When your brain can’t multitask.

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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?

Personal growth—before, during, and after.

Personal growth. C.S.Lewis quote.
Personal growth wisdom from C. S. Lewis.

I’m at a lull in my memoir manuscript. I’d been tackling the After section—the two decades or so since my son’s 1997 diagnosis with a brain tumor. It’s this time period–after the climax of the story–when most of my personal growth occurred. 

Most of my personal growth occurred in the After.

Before and During are in semi-final draft form; writing their dramatic scenes was easy compared to wrangling the life lessons of After onto the page. That’s why After is still partially in the “shitty first draft” stage (per Anne Lamott). And The End has not yet been penned.

One of my followers on social media wondered recently if she had missed any posts here on my website, since she hadn’t seen anything lately. Another follower who subscribes via email made a similar comment.

Nope. They, and you, haven’t seen new posts here because I’ve been working on the “business” side of my authorship trajectory. I’ve been trying to make a name for myself in the writing world, trying to get “found.” In the process, I’ve spread myself thinner than gingerbread cookie dough. 

For me, maintaining the business side of a writing career requires personal growth daily.

I wish I could clone myself or at least grow another pair of hands, but until that technology is invented, I’m stuck with fitting all my to-dos into the same 24 hours that you have.

But I do worry that some of you are missing out, so I’ll share some “business side” insider info.

Here’s the inside scoop:

If you follow or like my Facebook writer page, you’ll get to know me better, not just as a writer, but as a person. My page is strictly non-political (how often does that happen nowadays)? In fact, I strive to post only messages that bring people together, rather than tear them apart. Recently, I’ve told some stories of Christmas tree ornaments I made when I was first married. The message is not about Christmas per se, it’s about the lessons we glean from the mementos we save. 

You can follow me on Facebook by clicking here.

And if you subscribe via email, you’ll get in on some action coming up in 2019! For example, I’d love your help in tweaking my new header design for this website. And I hope to create a guided meditation audio with your input. It will be FREE to email subscribers only! If you’re not sure whether you’re on my email list, don’t worry–you won’t get duplicate emails if you sign up twice. 

Just scroll over or down to the “Enter email” box, and sign up to get in on the action in 2019!

There. Business commercial over. Back to my manuscript…

As hard as it is to write the After section of my memoir, the final chapter makes it all worthwhile. I’m blessed to have that reality. So many sad stories don’t have happy endings; mine does. My journey of personal growth was long and arduous, but I survived. As did my son. In fact, we are both thriving.

In fact, The End is so surprising and uplifting, I’m thinking of naming the final chapter 

“And then a miracle happened.”

Tis the season for miracles, is it not? I’ll be looking for moments amidst the holiday hoopla to create a miracle of words on the pages of my memoir. 

And as soon as After becomes Finished, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Birthday: What it births within us.

Birthday party pose.
Me at my 60th birthday party, before the festivities.

Today, I am 59 and 364/365ths. Tomorrow, I turn 60. Happy Birthday to me.

Other than semantics—“I am 59” vs. “I am 60”—the difference between today and tomorrow for me isn’t insignificant.

Sometimes one day does make a huge difference. Yesterday’s mid-term elections, for example. And, of course, the presidential election of 2016. That year, my birthday—November 8—fell on election day. All I asked for was that our country heal from its deep divisions.

That wish didn’t come true, but I haven’t given up.

I threw myself a birthday party a few days ago on Sunday, November 4. My husband Michael would have planned something special to mark my turn of a decade, but I had a vision of how I wanted to celebrate, so I planned it myself. 

Half the excitement was planning my own birthday party.

I rented a room, selected hors d’oeuvres, and ordered a white cake with vanilla frosting and lots of chocolate roses. I downloaded music, and invited some of my closest friends.

Friends—a room full of them. Something that eluded me for good chunks of my life. And this year, I have more friends than I could invite. 

The party was symbolic of the personal growth I’ve experienced in my 50s, especially in the last two years as I’ve launched my writing career. The celebration filled me with such gratitude, I was moved to tears. Repeatedly. 

The day gave birth to a whirlwind of emotions.

I’ll need time unravel the tangle, and after I’ve done that, I’ll fill you in. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my down time tomorrow. When Michael gets home from work, we’ll order some takeout, have a drink, and savor the last two pieces of birthday cake left over from the party. (I claim the one with more frosting.) It will be the perfect counterweight to Sunday’s frenzy. 

Finally, as my 59th year ends and my 60th begins, I am starting to truly understand who I am. I like the woman I’ve discovered more than I thought I would. 

Maybe it’s time to rethink birthdays. Maybe when we’re well into adulthood, it’s not as important that a birthday commemorates the day of our birth. Instead of looking back, maybe we should look forward. 

Maybe the real importance of a birthday is to see what it births–within us.