Manic Multitasking

The most peculiar thing about dealing with the type of hardship I’ve experienced is what I call, manic multitasking. Manic multitasking is watching a recorded review session for an upcoming Economics exam while on hold with CareFirst waiting to hear if a chemo drug will be covered by insurance. Manic multitasking is calling my mom’s oncologist, between rounds of flip cup at a business school party, to ask if there’s a treatment for oral thrush, an uncomfortable throat ailment and side effect of chemo. Manic multitasking is standing in line at Georgetown Cupcake on the morning of my 28th birthday while downloading a quote from the cemetery director on my iPhone. Manic multitasking is peculiar, to say the least.

A root cause analysis is not necessary; manic multitasking just organically happens with hardship. You wake up one morning and before you know it, you’re eating cereal with the morning crossword in front of you (or on your iPad) while directing a gastroenterologist to send x-rays to an oncologist as you solve for 45-Across.

Sometimes I think about the manic multitasking that my mom must’ve juggled in the early 1980s when my dad was sick. Her manic multitasking lacked smart phones, email, laptops, iPods and DVR, to name a few. I assume my mom’s tech-free manic multitasking mostly focused on diapering Infant Me and caring for her sick husband. When she sat with my dad during his chemo treatments, she was probably forced to think a lot about cancer or my latest diaper rash, while I, on the other hand, had the benefit of Sex and The City reruns on a portable DVD player. (For those SATC fans in the know: Samantha’s line, “Cancer is hilarious,” is 10 times more hilarious when viewed in an actual chemotherapy room.)

No matter how you cut it, and no matter how tech-savvy the universe is when you experience it, manic multitasking comes hand-in-hand with hardship. It blends the mundane with the malignant.

And so I’ll leave you with three important tips: When you have to manic multitask for the first time it may feel odd, but it comes naturally fairly quickly thereafter. Second, remember where you put the car keys. No matter how accustomed I became to manic multitasking, I always misplaced them. And finally, third: Put down the phone before you get in the pool. You heard it here first.

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5 responses to “Manic Multitasking

  1. This weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday – http://t.co/LyzHPpr

  2. I recognize myself in your post! A few years ago, while I was completing my degree, my dad (who has Parkinson’s) was hospitalized right around the time of final exams. While he napped, I would have to run out to the parking lot to try and pick up a wi-fi connection to work on my exams and final projects, all while managing calls to his insurance company and the multiple doctors managing his care. Later in the evening, back at my brother’s house (who lives in the boonies with no internet service), I would have to jack his blackberry up to my computer for service and work into the wee hours of the morning to finish up (and pray that he didn’t need to use his phone!)

    When I think about that time, I still don’t know how I managed to successfully finish that semester. I came so close to quitting because it all seemed too much. But being able to multitask was a blessing in a way; my schoolwork allowed me to have some sense of normality during a difficult period.

    Thanks for sharing…

    • Fran,

      I loved reading your story — I can TOTALLY imagine the parking lot wifi run; I did something very similar when I was at the hospital with my mom during business school. I really hope you keep reading, and if you ever have a topic you’d like to see covered in The Infinity Game, I’d love to hear. It clear that you’ve had some very pertinent experiences.

      Cheers to manic multitasking 🙂

      All my best,
      Lauren

      @laurenthaler

  3. I hope you don’t mind that I keep commenting on your posts – it’s just that you keep hitting nerves of mine. I also saw my mom through chemo and eventually her last days while in college. Her first bout came during my junior year and her last fight was during my first semester of grad school. People kept telling me I could take some time off, but I was just too grateful for the distractions. I also didn’t want to let my mom down.

    At that time, though, I had my dad to help with the details. When he passed I truly learned the art of manic tasking. While I was lucky that he prearranged everything and had perfectly organized files to help me through the process, it was still tough to function in high gear when all I wanted to do was disappear. I eventually turned my dining room into the war room and just made things happen. Having survived it, I am pretty certain can survive anything.

    • My dining room was a war zone too!! Stacks of paper and files EVERYWHERE. Thank you for reminding me of what my dining room (actually my mom’s dining room) looked like, and I’m glad the blog is resonating with you.

      Looking forward to hearing from you again,
      Lauren

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