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Notes From the Couch – An Appeal For Support For the Productivity Challenged
It has been reported that President Obama and First Lady Michelle try to hit the gym and eat breakfast together whenever possible. Obama is apparently wedded to his daily workouts. an early-morning presidential stomach crash is as certain as Obama’s attention to the faltering economy, attending daily briefings, meetings in the Oval Office, and raising daughters Sasha and Melia. Amid economic briefings, meetings with senior advisers, reforms and press conferences, Obama still manages to nurture his young marriage, check his Blackberry, dabble in the local culinary scene, study dog breeds and oversee important political agendas such as the White House Council on Women and Girls.
Our nation’s 44th president clearly brings more to the White House than his intellect, charisma, youthful energy and unyielding passion. If an idle brain is the devil’s laboratory, then Obama is certainly in the clear. Just thinking about the presidential schedule makes me want to hide under the covers, curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb. Does the president turn around and hit the snooze button? I have a hard time imagining our prolific first lady casually roaming the corridors of the executive residence in fuzzy slippers and a plush oversized bathrobe. I imagine it’s rare for Barack and Michelle to be relaxing with a newspaper and a cappuccino or snuggling up in bed watching The John Stewart Show and sharing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. I’m willing to bet that Michelle Obama, despite her constant access to an army of staff, is unlikely to be found soaking in a bubble bath poring over People magazine and Danielle Steel novels. However, the Obamas offer us a healthy glimpse into their seemingly well-balanced personal lives, where family matters, educational pursuits, social and political endeavors are given equal value.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of productivity. There are only 24 hours in a day, and so many important things to do. Feed the dog. Feed the cat. Clean up dog poop in the backyard. You worry about the economy. Doing laundry. See patients. Shop my practice. Read the newspaper. Returning phone calls. Unload the dishwasher. Sweep the kitchen floor. I pay the bills. Stay in touch with friends and family. Stop the dog from torturing the cat. Stop the cat from scratching the dog’s eyes. Clean the cat’s litter box. Check email. Honestly, it can all seem rather overwhelming at times. Sometimes I feel like a fraud in my life and wonder how I managed to avoid the ultimate collapse of this proverbial house of cards, landing myself on a park bench with my personal belongings stuffed inside an old shopping bag.
Speaking of bag ladies, I vividly remember my annual visits to see my grandmother in Miami Beach during early childhood, where a homeless woman lived on a bench in front of the public library on Collins Avenue. She dressed in heavy layers of brightly colored winter clothes despite the Florida heat and sat there faithfully year after year, surrounded by a collection of plastic bags. Every year I would come back and find the homeless lady dressed in the same strange outfit and fight the urge to ask her why she didn’t take off the excess clothes and put them in one of her many plastic bags. Her existence seemed so wonderfully simple with her tangible world reduced to lots of plastic bags and a park bench. She defied social conventions and lived on the sidelines, standing still and watching the world go by. Here was an idea that seemed strangely interesting to me – a life confined to simple simplicity, without daily commitments and social obligations.
I often wonder how ordinary people of average intelligence manage to sleep, eat, exercise, take care of pets and children, earn a living, keep up with current events, run errands, pay bills, give birth, and to clean clothes without going crazy and leaving society? Furthermore, why do some peoples juggle the many dimensions of life seemingly effortlessly, always looking for a new cause or pet project, while others walk around in a cloud of mental turmoil, abandon society, or perish under the weight of life’s unforgiving demands?
In graduate school I paid the rent for a while by teaching kindergarten. In my three-year-old class there was a child named Ariel. a tiny redhead who regularly wet her pants and cried many times. The demands of school presented a difficult challenge for Ariel and she required a lot of comfort and reassurance. Then there was Raina – a crazy kid with a fiercely independent and confident personality. Raina refused to participate in a silly game and organized a daily rebellion against the monotony of finger paints, circles and morning naps. One could hardly blame her, as Raina craved a sense of productivity. I tried to imagine what Raina might look like as an adult and envision her as a tall, sultry woman in stiletto heels and a red outfit, her long red fingernails tapping the lacquered surface of a conference table as she dictates the terms of a corporate merger. to a group of skeptical businessmen sipping stale coffee. Such individual differences in temperament are striking and become evident very early in life. While some sail through life blessed with bright sunshine and calm waters, others flounder in raging tides, struggling to survive. Where is the explanation for such a drastic difference – in the hands of nature, nurture or a complex interplay between the two?
Speaking of productivity, I feel rather lacking these days. Somewhere in California a 33-year-old single unemployed woman thinks she can take care of 14 kids on her own, while I’m challenged enough to take care of a cat, the occasional houseplant, and a rambunctious Labrador puppy. My husband swears I can waste time better than anyone he knows. it often takes a whole day to accomplish what he can do in an hour. I find routine paperwork, returning phone calls, and other menial tasks more unpleasant than a colonoscopy, and I identify with caged zoo animals when forced to deal with these things.
Since the arrival of our puppy Charlie, the productivity scales have tipped even less in my favor as I face significant challenges in the areas of multitasking and sleep deprivation. I’d rather take Charlie to the beach in the middle of a weekday than clean the papers off my desk, a reality that horrifies my laser rendering obsessed husband. Charlie’s many physical and emotional needs, on top of my other responsibilities, have made me wonder, how on earth do most people manage? A puppy’s demands are minimal compared to a human child, and I humbly admit that the puppy has rocked my world and obliterated my previously selfish existence.
As soon as I find the free time, I plan to approach the American Psychological Association with a special request for a new diagnostic label to be included in the DSM. The label is Productively Challenged (PC) and the diagnostic criteria are: Profound and debilitating failure to multitask, prolonged inability to cope effectively with sleep deprivation, recurrent reluctance to continue with chores and projects, and a chronic avoidance of all that is mundane and tedious in favor of recreational activities and hedonistic pursuits. These symptoms may occur with or without a strong aversion to routine paperwork, must be insidious, progressive in nature, and must interfere with daily functioning in personal and professional domains for at least 3 months.
My neighbor has four boys under the age of 7, has a part-time job, and recently started growing a vegetable garden in her backyard. I’ve always wanted to grow a vegetable garden, but never found the time or motivation to follow through. In my defense, I never had a yard until recently, but if I had, I’m sure my computer diagnosis would have prevailed. Place another check in the Productively Challenged column. If my neighbor can juggle four kids – one still in diapers – and a part-time job while finding time to tend a vegetable garden, then surely I can manage a puppy, a cat, a dead plant, a private practice, a column of mercury and a vegetable garden. Come to think of it, what is my excuse for continuing to avoid the novel I know lives inside me? I’m proud to admit that I’ve already written the first 13 pages, although it took 5 weeks of hiding in the Costa Rican jungle to get much done. If Obama can make it to the gym every morning, I can write the stupid book.
I am disappointed that there are a myriad of support systems for parents of human children, but none for owners of childless, productively challenged puppies. After all, don’t the mothers of these furry four-legged souls deserve a support system? Here is another area of my life that is begging for continuity. If the homeless lady in Miami Beach can endure year after year of sitting on a park bench under the unrelenting sun in winter clothing, then I can create a support group designed to help me feel less ashamed of my computer diagnosis. my. I plan to name the team Chicks and Hounds. All interested parties are encouraged to contact me via cell phone or email to schedule a frisbee scrimmage at Sullivan’s Island in the middle of the work week. To offset the associated guilt that goes along with computer diagnosis, bring your business cards and we’ll treat this as a professional networking event.
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