I read once about how children learn physical stuff and mental stuff at separate times, ie: if your child is walking and can climb to the top of the bookshelf while you are taking five minutes in the bathroom, s/he might not be speaking in full sentences yet. Likewise if your child is reading at 18 months s/he might not be walking yet. Because the brain has to focus on either physical or intellectual pursuits, not on both.

I have no idea where I read that idea (or fact?) but I have retained it. When Trombone was in-arms and I was on maternity leave I read a lot of stuff. Books, internet, blogs, newspapers, anything parenting-related was soaked up. My own brain, of course, was occupied with coming to terms with parenthood and the general WTFery of infants so I couldn’t possibly retain anything more than “this makes sense and applies to my situation so I will henceforth believe it.”

This is actually not a post about children.

We just finished a four-day weekend, which we kicked off with a radical re-organization of the middle floor of our townhouse. The kids have been in separate rooms and we wanted one of those rooms back so we moved them into one room. The details of this are tedious and extremely dusty so I will spare you, save to say that we moved a lot of furniture, recycled a lot of paper and donated a lot of toys to charity. At the end of the day there was one bedroom and one playroom / guest room / spare room.

I sat down – finally – to catch up on my internet reading and maybe write a blog post or work on a story for my writing group but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t focus on something so small and intangible as words. I just wanted to keep sweeping and vacuuming and throwing things out and dusting and washing windows and throwing more things out and

…relax. I said to myself.

I can’t! I said back.
Have some wine.
My head hurts.
Then go to bed.
OK but I just wanna…
Leave it! Go to bed!

I tweeted some and then went to bed.

All weekend, the same thing happened. Here I had all this time to sit and write (I mean not a LOT of time but more than usual) so I would think about reading or writing and — I just didn’t feel like it. I was not at all as excited about putting words on the page as I was about scrubbing the grime out of our window screens. And then I felt bad about being more excited about grimy window screens than about the act of creation. The thing I love to do. Except when I don’t.

Two things I reminded myself of to assuage the guilt:

1. With writing (and, to a certain extent, parenting) I am never finished. I can write draft after draft and it will still not be done. Until I put it somewhere out of sight and then it passes for done until I read it again. Reorganizing a bedroom: when you’re done you’re done. Obviously I would prefer the task that gives me a sense of accomplishment.

2. Repetitive, monotonous, redundant, useless (because it will all be filthy and disorganized again in a week when this fit passes) tidying is a rest for the intellectual brain. Physical activity gives the head a little holiday. The problem is getting back to work. Stopping the movement and sitting back down at the desk.

I’m back at the desk.

(Fresco took of me while I was typing. Yes, I type so fast I’m blurry!)

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