Not a word that you use just every day.
But, I know you know what it means. Just think squat-bodied room fan whirring in the corner blowing papers off the desk , ruffling the retriever’s coat,moving onto pushing the dust bunnies under the sofa. Got the picture? Yep, oscillating– to move from side to side rhythmically or to waver from one extreme to another.
I bring up this fun-to-say word, oscillating, because I heard a podcast wherein renowned neuroscientist Richard Davidson noted that people don’t really multi-task; instead, they oscillate. Davidson contends that the brain is not really handling multiple tasks at once. Rather the brain, like the oscillating room fan, is moving from one task to the next never pausing long enough for something drastic like, coherent thought.
That explains why my life as a mulit-tasker, I mean oscillator, is sometimes fraught with mishap. Like the time I threw away my car keys while depositing the water bottle in the drink holder, moving the trash container to the curb and adjusting my I-pod. For a brief shining moment, I knew that my key ring should stay hooked to my index finger but that was before the cranium wavering blew my focus to my untied sneaker. Without that cool breeze of attention, the car keys were dropped onto the discarded meatloaf inside the 3-ply trash bag stuffed at the bottom of the maroon trash bin .
Davidson’s explanation of brain function relieved my guilt at being a failed multi-tasker. So, the next time I forget who I called because I was put on hold and began humming along with the Barry Manilow instrumental, I’ll just say, “Pardon me, I was oscillating.”
It just sneaks up on you.
One day you’re rushing through the “to do” list confident in the knowledge that you’re master of the universe when, wham, the earth tilts on its axis and the downhill slide begins.
This graphic loss of footing occurred for me recently while listening to National Public Radio, which in itself should have shielded me from all suffering. The mellow-toned announcer was explaining that I could access my favorite episodes of “Car Talk” and “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” through various mediums including the internet and podcasts. Smugness wafted over me because I knew how to download and access all these electronic treasures.
Then, came the words that sent me tumbling into mid-life crisis. The now evil NPR announcer of doom intoned, “Or, you can even listen the old-fashioned way via analog radio.”
“What!” I screamed to the clock radio crouching beneath the kitchen cabinet. “You’ve betrayed me; you’re old fashioned. “
I stormed across the room ready to yank this turn-a -dial symbol of decay off the wall mount brackets and cast it into the basement alongside the decrepit hand held calculators and PC towers.
But, alas, just then I heard Tom Magiiozzi, one of the Car Guys, laugh deeply at one of his brother’s jokes. Chuckling, I turned what used to be known as the volume knob higher and decided to be old fashioned for just a little while longer.
Have you seen the bumper sticker that says, “A bad day fishing is better than a good day working”?
While my retired life seems blissful, I find myself pausing during a Silver Sneakers exercise class to ponder, “Is this life really better than those stimulating days when I could point to work projects marked off the “to do” list?”
Oh, I see you worker bees out there buzzing at the thought of a bad day of leisure. But that would be ignoring the pressure I confront often, well maybe occasionally.
Like when the line at Starbucks is two deep at 2pm. Of course, there was the really bad time when the afternoon Colorado Rockies baseball game was rained out. Then I had to go to some Blake Street watering hole and test various hoppy beverages. And, don’t forget the frustration I felt when the library didn’t have the Stieg Larson book…again.
When I analyze my retiree frustration, I find that it sometimes involves noticing things I never had time to see during those 70 hour work weeks, like Democrats … and Republicans. Or Geraldo and Nancy Graceless. Dust bunnies large enough to lift the sofa off the hardwood floor and closets still home to clothes the kids outgrew in 1980 round out the list of “Umm, when did that happen.”
Traveling can also be a pain for the retiree. Like when the Master Card can’t sustain yet another grandchild visit. Or, in order to cash in my Rapidly Free Flight points, I slowly flew to Phoenix, El Paso, and Wichita Falls before landing in New Orleans. And then there’s the airport TSA agents whose policy manuals strictly prohibit smiling but do allow mild snickering when someone’s cellulited thighs create an aurora borealis of images on their x-ray machines.
While I could continue these graphic descriptions of my retiree life pressures, I’d rather go fishing. Say howdy to my friends at work.