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?

Brain Tumor Awareness Month. Day X.

Yesterday, I was so busy enjoying Mothers Day, I forgot to write a daily post, which ruined my perfect record so far this month. Now I don’t know what to call this day, so I’ve dubbed it “Day X.”

The truth is, I didn’t enjoy all of Mother’s Day.

I enjoyed when my son Matt came over to visit. What a simple gift– just to be with him. You don’t take that stuff for granted when you’ve rumbled with a brain tumor like my family has.

I didn’t enjoy that my chronic health issues again caused me to cancel our plans to go out.

I enjoyed talking with my other son Steve, and my mom, on the phone,

I enjoyed when my husband salvaged the day by cooking dinner on the grill, while I plopped down on a lawn chair in the beautiful sun with a glass of wine and a book.

That’s life. Ups and downs and sideways and flip-flops.

Since life is that way, today I decided I have to break my commitment to daily posts.

I hate doing it. I hate setting a goal and then reneging. I wish I didn’t go public, that I had kept my intentions to myself.

But managing my health conditions and finishing my memoir manuscript are higher priorities than daily posting, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all.

Sometimes it takes more courage to quit than it does to soldier on, even though quitting still feels like crap. (Although I have a feeling as soon as I hit “publish,” I’ll feel relieved.)

There were so many other things I wanted tell you this month about how a brain tumor impacted my life. I’ll get to them eventually, just not as quickly as I had hoped.

And if I leave anything out, well, you’ll just have to buy my book.

 

Brain Tumor Awareness Month, Day 9.

I was so engrossed in revising a draft of my memoir manuscript, I forgot to write an entry earlier today. So here are some random excerpts from my manuscript, and your opportunity to give me feedback.

“I wonder who I would be, had my child been perfect like I expected.”

(This is currently the opening line. Would you continue reading?)

“When Matthew was a baby, Mike and I had a conversation about kids getting teased. He said it happens to all kids, which horrified me–the thought that my child would be subject to emotional pain and I would be powerless to prevent it.”

(What about you–have you felt this way?”)

“It was like trying to catch a firefly. Mike and I grasped at the flash of light in the darkness, thinking, “We got this,” but our hands came up empty. So we grabbed a net. At the next flash, further away, we lunged with the net, swooping at the air, but the holes were too big. We got a finer net, but the next flash was too brief and too far away and so unexpected that we couldn’t capture it. We waited patiently for the next flash, but we didn’t have a chance.

(Have you ever felt this way in trying to figure out what’s going on with your child?)