Summer Multitasking

We’ve been blackberry picking, my youngest son and I. Yes blackberry picking at the start of August when we wouldn’t usually go until the end of August bank holiday. Which meant we had out first blackberry crumble, oven on, cream out, in the heat. Very odd. The apple tree is also dropping fruit already and the damsons are peppering the burnt, white lawn with their purple, too-small, too-soon dots. Global warming or heat wave? Either way, my magnolia tree is very unhappy in it’s sparse second blossoming of the season and the weeds are beating the grass in the race to populate the lawn.

As youngest and I were blackberrying, fingers sticky, trying not to smear the crimson down our clothes, an older couple walked by and were delighted to see a ‘youngster’ collecting the fruit. Another older  neighbour, with a bowl-full of berries for tea in their fridge, was bemoaning how the youth of today don’t even know what a blackberry is.

My kids do. But some of their friends don’t. There have been a number of times, over the childhood years, where my kids have grazed from the hedgerow whilst friends have recoiled in horror at the possibility that they might be about to poison themselves.

I only know about blackberries and sloes, elderberries and sweet chestnuts because my mum, as a matter of course, took us out gathering according the season. Looking back now, partly it was because she was doing what her upbringing had taught her, and partly now I see it was because money was tight, and the hedgerow jam was free. She taught me which mushrooms were safe to pick, but I can’t remember that now and she is long dead, so I don’t pick mushrooms in case I get it wrong, so I can’t pass that knowledge onto my kids, which makes me sad.

I’m sure so many of you have that torn feeling that seems to be an integral part of parenting, maybe particularly mothering; the urge to be at home with our kids and the urge to work and self-actualise, and as much as the 80s dream promised us we could have it all, I’m not sure we can. If anything, we can have bits of each, not the whole of either. I’m sometimes at the school gates, sometimes picking blackberries and making crumble, sometimes sewing holes in trousers where they have split yet again but they are a favourite pair so are in need or rescue. Then sometimes I am at work, attending some meetings, in some of the communication loops. But I’m never focused in one place for long and I always feel the pull of the other.

Then add in Facebook and emails and Instagram and there are more ways in which my time and attention is pulled. I want to be with my kids, I want to work, I want to cook, I like being at home, I like being away, I want to check on-line, I want to be off-line, I want time with my partner, time with my friends, my kids and then I also want time alone. The wheel of samsara that Buddha talked about, our attachment to  wanting causing our suffering; he got that right!

We all juggle.

We all split ourselves.

We all multi-task.

We even pride ourselves on it. Like we are circus monkeys, performing tricks, rather than living. I’m not so sure it’s good for us.

I’m not so sure I want to be split in so many directions.

I’m thinking it might be time to focus. To be more discerning and committed. I’m not sure how that looks now or how to make it happen, but the torn feeling is just too uncomfortable and I don’t want it any more.

 How about you?


Julie Leoni

Julie Leoni is an academic, teacher, writer, coach, yoga teacher and mum. She somehow juggles all the different parts of the time so that her work fits around her family life. She moved from Kent to the hills nearly 20 years ago and can still remember the first two years when she thought she would never feel warm again. Nowadays, when she goes back down south to visit friends, she heaves a sigh of relief as she sees the Shropshire hills on her return after the chaos of the M25.