When your brain can’t multitask.

Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

When I was in Los Angeles recently to visit my elderly parents, one of the first things I did was work on a grocery list. I planned to go shopping later in the day.

Thick in the middle of peanut butter and canned pumpkin on my list, my dad sat down to give me directions to the supermarket. I couldn’t process what he was saying. At that moment, toilet paper and paper towels were my priority, not traffic lights and left turns.

     “Dad, hold on, let me finish the list before you give me directions.” 
“Well, it’s simple, Karen, you just…”
“Dad, give me a minute so I can pay attention.”
“I’ll draw you a map, Karen. If you turn right on Esplanade…”

My brain is OK with incoming information from multiple sources if the info is easily understood, like writing a reminder note, or hearing a funny story, or being asked if I want my coffee warmed up.

But for complex information, (and even directions around the block are complex for me), my brain can only handle one topic at a time.

My brain can’t multitask.

I can multitask physically, like when I make coffee at home. With my right hand, I pull the kitchen faucet hose extension over to the coffee maker to fill it. At the same time, I can open the drawer to pull out a coffee filter with my left hand, and plop it in the basket, without accidentally redirecting the faucet hose to the floor or my pants. (Usually. )

My brain can’t do that. It has folders for important information, and if the folder is closed, new data doesn’t get in.

     “DAD,” I finally said, “the folder in my head for directions is closed. Anything      you tell me now has nowhere to go.”

Then he understood.

If your brain is unable to multitask, a closed folder is a great visual.

My brain’s inability to multitask is the reason I haven’t posted here in awhile. I’ve had my Memoir Manuscript folder open, and not much else.

No  multitask for this manuscript.
My manuscript–all 86,000+ words of it!

Last week, after 20 years, I finished my manuscript.

My editor will have a red pen lollapalooza with it, I’m sure, but the bulk of the writing is done.

And now, I have to open some folders that have been lying dormant for too long.

The first folder, which I opened this morning, was Website Blogs. And here we are! I’ve been neglectful of this folder lately, so my very belated New Year’s Resolution is to open this folder and post monthly.

As soon as I hit “publish” here, another folder will open: Create and launch my quarterly Newsy Letter.

My Newsy Letter is how I’ll keep in touch with my email subscribers. Here’s what it will include:

  • One totally useless and possibly embarrassing fact about me.
  • A snippet from my memoir, and an update on my publishing journey. I want you to be the first to know when I get a book deal! (Notice I said “when,” not “if.” I’m working the positive thinking magic!)
  • Links to essays I’ve had published. Hopefully I’ll have some new ones out soon.
  • Books I’ve read, and upcoming authors to watch.
  • An inspirational quote.

My Newsy Letter will be a short page, four times per year. I promise it won’t overload your inbox. But if you don’t subscribe via email, you’ll miss out!

It’s so simple–just find the “Enter email” box, then, well, enter your email address. You don’t even need to have a brain folder open–it’s that simple. My 87-year-old dad has done it, and if he can, you can, too.

Speaking of my dad, once I opened the directions folder in my brain, he told me just how to get where I needed to go, and I didn’t get lost. One task completed at a time. That’s how I roll.

How do you roll? Can you multitask? If not, what folder do you have open today?

A universal message.

Season's wish
My words, my friend’s image, our universal message.

My wish for you in this season of celebrations is simple and universal. It’s a message you can embrace guilt-free, year-round, regardless of your faith or lack thereof.

Isn’t it refreshing to find a universal message that everyone can embrace?

Stuff yourself with joy,

Gorge on goodwill,

And drink in all the love you can find.

I wish this for you today, and with every celebration in the years to come!

(Thanks to my friend Sam Ciraulo at sciraulophotography.com for his beautiful image!)

How inaccurate memory is, even without brain damage. 

It’s so weird how deceptive memory can be.  I’ve been cautioned about this in the memoir-writing world, which is why I try to fact-check my story as much as possible.

I kept all my calendars and many receipts from our various medical appointments from the three years when we struggled to figure out what was wrong with Matthew. So I know I got my dates and basic facts right.

And I check my memories against Michael’s. He wasn’t there for many of the earlier medical appointments, but he came to all the latter ones.

At one of the final appointments before Matthew’s brain tumor diagnosis, Michael and I were both there, and we remember it differently.

We both remember the doctor examining Matthew and saying something like, “Well, obviously no brain tumor here.”

I thought it was Matthew’s eye-rolling that prompted the comment. Eye-rolling was Matthew’s first symptom, appearing when he was eight. Not just an occasional eye-roll, but over and over and over. Think ocular ferris-wheel.

Here’s what I wrote about that appointment in a draft:

The doctor explained that a brain tumor diagnosis is ruled out if the patient can roll their eyes. 

In other words, eye-rolling means no brain tumor. Brain tumor means no eye-rolling. The two can not co-exist. At least not on paper, not in medical books, and not in the minds of the best doctors we could find.

When Michael read my draft, he insisted that it wasn’t the eye-rolling that elicited the “no brain tumor comment”; it was what the doctor saw, or didn’t see, when he shone a light into Matthew’s eyes.

I was convinced my version was correct.

So I did some research. The entire world-wide web couldn’t give me a shred of evidence to support my theory. Then, yesterday, I connected with a brain tumor survivor, a doctor, who confirmed that my theory and my memory were wrong.

So I’ll rewrite that scene and continue to fact-check.

How inaccurate memory is, even without brain damage.