I Happily Left Stress and a Frantic Pace of Life in the U.S.

During a recent visit with family in the States I was playing with one of my granddaughters who is just learning to talk. We had several activities going at once in the playroom and I told her we were multitasking. She replied, “Yes, we are monkey-tasking.”

This malapropism stuck with me because it so innocently describes how our “monkey brain” works away when we have a lot going on. Effective multitasking is a learned skill and in my previous world I was a master practitioner, able to simultaneously juggle enough “balls” to perform in a circus. Now that I think back on it, that world was like a three-ring circus…one I’m happy to have escaped from.

Back when I was a marketing rep in Las Vegas the more I got done the more money I made. I would be driving between appointments simultaneously talking on the phone (yes, I admit it), taking notes, drinking a cup of coffee, and thinking about the rest of the day. The weekends were often a blur of chores and errands with an occasional bit of fun thrown in.

Bringing that mindset to my new home in Cuenca, Ecuador proved extremely frustrating as the prevailing “mañana culture” failed to yield to my will. I received very valuable advice from a local who observed my frustration and told me, “Just try to accomplish one thing a day. Everything else is a bonus.”

She was right. I’ve lived in Cuenca for over five years and while my days are comfortably busy, life has a pleasant, easy flow with no stress or frantic overscheduling. It’s amazing to learn that everything really doesn’t have to get done right now—or even today.

But occasionally one of those days with a lot to do, or a lot going on simultaneously, rears its ugly head, and when it does I’m confronted with the truth that I’m so woefully out of practice. I simply can’t “monkey-task” anymore.

But that’s ok. I have absolutely no desire to regain my former skills as a multitasker because doing so would require full time reentry into that crazy busy world I happily left behind. I’ve just returned home from a two-hour lunch. No, it wasn’t a seven-course feast. After sandwiches and a bottle of wine, my companions and I simply lingered enjoying pleasant conversation that no one was in a hurry to conclude.

A couple of weeks ago my wife, Cynthia, and I spontaneously decided to throw swimming suits in a bag and take off to a local spa for the day simply because we woke up to a glorious sunny morning. If we had anything planned it could wait until tomorrow.

These are just a couple of examples of why we moved to Cuenca in the first place. We spent our entire adult life in the U.S. hustling and bustling. It was time to get off the hamster wheel and start enjoying ourselves. And, boy, do we ever.

Now that I think of it, not only have I given up multitasking, I don’t “task” at all. Even though my life in retirement is relaxed and carefree, each day is so filled with sheer fun and pleasure I’m amazed I ever had time for a job.

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