Is anyone else as spaced out as I am?
My wife is always telling me that I’m an old soul, I’m not even 40 and she calls me ‘old man.’ I suppose the fact that I always go the speed limit and hover my thumb over the horn just in case I need to use it (I just want to be ready) aren’t exactly the actions of a quick witted ‘whipper snapper’ with a strong back.
Getting older is inevitable, but when you’re already sort of aloof it doesn’t make for an easy transition. I think even without the variety of modern distractions we have to deal with I'm probably a spacier person than most. For example, if I were you (the reader) right now I would have spaced out like five times while reading this paragraph alone. What kind of things do I think about when I space out? I dunno, Netflix, electric vehicles, raccoons, Ryan Reynolds’ abs…former President Warren G. Harding.
The truth is that I’m so spacey I sometimes have a hard time staying in conversations. I realize a lot of us do this, but I feel I'm particularly bad. I will often start a conversation with good intentions, I might even find the person interesting and care a lot about what the person is talking about, but as the conversation drags on my inner monologue takes me away. The person will be chatting away and all of a sudden my own voice inside my brain will cut in:
“I wonder if that plant is fake or real? Real, real, I think it’s real.”
“I really should be paying attention, but I’ve never noticed this person’s hair color before, what would you call that? It's like it's between brown and blonde.”
“What is that brown stain on the wall? Is that poop!? How did someone get poop on the wall?...Poop goes in the toilet!”
What I’ve learned in my adult years is that this is actually a problem with plain old-fashioned presence and it can be treated with a concept called Mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply the idea that our interests, energy and attention should be in the present moment and not off somewhere else like in my garage, or on my phone, or imagining myself riding a unicorn shirtless (with a body like an action figure) through a field of tulips and still somehow spacing out in the middle of that fantasy (yes, I space out in my space outs).
When I bought my home I imagined it as a sanctuary where I was in control of distractions, a Zen place, a calm place. But as I get older, and my life seems to get more and more complicated, I’m feeling like I need to leave my house in order to have quiet, how does that work? I’m trying with the mindfulness, I really am, and I’ve gotten better over the years but I still struggle sometimes and my own home is the worst. In my home I have every distraction that one could imagine all tugging at me at the same time: Kids, wife, dog, smart-phone, T.V., teapot, coffee maker, ice maker, rain pounding the skylight, numerous potential fire hazards, and a mysterious brown stain I just noticed on the wall.
I suppose much of this is not new for me, my spaciness has always attracted me to activities that don’t require full cognitive presence. I enjoy mindless, repetitious, labor where I don’t really have to focus too hard on the task, things like driving long distances, folding laundry, and doing dishes. In high school I was a bus boy for a while, and when I was doing dishes I would get into this creepy trance where I was sort of present but not, like my hands were moving and cleaning the dishes but my eyes were fixated on the base of the sink and I was thinking about the things that high school boys think about like, you know….soda and Slim-Jims. To this day, when there’s too much chaos in my household and I don’t know where to begin, I always default to the dishes and that seems to bring me into my most comfortable working state. Before I know it, I’ve done a half-assed job on the dishes, a half-assed job cleaning the kitchen counter, a half-assed job picking up the living room and eventually that leads to my whole ass sitting on the toilet realizing I’ve got to go back and redo all the housework I just did.
Sometimes I wish I could borrow an efficient person’s brain for a day just to see what it’s like to think normal. This is a weird idea, because if you borrow someone’s brain doesn’t that mean they are still themselves, but in your body? I mean the body is different, but the brain is the same…no wait, it’s different, because it’s not that person’s body anymore. Ok, maybe this example sucks, but sometimes I wonder what it would be like to think efficiently for once. I’d organize my day first thing in the morning, I’d complete tasks in a timely manner, I’d have a regimented schedule that I’d stick to and if I strayed from that schedule I’d be a huge pain in the ass for everyone around me. We can all dream right?
All right, maybe brain transplants are a little overboard, maybe there’s some simple solution to this problem that I haven’t thought of. Oh, right, I just need to make lists and stick to them! That way I can stay on track and get all my shit done! I think my notepad is in the laundry room. Here we go, I’m stepping over my dog, I’m walking down the stairs, wow the kids really need to clean this room up…oh the light’s on I’ll just get that while I’m walking past the switch here…oh this door is a little ajar, I should fix that later…Ok, here I am in my laundry room where I keep lots of stuff and…Uhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Dammit! Why did I come into this room again?