By G. E. Shuman
Sometimes my mind tends to wander. Does yours ever do that? Did it just do it now, as you began reading this column? In my case, I usually don’t realize that my mind has wandered until at some later time, when I find that I am not aware of something that other people think I SHOULD be aware of. A typical situation, for me, is that I will sometimes ask my wife a question about something I think we must discuss, and she will reply that we had already made a decision on that issue, ‘yesterday’, or at some other time that I don’t quite remember. I do usually have at least some warning that I’m entering the minefield of ‘already decided issues’, if I happen to see Lorna roll her eyes near the end of my inquiry to her. As you can guess, by that time it’s already too late to start over, and the best I can usually do is to sneak out of that minefield as quickly and as stealthily as possible, which just means that I do my best to immediately change the subject. This, I believe, often works, but, after 44 years of marriage, it may only be that she lets me escape, to save time and effort on her part. She’s crafty like that.
One setting in which I think my mind wanders a bit is when I’m driving on the highway. I don’t think this is particularly dangerous; my mind doesn’t really wander from the task of driving, at least not yet. I don’t like listening to music when I drive, and so my car is usually pretty quiet. If other people are in the car, my wife, again, for instance, there is at least some possibility that I will miss part of a conversation we will have, and fall into the many traps and potholes a wandering mind can cause. If I’m alone in the car, the setting is more than pretty quiet. It is very quiet. I don’t sing to myself in the car, or anywhere else for that matter, because it irritates my ears. I also don’t talk to myself, as my family members are not the only ones who don’t usually want to hear what I have to say. So, my mind might wander a bit.
I know that another situation in which my mind wanders is when I’m reading, and this is not good, and makes such reading a complete waste of time. At least if your mind wanders while driving you will probably still get to where you’re going, unless your car wanders, too. If you’re reading and your mind wanders, you get nowhere at all. The worst possible combination would be to be reading while you’re driving, and then have your mind wander. Never, ever read while you are driving, or drive while you’re reading. But, back to reading. Have you ever suddenly realized that you have just read a paragraph in a book for the third or fourth time? When that happens to me it is always because my mind has wandered. If it happens while I’m reading in bed at night I am alerted that my mind has wandered into sleep, by the book falling on my face. For this reason, I only do ‘light’ (ha ha) reading in bed, like a thin paperback or something on my phone.
Now, here’s a big, bad one, at least for me. I do have to admit that my mind sometimes wanders in church. I know that this is a no-no, and I really try to not let it happen, but it still sometimes does. “Where did Pastor say to turn in my Bible?” This is when I glance over and try to see what the person beside me is reading from theirs. Still, I’ll bet preachers’ minds sometimes wander, too. They’re human, too. It must happen. I’m sure they are often looking down at the congregation on Sunday morning and thinking about what’s for lunch, just like I might be. Plus, they are facing all those mind-wandering people, and must especially notice the ones who are doing it with their eyes closed.
This might seem a bit strange, but the only time I can say, with some certainty, that my mind does not wander is when I’m writing. I don’t know why this is so. I can’t write if there is much noise around, and that noise includes both voices and music. Music WITH voices is even worse. In any case, I write best, or at least most, when I am alone, thinking. Wait a minute. Speaking of thinking, I just thought of something. What I thought of is that when I write, that could actually BE my mind wandering. If that’s the case, when you read my writing, you’re only reading the ramblings of an unrestrained brain. Hum… Maybe those wandering thoughts simply flow down into my fingers, onto my computer, and then onto one of the pages of The World.
In some ways, I do feel a bit better, having thought all this through. I don’t think I’m losing my memory, from age, or for any other reason, and that’s a relief. Also, if my writing is really just my way of daydreaming, my wandering mind isn’t my fault at all. You’re the reader, so, I think the fault must be yours. That, at least, is what I’m going to tell Lorna the next time I see her roll her eyes.