By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
There’s a book on my nightstand right now, waiting for me, highlighter at the ready. I was so excited when I first heard about the book that I pre-ordered it months before it even hit bookshelves. Now it’s been here for almost a week, bathed in that wonderful “new book smell,” but I find myself avoiding it for the worst reasons.
The name of the book is Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, by New York Times-bestselling author Jon Acuff. I’ve been following this author’s blog and books for years now, so I know it’s going to be good. The quality of his writing is possibly outmatched only by the experience of seeing him bring his work to life in a public speech.
So why have I been so scared to crack open the book? I’m afraid it might confirm my fear that I’ve become something I never wanted to be – scatterbrained.
I’ve always thought that being scatterbrained is only slightly less awful than being an “airhead.” If airheads have nothing going on above the shoulders, scatterbrained people have so much going on that they accomplish almost nothing. They’re like busy little moths flitting from one fire to the next. They’re busy, sure. But they’re mostly annoying.
If you had asked me in my 20s if I’d ever be scatterbrained, I’d have answered with a self-assured “no.” I would have pointed to the fact that I was one of the nerds who actually finished the reading assignment when the professor told us to read Moby Dick. I would have told you I was a serious person who gets things done and follows through on things that matter.
But now, twenty years later, I find myself in a middle-aged mess. Life’s circumstances are driving me in too many different directions, and the ability to focus on any one thing seems like a luxury I can’t afford.
And it scares me to think that I’m so busy playing a game of “catch up” that I might never get another chance to hit a homerun. As a writer, one of the most important parts of my job is to slow down enough to “hear myself think.” But lately, all I hear is the rambling monologue of someone trying (and failing) to cover so many bases. Here’s a sample:
“Let’s see, it’s Thursday. So I’ve got two meetings and Jack has band practice. Kate has rock climbing practice and Adam needs to go to a Quiz Bowl meeting after school. I also need to check on Dad to see if he’s using his cane. What if he falls and I don’t know about it? Oh, and the library books are overdue. I’ve got to return them. Wait a second, is he sniffing? Is the puppy sniffing? Because sniffing and circling mean something bad is about to happen. And I’ve got to remember to take something over to the new neighbors who had the baby last week. Or was it last month? (A good neighbor doesn’t wait a month to introduce herself, you know. She would have already showed up with a casserole or something.) Okay, back to work. Uh oh…forty-seven new emails? That’s crazy. I should go through those right now. But I’ve got a writing assignment due tomorrow and not a single coherent thought in my head worth writing about. This is it. After 20 years of weekly column writing, I’m completely dried up. All the words are gone. I’ve got nothing. Speaking of nothing, I’ve got to go by the store or nothing is what we’re having for dinner tonight. Gotta remember the Greek yogurt that the kids like. I wonder if they’re getting enough fiber. I bet they’re not. There’s not much fiber in burritos.”
See what I mean? Scatterbrained. And what will it say about me if I start reading a book that’s all about the importance of finishing things and I can’t even make time to finish it? Will I have to add that confession to the two unfinished novels on my desk and the long list of “great ideas for the business” that I haven’t had time to execute in my day job?
The only voice answering that question is the one in my head whispering one of Eleanor Roosevelt’s most famous quotes: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” (Okay fine, Eleanor. Stop nagging.) Maybe I’ll pick up the book and read the first page.
Then I’ll report back here in next week’s column about my progress and whatever bits of wisdom and guidance are strong enough to penetrate a scatterbrain. Wish me luck, friends. I’m going to need it.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com.