I've known this for a long time, but I only recently found the words to express it in a book I'm reading called "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert.
It's a fantastic book about a woman's voyage through self-discovery after reaching a crisis point in her life. On the surface, I don't appear to have much in common with this woman. Her marriage fell apart, she has no children, she is much better paid as a professional writer than I will ever be.
But the more of her book I read, the more I realize we do have in common. Maybe it's part of being human, maybe it's part of being a woman. Whatever it is, I find that I'm in no hurry to keep reading her book. Either the truth hits too close to home, or I'm afraid no other author has tapped into "me" like she has and when I'm done reading her book, I'll be alone again.
In any case, one of the things that most resonated with me is her description of her busy, restless mind. A mind that just doesn't ever stop, well, going.
I know just what she means.
I remember going to a concert back in college with one of my roommates. It was either Nine Inch Nails or Depeche Mode - an unimportant detail, I guess. What I do remember is that it was at the Assembly Hall in Champaign and the whole concert, I was mesmerized. Not by the music or the group, but by my surroundings. A large black curtain was stretched across the width of Assembly Hall and I couldn't help but ponder the logistics. How do they sew such a large piece of material? How many pieces was it originally? Where are the seams? How do they lift it up to the rafters? Where do they store something like that and do they actually fold it up?
And then there are the lights. How do they change lightbulbs in large arenas and theaters anyway, and how often? I've never been to the Peoria Civic Center without contemplating the catwalks that are suspended high above the floor near the ceiling, and I spent hours during lectures in Foellinger Auditorium staring at chandeliers and ornate architectural details wondering how it gets cleaned, painted, etc...
Once while studying with a friend in the old U of I Library, I asked him if he ever thought about how many books were around us that hadn't been touched in YEARS - just left to sit on the shelves gathering dust. It boggled my mind to think about it. It was a thought that would have never occurred to him.
I think this all must have started sometime in high school, because that's when I started falling asleep at night with the TV on. I needed it, and now almost 20 years later, I still do. My iPod will do in a pinch if I'm traveling or without a TV by the bed, but really I rely on the dialogue to distract my brain enough to allow it to *pause* and let the sleep creep in.
In college, I thought this restless brain thing was a blessing and helped me to multi-task. After all, my highest GPA came in the semester I had the most classes and extra-curriculars. I literally scheduled my time by the hour that whole semester, and learned I do best under pressure and with strict deadlines.
But as I get older, the restless brain seems to be working against me. I suddenly feel like an adult with ADHD as I struggle to get through a day and complete just one thing I've started. Of course, it doesn't help that I have three little helpers undoing a lot of what I get done in a day and I know part of this is related to motherhood. But seriously, I don't know how many times I've returned to the laundry room to find the washer full of water but the lid still open, or piled up dirty dishes in the sink only to realize later the dishwasher was empty all along. Many days, the simple task of getting dressed seems like a noteworthy accomplishment when I manage to fit it in.
In her book, Gilbert goes on a spiritual journey to get in touch with her inner-self, and she struggles with meditation. I can relate, I struggle with the idea of even trying to meditate. There are so many obstacles in my way I feel overwhelmed and just give up before I even try to start. A better disciplined me would set the alarm clock and get up early for a little quiet time, but anyone who knows me knows I value every last second before the alarm goes off.
But more than that - I worry about how I would possibly quiet my brain for meditation. Gilbert traveled all the way to an Ashram in India and struggled with this... how can I possibly get it done in my central Illinois bedroom? I can just imagine myself sitting there calm, relaxed, and posed and trying to meditate while my brain takes a joyride. Inevitably, I would start thinking about all the things I need to do (i.e. laundry, clean, feed kids, get dressed, answer e-mails, write stories, etc...) And when I finished that list, I'd move to the "want to" list - i.e. rent a dumpster and clear out the basement and garage, start a successful Ebay venture to justify my Gymboree addiction, find part-time work that lets me keep my stay-at-home mom status, plant some flowers around the house, etc...
The real downside to having a restless brain of course is that you're so often preoccupied with random thoughts that you lose sight of what's right in front of you. My friend and I call this the "what's next" syndrome and I know a lot of people - restless brain or not - who have this. I can't even make lunch without thinking about what we'll have for dinner and I sometimes miss out on fun things with my kids because my brain has hit fast-forward and moved on to bedtime, tomorrow, or their wedding day.
So my resolution for this year (although I hesitate to use that word because I do not actually believe in resolutions) is to slow down. Not to smell the roses, but to appreciate my life. Slow down my schedule, slow down my brain, slow down my life. I can't slow down the passage of time of course, and I can't make myself or my children or my parents stop growing older. But I can absorb more of it.
Maybe that means I try some meditation. I guess I look at journaling as a form of meditation, so I'll start with that. And that brings me back to why I'm starting this blog. Not to add one more thing to my day, but to give me a place to more regularly journal my thoughts. To record the little things that make me take pause, and the thoughts and feelings I want to hold onto. To chronicle this life of mine that seems to be speeding by. If you enjoy reading it too, that will be a bonus.