My grandmother used to have a favorite saying she liked to share whenever I had my arms full and dropped something I was carrying. “Never take a lazy man’s load.” It was her way of telling me that it’s better to take a couple of trips to tote things from place to place than it is to try and get it all in one load. Trying to do all that, she would explain, usually after everything I was holding fell out and around me, is a sure recipe for disaster.
I hear her voice inside my head every time I am trying to carry too many things, thinking I can manage too many objects, and I hear a “my, my, my…” to follow when I fail to obey. One would think that after forty years of being taught that lesson, I would have learned it. And yet, it still always seems like one trip is better than two.
This bit of wisdom, I have learned, can be interpreted figuratively as well as literally. Multi-tasking is certainly the way to go in this day and time. We have learned to do lots of things at once. I suppose, in fact, that multi-tasking is a sure means of professional survival in today’s world but it still seems to me that more often than not when I’m trying to do too many things at one time, trying to think about too many projects at once, trying to take care of too many errands in one trip, I find myself facing the same kind of disastrous experience as I face when I try to hold too many things in my arms. I know better than to say yes to too many events in one day but still, there is always the temptation.
Last week there was a message in my voice mail. “I guess something happened,” the familiar voice said, and I knew immediately who it was and what I had done. “Well, just try and call me when you can,” she finished and hung up the call.
The message was from my best friend, with whom I talk every Sunday evening. I had missed the call because in addition to planning a book signing at a local book store, a visit with another writer, and cooking dinner for an out of town guest, I had kept my standing date for the weekly phone call, the one I forgot, the one, like the extra bag of groceries that I’m sure I can handle, I dropped.
The next day when I retrieved my messages I hurried to my computer to write my apology in an e-mail. Of course, before getting to that I needed to reply to a request from my publicist, turn in a new draft of a manuscript to my editor, and check on a date for an upcoming interview. I finished those tasks, turned off the computer, and went inside to get ready for my lunch date. That was when once again I remembered my friend. “My, my, my…” echoed in my brain and I realized what I had done.
On the surface, attempting to do too many things at once doesn’t seem like the actions of a lazy person, but rather appears to be the work of an industrious being, a hardworking soul. And yet, to continue fooling yourself into thinking you’re able to keep too many balls in the air, more items on your list than you can remember, too many events for your mind to hold will certainly leave you with the same thoughts and emotions as the idiot standing over the spilled groceries. “Never take a lazy man’s load,” I hear my grandmother say; and I sigh as I head over to the phone and call my friend.