Friday, April 5, 2013
My name is Erica Berman.
I am a multitasking addict.
I finished my mindfulness course and I feel like it was an incredibly valuable experience. I'll be honest. I don't think I am ever going to meditate. Not in the way we were instructed in this course anyways. But I have discovered that many of the ideas and concepts in mindfulness are powerful, thought-provoking and potentially life changing. So much so, that it is almost unsettling. The teacher warned us that the 'symptoms' that brought us to the course may worsen at first, and this definitely was the case for me. After 3 years of living insomnia-free, I could not sleep for 2 straight weeks. My head was so full of ideas. I was having revelations about myself and about the world. I could barely keep up with it all. It was all very positive, but also completely overwhelming.
Meditation is meant to be a fundamentally goal-less endeavor. You are supposed to do nothing for a said period of time with no expectations of the outcome. It is not a means of self-improvement. It is about self-acceptance. Accepting things as they are. For many of us, myself included, this is a state of being that we are not used to, nor comfortable with. Most of us are always striving.
Although I have always been the worrying, obsessive, perfectionist type, this all became amplified after Little A was born. Even though I recovered from my post-partum anxiety episode that I have discussed before, ever since I have been strugging with a lot of existential angst. It's mostly been related to my career and, I suppose you could say, identity.
It was tough to go back to school at the age of 35 for another degree after already having several to my name but still not feeling fulfilled. It was tough to have no income whatsover for 2 years. It was tough to begin a new career, to get used to being self-employed and used to having no stable income nor benefits. But this would probably be tough for anyone. What I discovered through my meditation and mindfulness experiences, is that what lay beneath the anxiety was a whole shit-load of guilt. Guilt that Adam is now, and probably always will be, the primary breadwinner. Guilty that since having 2 children, I have made decisions that have significantly DECREASED our household income. Guilt that if anything ever happens to Adam, the girls and I will be up Shits Creek. Guilt. Guilt and more Guilt!
I also realized that the basis of all this guilt is money. In my previous career I was very self-critical because I felt I was in a meaningless career. The good income didn't matter much to me. Then I did a 180 on myself and started beating myself up about having a sparser income, even though I now adore my job and feel incredibly gratified by my work.
Processing all this made me come to terms with things. I knew this was in store when I made the decision to switch careers. Adam and I are doing fine financially. We have less than many of our friends, but we are still not lacking for ANYTHING. At least 90% of other Canadians are probably worse off. All things considered, we are very fortunate.
In addition, my professional life is going great. The trials and tribulations of self-employment are what they are but there are many advantages too. I am blissfully happy and I realized that this too was causing me anxiety. I have that tendency - like most anxious personality types - to think if things are too good, than the other shoe is about to drop. But I've now rationalized it this way: Things are good. Great, actually. But they are not perfect. Clients cancel. Office rent goes up. Some clients never pay up. I would really LIKE to make more money. I wish we could afford to update our kitchen, get a new front door, repaint the interior of our house, take more vacations. But right now we can't. I have now reached a state of self-acceptance. Things are what they are. This doesn't mean I won't strive to do better but I am done with the self-flagellation. I'm actually really, really proud of everything I've accomplished over the past few years! I am always telling my clients to let go of guilt and regret, since they are completely unproductive thoughts and feelings. You cannot change the past! You are only in control of the present. It's time for me practice what I preach.
I'm also making some other changes. The reason I took this mindfulness course in the first place was because my brain felt overloaded and I was on autopilot half the time. It was affecting my memory and my organization. I also felt like it compromised my relationship with the girls since half the time I was in la la land. Parenting young kids is tough, if I am going to appreciate each stage before it's gone, I've got to catch all the special moments as they happen. Because some days they're pretty fleeting!
I have come to the conclusion that part of my problem is I have a mutitasking addiction and it really just ends up making me do a half-assed job of everything (yes Adam, you were right!). Watching television, reading and surfing the net at the same time. Writing and surfing. Talking on the phone and surfing. Cooking and talking on the phone. Eating and reading. I virtually never do one thing at a time. Not good! So I'm going to figure out some schedule for myself give each activity my full attention. Multitasking is sort of short term gain but long-term pain and I think I gotta stop. It's overloading my brain and soon it's seriously going to short-circuit. But to be honest, I don't think it's going to be easy. Even though my brain is full, I still crave constant stimulation. I think it may take a while for me to adjust.
How about you? Do you multitask? Have you tried to incorporate the principles of mindfulness into your life?