Multi-tasking through a pandemic

The hummingbirds are greedy little suckers this year.


The smell of Scorched Something drew me downstairs.

Dad-gummit! I had just started getting into the focus and flow of writing when, in a panic, I remembered the pan of water I had put on to boil for hummingbird nectar.

Yes, it burned dry, but it didn’t set off a smoke alarm. We don’t have one of those. We have dogs.

But this is not the first time my multi-tasking has almost resulted in disaster. That pan got put on the stove before I mopped the floor… before I went to take a shower…before I ran downstairs to put a few more things in the laundry. And before I dried my hair and woke up this computer.

No wonder my mother always punished me for daydreaming my way through life. If I didn’t have my nose in a book to avoid chores, I had my head in the clouds pretending I was a stand-in for Shirley Temple in The Littlest Rebel (multi-tasking by listening to The Overture of 1812 on my stereo.) Sometimes I even re-read that favorite childhood book at night, under the bed sheets, with the aid of a flashlight. Could this explain why I needed glasses by fifth grade?

Like many of my writing friends, I’m cursed with a multi-tasking brain. I’d rather be writing or thinking about writing while I’m doing mundane chores. It’s no fun doing all the things required for daily living or playing nice with others, like husbands.

Yesterday, while picking grapes, my mind wanted to occupy itself with grape metaphors instead of what was in front of me. Boy are there a ton of those cute little metaphors, beginning with the ones in the Bible. And whether I’m picking grapes or doing any other dull chore, my head fills with future book titles, blog topics and things to add to my Type A to-do lists.

Cursed also by my perpetual Virgo tendencies, I also considered, there in the grapevines, how to be better organized at picking and at life. Should I pick grapes one-by-one, leaving the green ones to ripen on the vines? Or would it be better to pick an entire cluster and discard the green ones as I washed and sorted them? Now there’s a metaphor worth developing…perhaps while stirring the grape jelly.

Doesn’t everyone talk to the grapes?

Do all multi-taskers also have the habit of talking to themselves and inanimate objects? Or is that just an older woman like me? Because I swear, I began to talk to the grapes.

“Why don’t you guys ripen all at the same time?”

“How in the world have you survived not being attacked by the racoons and birds this year?”

“Is my late cousin Linda guarding you at night from the coon foodfests? Does she want to make sure I get jelly made for her mom and brother Larry?”

“Why aren’t you bigger, plumper? Do I need to prune you all better in March?”

“Why don’t I just let the rest of you ripen a little more? Who cares if the birds or the coons find you before I get back for a second picking?”

Sounds nutty, doesn’t it? I talk to the green beans too. And the tomato cutworms. But hey, that’s the privilege of being old and wearing purple if you want to. But here’s the warning label: We know advancing age can show us how multi-tasking and forgetfulness can lead to danger.

My husband doesn’t know (and please, don’t tell him) that I talk to the grapes and build mental metaphors to help me zoom through the drudgery of things I have to do so I can hurry and get to the things I want to do. Just like I did when I was a kid.

I’m not so old that I can’t recognize my own faults. I know that if I had ever been allowed to write as much as I wanted or endlessly metaphorize (is that even a word?) my way through life I’d no doubt have morphed into a mystic or a hermit. Or just a total nutcase.

The pandemic of 2020 has accelerated creative output for me and many of my friends. We’ve finally been able to get to some of the fun tasks we’ve been putting on the back burner. I just hope my fellow multi-taskers do not let their pans boil dry.