears. My girlfriend’s plaque on her wall says it all.
Four years span between these shots as our youngest sons continue to grow. Their personalities are unchanged from the day they met bumping shopping carts in a military commissary, six years ago. They both fill in their namesake with vibrant strokes; ready to tackle the world. When their name is uttered, both respond as one.
I continue to read through Michael Pollan’s book, slowly. It is something to savor; both a luxury and a didactic experience as he explores how cooking has transformed our lives for better and for worse. Guilty of never having enough time in a day, cooking is one item I would rather relegate to someone else. Most people choose the same whether it be a chef in a gourmet restaurant, young burger flippers slaving over a greasy grill or a TV dinner created by large food corporations. Our multitude of choices are vast and colorful. I can have organic Indian cuisine via microwave, a pre-chopped and portioned salad, a fast food meal from a local, farm-to-table establishment but none of the above is made by my own hands. Pollan researches if this really saves us time and found most Americans decreased meal times to, approximately 30 minutes but increased TV and Internet time by two hours. The obesity rate increases due to secondary eating; the snack like items created by food science and large corporations. Granola bars, puffy, spicy red powder licking tortilla chips, protein bars and shakes…is this stuff really food? It purports to be healthy. It is fortified with vitamin D. But reading the long list of ingredients, how many of them are identified as a real food? High fructose corn syrup infiltrates most of these things.
It made me appreciate the hubs who spent three hours creating two dishes. Our family shares meals at the dinner table and are forced to communicate with one another. Can you pass the food over here? When observing my hubs sweating his mirepoix I am motivated to assist and create. I can chop onions, make another side dish, boil some tea. The wilting fresh produce in my fridge that I guiltily throw away each night before the trash gets picked up now gets used. My favorite part. Leftovers.
I found myself, today, in the hills that bear my name as we celebrated another family milestone amongst the graves. I’m amazed at the amount of families who sit amidst the green hills; enjoying one another’s company. I did not grow up with this tradition; strange as it is, but it unifies our family as we remember and share stories. Later we sat together enjoying Korean BBQ eating family style. Can you pass the galbi? Mom, I want rice please. The hubs and his octopus, though, stayed on his end of the table. The older generation laughed that us, kids, can’t be without our phones.
The only time I picked up my smartphone was to snap pictures. I make a conscious effort NOT to constantly grab my cell as emails and texts ring or chime their existence. This is another Herculean effort not to multitask. The emails and texts aren’t that important and, unless I am expecting some very important. vital information, I apologize to those I am with while I check. When I visit with friends or family, particularly those who I don’t see often, it is one of my biggest pet peeves when they sit and text/Tweet/Facebook/Instagram on their smartphone. I want to shout at them, You are wasting my time! I took the time to be sitting here before you and you should do the same! When I catch myself in the act I have to physically put the phone out of sight.
It is an addiction; this instant gratification. Smartphones, it seems, make our minds dumb. When asked about something we don’t know, do we take the time to think about it? Nope. Out comes the search engine on the smartphone. We do not know how to communicate with one another except via text. The art of conversations are slowly making way to acronyms and finger flying; the two participants sometimes sitting across the table from one another. We multitask and utilize the various split screens and apps to make our lives easier; earbuds plugged in. Just as with secondary eating, soon our phones will take away socialization with secondary communicating. We rely, as I guiltily type on this blog, on sharing thoughts without talking; no eye contact whatsoever. The act of sitting across from someone, learning social etiquette, will soon be a thing of the past. I pray this is not the case. One day at a time.