I sat down to lunch the other day, at home, in my flat, on my own. And I automatically reached for a book. It seems that it’s not enough for me to spend time eating – I need to multitask and get some reading in as well. That started me thinking. Back in the days when my world included television, it also included knitting needles. Back when I was gymming it, I was also listening to audio books. When I was driving long distances in Alaska, I was also practising public speaking and recitations. But until the other day, I’d never really realised how programmed I am to maximise my time.
I like to walk – I could walk around the city all day, if I have an errand to run, someone to meet, places to see… but I rarely wander aimlessly any more. I need to have a destination. This surprises me as my life plan is to live my life without planning. I used to think that I’m in Budapest doing what I do as a result of a whim. But now I wonder.
I had a frightening experience in Malta last summer – I was there working and decided to take one day off – a Saturday. No computer, no Internet, no phone. Just me and my book and the water. There was a time in my life when I could do this for 14 days non-stop without once feeling restless or anxious. But I couldn’t even manage two hours. I couldn’t relax – the feeling that I should be doing something constructive robbed me of the pleasure I would usually get from reading. I couldn’t get comfortable on the sun lounge – I had forgotten how to relax.
So far, although we’re just 24 days into it, 2012 is proving itself as a year of transformational change for some people I know – and I have a feeling that I’ll be joining their ranks in the not too distant future. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I know, deep down, that this rate of activity and multitasking is not sustainable. There is more to life. I need to somehow recapture that sense of achievement I used to get from doing one thing at a time and doing it well. I need to learn how to switch off.