Question: In Day 13 of Food: A Love Story, Kate and the teacher discuss how the need to control and micromanage situations can get in the way of our capacity to experience life as effortless and “in the flow.” What about multi-tasking? I’ve always been proud of my capacity to juggle many balls in the air at once. But now I wonder how that “skill” may be affecting my life. I’m always so stressed! And I often find myself indulging in sweets or pouring myself a glass of wine as soon as I get home, as a way to unwind.

From Maureen: It’s no wonder. People tout the ability to multi-task as though it’s a talent, a characteristic of superior minds, but there’s a vast difference between focusing on one important thing—such as bringing up healthy, well-rounded children—which encompasses many tasks, all of which you must do extraordinarily well, one thing at a time, and multi-tasking, which often looks more like chaos in motion. For instance, talking on the phone while filing your nails, drinking a cup of coffee, eating a donut, and checking email all at the same time. (It may be revelatory to notice: do you eat more donuts or snacks at your current job than you did when multi-tasking wasn’t such a part of your routine?)

When I was younger, I worked in restaurants. I prided myself on being so good at juggling multiple meals, tables and customers. Of course, looking back, I see I hated those jobs. Funny that I felt so accomplished but so, so stressed. At the busiest of times, it was as if my ability to appreciate the present moment and feel joy had completely disappeared. I barely even knew where I was. The hours just flew by as I worked in auto-pilot, completely missing the opportunity to genuinely relate to my customers and lovingly serve them food.

Take a moment of silence and consider these questions, without judging yourself for the answers. Are you living your life in auto-pilot? When was the last time that you drove your car without also listening to music at the same time? Or rode the subway without reading a book? Or ate a meal without watching television, talking on the phone, or flipping through a magazine? Are you really aware of where you are, and what you’re doing?

“Only that day dawns to which we are awake.”
~ Henry David Thoreau