Last week, I was working intensely in my room when my mom came in and suggested that I eat something. I had got home from work a couple of hours ago, and my brain probably needed the energy.
Focused on my work, I mindlessly agreed and asked her to let me concentrate on what I was doing. She quickly apologized and let me know that she’d bring me something in a couple of minutes.
After she left, I put down my pencil and stopped to reflect on what had just happened. I knew that my mom was tired from just getting back from work herself — still, she was mustering up the energy and attention to make something with her own hands for me. She didn’t have to — I probably would’ve kept working until I was so hungry that I had to grab a quick bite — but she did. Because she wanted to make sure that I was taking care of myself.
She comes back a few minutes later with a plate of hot, freshly made pakodas — an Indian dish that requires mixing several ingredients to make a batter that is then fried for the final product. It’s not the most laborious dish to make, but it definitely isn’t something you can pop in the microwave and serve. Before leaving the room — as if she was reading my mind and picked up on my moment of reflection — she says:
You put so much effort into your work. You need to enjoy life too.
No complaints of being tired or cooking something for me. No pause for a “thank you”. She knew I was focused on my work, and didn’t want to distract me for any longer than she had to.
I realized just how mindless and ungrateful I was being. Was I really so preoccupied with myself that I couldn’t stop to thank my mom and chat with her about her day?
I decided to take my food to the dining table. My mom, still in the kitchen, says, “I love seeing you eat the food I make so fondly.” She went on to tell me a story about how her father always insists on making food at home, so they can decide and know exactly how much of each ingredient went into a meal.
Had I stayed in my room, wrapped up in my own world and failing to consciously think about my mom’s gesture of love, I likely wouldn’t have had this moment of talking about her childhood with her.
It may seem insignificant, but these moments of human connection with others are what strengthen our relationships with others. And these relationships are perhaps the most powerful part of determining how we feel about our lives.
While my act of neglect might not have had a negative effect in the moment (my mom didn’t appear to or express being bothered), failing to stop and appreciate others and their actions leads to them becoming expectations instead of acts of kindness. And people may forget what you said, or what you did, but they never forget how you made them feel. I was determined to not let my mom feel that I take her actions for granted, or that I don’t have the time to show her that I appreciate her and talk about her day.
It also made me think about the downsides of what we like to call multi-tasking. Research has shown that being involved in two tasks simultaneously simply isn’t possible for the human brain. Instead, our brains switch rapidly from one task to another. It may feel like we’re saving time by focusing our energy on multiple tasks, but really, we’re just going back and forth between different brain functions. In effect, it’s debatable whether multi-tasking is actually beneficial if we’re never entirely focusing on one task.
Even though I felt like I didn’t have enough time to stop and eat, I probably wasn’t being as productive by multi-tasking as I could have by giving my all to each action, one at a time. And I certainly wasn’t appreciating the home-cooked food of my mother — something I truly miss when I’m away at university.
It becomes so easy to blaze through a day, trying to multi-task our way to feeling like we’ve accomplished everything we needed to do. More often than not, it still doesn’t feel like it was enough. There’s more that we could’ve squeezed in.
Before we know it, infinite moments and conversations that could have made us feel more connected to others have flown by.
If only we took the time to act a little more consciously — to stop and eat the pakodas — maybe we’d all appreciate our lives a little more.
Thanks so much for reading! I would love to hear about how you take time to express gratitude in your own life. If you like what you read, feel free to check out my other posts and follow me.