What happened to just “sitting still”?

Published 8:45 am Saturday, April 30, 2022

I’ve noticed that these days I am unable to simply sit quietly and do nothing.  If I’m watching TV, I likely have my iPad in my lap and either play a game or check Facebook during the commercials or during a lull of sorts in my program.  Even if I’m stopped at a traffic light, I’m fidgeting.  If I have to wait for grocery pick-up, I’m checking my phone or messing with stuff in the console.  Why do I do this?  Should I blame the internet?  Does the distraction of social media drive my fidgeting?  Is it a “senior” thing?

I remember when my children were young, all I wanted was some peace and quiet.  I said it so many times that my younger son Jeff would repeat that Mom wants “a piece of quiet.”  When those rare moments of “piece of quiet” presented themselves, I could be as still as stone.  Maybe reading, watching TV, in a few rare moments quilting, but I didn’t have to be in motion every single second.  

Way back, I remember being able to multi-task with intention.  I could watch a TV program, write a letter, and talk on the phone.  But not anymore.  My attention span is comparable to that of a toddler.  I flit from one activity to the next just because I feel like it’s wasted time if I don’t.  And if I think of something that needs to be done, I do it before I forget what it was I wanted/needed to do.  I had someone tell me that I was very efficient.  It’s not that.  I’m forgetful.  

Email newsletter signup

Is this a female trait?  I’ve read the tale about the wife who says she’s going to bed.  Along the way, she stops to pick up things from the living room, goes to the kitchen and empties the dishwasher, sets out things to prepare breakfast and lunch for the next morning, folds a load of laundry, checks the thermostat and adjusts as needed, gets a shower, gets the bed ready, makes a to-do list for the next day, checks on the children, and finally to bed.  Whereas a husband announces he’s going to bed, and he does just that.   

And often when I do get still, as in bed ready for sleep, my mind races.  I think of all the things that I did that day and all the things I need or want to do the next day.  Also, any worries or concerns present themselves as if on a loop—I replay every scenario that either has taken place or that might take place.  My concerns range from the trivial—what item did I leave off my grocery pick up order—to the ongoing atrocities of war in Ukraine.  I find myself having to shut it down and intentionally stop to count my blessings.  And I have many—two fantastic sons married to amazing women, beautiful and smart grandchildren, a wonderful, devoted husband, terrific family and the best friends, food, shelter, and so many things for which I am most grateful.  So, as I literally count my blessings, my mind is calmed, and I am finally ready for sleep.  

But then the next day is like the Groundhog Day movie, the fidgeting begins again.  As I wait for my coffee cup to fill from the single serve coffee maker, I grab the nearby saltshaker to fill it.  It’s as if I have a compulsion to multitask in those few seconds.  

True to what I’ve been saying, in the time I’ve been writing this, I’ve looked up “how to stop fidgeting.”  It says that fidgeting is a subconscious habit and that it “may be more realistic to harness your fidgeting, rather than stopping it.”  It goes on to say that not all fidgeting is negative and may have some health benefits.  So, I’m not crazy.  I’m just busy!  Thanks for listening.  


Bonnie Brown writes a weekly column for The Oxford Eagle. Contact her a bbrown@olemiss.edu.