Dilbert, by Scott Adams

There is a reason this is a well-recognized joke. Sometimes, starting over is the only solution. Do over. Reboot.

I was dismayed to learn that my boys had two full weeks off from school for winter break. It meant that I, too, needed to take that time off from work and that I wouldn’t be able to even take one day for myself. Plus, after two weeks, I knew they would be completely off-track and it would be like starting all over again when it came to getting organized and getting ready for school. But we’ve been off-track since the start. What difference will it make?

So now after some thought, I am singing a different tune. And that tune is, Hallelujah!

We desperately need a reboot in our house.

A few days ago after a particularly horrible morning when we missed the bus and couldn’t find our homework and there were tears and fighting and general awfulness, after I dropped the boys off at school something made me turn around and go home. OK. So, it wasn’t something in the abstract sense. It was the thought that I could go home and have a cigarette and calm down before I went to work. Despite the fact that I keep telling myself that is how the old me does things. That’s the old fall back. I don’t need to smoke or engage in any old habits to make things right. I am a strong, focused woman with exceptional willpower. I don’t need old crutches. I don’t need to do things the way I always do and expect different results. Except at that moment, I did.

So I drove home and pulled into the driveway and noticed that several of the bows that I had hung on our railing had slipped down because of the bad weather we had experienced. A box that had broken in our garage and I had thrown up on the wall next to the driveway was sitting there half sagging with water from the rain and snow…and I started crying again. What a perfectly white trash looking house. Why was my life like this? Why couldn’t I get my shit together? Where had I gone wrong?

I walked into my house and my fat cat sat looking up at me confused. Why was I home again? I looked back at him and realized I hadn’t seen the other cat all morning. I started calling her name.

It didn’t take me very long to realize she wasn’t there. I started to panic. I thought about the night before when I had opened the door to the patio and stood by the door smoking because it was too cold to go outside and I was answering work emails on my phone and thinking about a dozen other things and I just knew that my little itty-bitty kitty had snuck right past me and out the door and I didn’t even notice. I thought back to the middle of the night when I thought I heard meowing and I just sort of grunted in my sleep and hoped the cat would be quiet, not knowing that her plaintive meows were coming from outside in the cold.

We all know the dangers of distracted driving, but what about the dangers of distracted living?

I’ve come to see that I am hardly ever in the moment doing one thing. My mind is always racing while I am doing several things at once. I’m on my phone answering email while trying to watch TV or play a game with my kids or wash the dishes and my mind is a thousand miles away doing something else. It has to stop.

So, I put my boots on and went trudging up to the trees and bushes in my backyard looking for my cat. It was freezing cold and had snowed the night before and I was sobbing and fully expecting to find a frozen catsicle around every corner.

It would serve me right, I thought, I’m all over the place. The boys are all over the place. I’m trying to do too many things and I’m all over the boys for not being able to concentrate in school and for losing things and for not being organized and yet, I am setting a horrible example. I didn’t even notice my CAT was missing. I’m a horrible person and I am ruining our family and now, I’ve killed our cat.

Eventually, I calmed down and told myself that she was a cat and smart and would have found a dry place to curl up and wait it out. I called and called and finally I heard a sad, little meow in return. I started frantically looking for her trying to follow the sound of the meows until my eyes fell on the broken, lopsided box. Thank you, God. I peered inside and there she was wide-eyed and staring at me. Smart stupid little kitty.

I hugged her and cried and then got my ass in gear to get to work, all the while thanking God for the wake up call.

We all need to stop living this distracted life. Video games and social media and work and school and family time and down time and up time all have their place; but we need to work at being present in the moment. My kids can hardly remember from one minute to the next what they are supposed to be doing. Multi-part instructions are a joke; even if they can make it through the first task with our distraction, the following directions are certainly a distant memory. Why can’t we just do one thing at a time?

I am trying to institute this mindfulness as a new rule in our household, for the boys and for myself. If we are watching a movie as a family that is all we should be doing; my phone and my computer have no place there. If we are eating dinner, there is no homework or books or electronic devices at the table. When I am driving, I am turning up the radio as loud as I can to drown out my thoughts; music and the road, there is no room for any other thoughts that cause me to arrive at my destination wondering how I got there. At work, I’m there; not thinking about dinner or the boys’ activities or what I am going to write on the blog or why my friend hasn’t texted me back. Perhaps if I start modeling this, the boys will be able to focus in their lives as well.

Nothing functions well if we aren’t focused on what’s in front of us. Eventually, we have a dozen open browser windows in our minds and ten different mental and physical applications running and the operating systems of our life are bound to come to a screeching halt. I firmly believe that we aren’t made to do so much multi-tasking. But unfortunately I forget and get wrapped up in life and seem to need a potentially disastrous situation to remind me; like a lost manuscript or a frozen cat.

Time to reboot.


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