Juggling different worlds

I wrote an overdue email to someone far away today. I met Lynne for the first time in Kenya in 2004 when I took advantage of an introduction by a mutual friend and showed up at her house in Nairobi, still suffering from the worst bout of food poisoning I had ever had in my life. She fed me apple juice and yogurt smoothies and two days later we went on safari in the Masai Mara together for three nights. You bond quickly when you’re sharing a tent and getting before dawn to go be wowed by scenes like these:

Since then, Lynne and I have crossed paths regularly around the world – in restaurants in New York and DC, on houseboats in Amsterdam, and at her place in Atlanta. She is a lot of fun and one of the many people I would enjoy living closer to.

But instead there is email and skype, and today I jotted her a note for the first time in months. I started by saying I’d been meaning to write for weeks and that I didn’t know where time had gone recently.

On days like today, when it’s cold and raining here and I haven’t even bothered to get out of my pajamas yet, I can reach 6pm and puzzle over what, exactly, I’ve been doing. How is it possible, I sometimes wonder, that I’ve been bouncing from project to project, working relatively well, and yet I haven’t crossed off more than half of the things on my to-do list? Why am I still perpetually behind on emails and phone calls? And why is very little connected to preparing for the baby making it into the half that’s actually getting done?

Lest I alarm the extremely maternal (or paternal) among you, I am making some progress in relation to all things baby. I’ve washed the clothes we’ve been given (though I haven’t folded them all yet). I’ve made a list of small, practical gifts people could give us at an upcoming baby shower that lovely people from Mum and Dad’s church are organizing. I’m currently reading a book called Mama Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood – a rather fascinating memoir that looks at motherhood through the lens of Zen Buddist teachings.

But the baby is still only getting a certain amount of brain space (and boy, am I ever starting to wish I could impose similar limits on the amount of body space he was getting). For there are things still to be done before he arrives – things as dissimilar from buying baby wipes and diapers as a tent in Kenya is from a houseboat in the Netherlands.

For starters, there’s the consultancy on wellbeing and humanitarian work. For a project on wellbeing there’s an awful lot of trauma material that needs to be incorporated. The other reading material I’ve dipped into today, for example, focused on psychosocial interventions in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami and collective trauma following atrocities and killings during a civil conflict in Sri Lanka. First thing tomorrow I will be starting A Human Being Died That Night – a memoir plumbing South Africa’s apartheid years and wrestling with questions of transitional justice. I’m aiming to wrap up this consultancy in the next four weeks, and I doubt I’ll mind taking a couple of months away from this sort of material.

Then there’s the memoir, which my agent is planning to start sending to publishers next month. That’s great news, but it also means that I need to spend some time pulling together all the bits and pieces that traditionally go in a book proposal – a bio, an outline, and information about my author platform and strategic connections that may assist with marketing. You’d think I’d know how to summarize the book in a couple of sentences after having actually written the thing, but that’s a lot easier said than done.

And there’s talking to Mike for an hour or so every night, doing some exercise, spending time with extended family here, filing insurance claims, and so on. I am not short on things to do.

Today I haven’t minded juggling these diverse mental worlds. Some days I can feel a bit fragmented, and I’m aware some of these worlds are going to need to take a dive on the priority list in the near future, but overall it’s good to have a bunch of different, interesting things to do right now when it’s quiet, cold, raining and I can’t be bothered to get out of my PJs.

What about you? What different mental worlds are you juggling at the moment? Are you finding it stimulating or are you feeling fragmented?

6 responses to “Juggling different worlds

  1. Glad you’re getting a chance to read the book. The chapter on sleep (or lack thereof) really helped changed my attitude to middle-of-the night feedings. Moments I treasure now I realize how fleeting they are. A tip from my world to minimize feeling overwhelmed – start writing some things on your “to do” list that you’ve already done, or are almost done with. When you get to score them out as “done” you’ll feel like you’ve truly accomplished something on days when you feel like there’s just to much to do : )

    • Thanks Ruth. I opened up our paper on transitional justice (the one we co-wrote with Cora at ND) today to check some facts for a chapter I’m writing on community resilience. Brought back so many memories. Hope you guys are going well. I’d love to be hanging out with you up at the cabin in Idaho for a weekend. It’s too bad no-one’s invented teleporting or tessering yet.

  2. The thing I found most difficult to accept, was that after one kid, but especially two, you will be juggling every day, everything ….. unless you have the kids away with grammie, and even then, you will master getting ten things done at once. Sometimes well, sometimes laughably lame…..like finding my milk in the closet and the pbj sandwich crusts on the bathroom counter, as you are feeding baby, bathing preschooler and doing dishes and laundry and packing lunches…..oh, and answering work questions via phone. 🙂 but you come to love the hustle….and reallllly love vacays when you get them. Day long or week long! They feel well earned instead of indulgent 🙂

  3. Um . . . feeling fragmented. Very very fragmented. And also intrigued by the book you are reading. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Buddhism and wondering if it’s even possible to be Buddhist and be a mom. Let me know how you like it!

    • Yeah, I thought you’d enjoy this. I was going to wait until I finished the whole thing before I wrote and recommended it, but I think you should look into it based on what I’ve seen so far. Author is Karen Maezen Miller (and thanks to Ruth and Kim for sending it to me!!).

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