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NOW

A blog about writing, relationships, society, parenting and being human.

 

ONE DARN THING

Coley Gallagher

I am a wimp. A tap on my bumper is all it takes.
Happier toes

Happier toes

     A few years back I tripped on the basement stairs and broke my second toe. It hurt for weeks. I had been reading a text on my phone before I lost my balance. Two months later, after visiting a friend, I fell down half a flight of stairs at Evanston Hospital. This time I was typing a message on my phone and missed a step. I toppled down four more before righting myself on the landing. Some guy in scrubs coming up the stairs watched the whole debacle. When he asked if I was okay, I assured him I was, which was true. I was more embarrassed than hurt. After that second fall, I imposed a new safety rule on myself: No Texting On Stairs.
    It looks ridiculous to see in writing, but No Texting On Stairs has worked out for me. For three years and four months, I have refrained from texting while climbing or descending stairs and no falls.
    I'm wondering if summer may require additional safety measures. A couple nights back, I was stopped at a red light behind a late model Suburban decorated with Chicago Blackhawks and Transportation Safety Administration stickers. I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going, so took the opportunity to feel around in my purse for my phone. I planned to Google the address before the light turned green. As I rifled through my bag, my foot slipped off the brake and I bumped the Suburban. Or I assume I did, as those four seconds are a complete blank. After I realized what happened, I pressed the flashers and got out, expecting little, if any, damage to the larger vehicle. The other driver also emerged, distressed, hand to her neck complaining of pain. She assessed her bumper and pointed out scratches and a ding despite her car's superior height and the four inch protrusion of a steel trailer hitch that had embossed a trailer hitch-shaped imprint on my fender. I didn’t argue. Instead, I apologized and asked about her neck. She softened. Traffic breaking around us, we talked a few minutes and practically hugged after exchanging contact and insurance information. No one was hurt, cars mostly fine. All was well, but I was rattled. I knew it could have been worse. If I didn’t slow down and pay better attention I could truly hurt someone.
    Now, I love summer. LOVE it, love it only slightly less than I love my children love it. The promise of summer has gotten me through 17 freezing, gray winters and 17 frigid, wet springs in Illinois. Although I adore summer, my brain takes a hit this time of year. My thinking’s more muddled than usual, senses duller. And, lord, am I forgetful. Monday I missed an appointment. Next night — after thumping the Suburban — I met a new parent at my son’s baseball game. Once she said her kid’s name, I remembered I had forgotten to RSVP for his bar mitzvah party. When I mentioned it, she explained the party had already taken place.
    Oops. Oh, well.
    Maybe it’s biological, seasonal, the blessed heat slowing everything down, my brain included. And, let’s be honest, the children bear partial blame, or at least I suspect there’s a connection to my feeling flummoxed and their being around more. I hate to jinx us, but two weeks in, we’re having a pretty rocking time: swimming, friends, basketball, soccer, epic Nerf gun battles, gallons of of ice cream, later bedtimes. Still, they’re here. A lot. I’m sitting at my desk right now while one’s out back waging Nerf war with his friends and the other two are making a Lego movie. One of their handsome faces could appear in my doorway any moment, or give them time, and a violent argument will erupt over a disputed mini figure. Feeding them, asking them repeatedly to pick up towels and put dishes in the dishwasher, to lock their bikes, wears on a person. I am constantly stopping and starting, switching to something else, answering the door, then back to what I was doing or dropping it entirely — "task switching" is the clinical term. No surprise my thinking’s cloudy and my reaction time blunted.    
   Since I am a wimp, a tap on a bumper is all it takes to remind me I can only handle one thing at a time, that I only really want to be doing one thing at a time, that I am better at whatever I’m doing when I only do one thing at a time.
    It's hard to stop. I’m a time maximizer. I like to get shit done. I constantly switch tasks or perform two or more simultaneously. Even though I feel productive, research proves the inefficiency of this style. Apparently, the divided tasks aren’t performed as well as if they had been performed one at a time. This practice could even be bad for my brain, which could explain my muddled head.
    As an experiment, I’m implementing a new rule this summer: One Thing At A Time.
    I figure it covers and could even replace No Texting On Stairs, which could be translated as Walk Down Stairs ONLY, Then Text ONLY or, more succinctly, One Thing At A Time. Doing only one thing feels a little wussy, indulgent, old-timey and out of fashion, and, despite scholarly consensus, I’m concerned I won’t get as much done. Even still, I’m going to try. If nothing else, the roads around these parts will be safer. I may also find more joy in the sunshine, spontaneity and, gulp, chaos of summer.
 

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