Like a Chicken With Its Head Cut Off


This is a thing my mother would say when she was trying to convey a sense of how she was feeling when there were too many things to do, and all of them demanding her immediate attention. Or, maybe when she observed me or my sister manically scattering our own attention when what we needed to do was our homework or housework.

Sheila, quit running around like a chicken with its head cut off and vacuum the living room.

It’s a pretty gruesome image, actually, because it’s real after all. Beheaded chickens do run around in a last burst of adrenaline and nerve. This grim display usually lasts only a moment, except in the case of Mike the Headless Chicken who lived, post axing, for 18 months back in 1945! (I’ll just leave this here and get back to where I was going. But be sure you want to see and read about a headless chicken before you click, though, okay?)

Where was I going?

Right. See, this is exactly it. I am feeling super scattered right at the moment I really need to vacuum the house.

Tomorrow is June, a month that is largely open for my own creative work. A month I have been looking forward to and planning for all year. I’ve got projects-a-plenty to work on, six browser windows going, and at least six different document files beckoning from the task bar. I jump back and forth between them every few minutes, adding a line, deleting a sentence, checking email, posting to Facebook, looking at pictures of bridges on Google images, all while a dull metallic soundtrack whirs in the background.

It’s my air conditioner. No, it’s my brain.

I learned recently that it takes twenty-five minutes for our focus to return after even the simplest distraction. I don’t doubt it. I am living it.

I’m dabbling in much but deepening not nearly enough. Who are these people who write multiple books at one time?

Oh, Lovely June, some of my friends and colleagues are using you to hole up somewhere far from distraction and write. Or even just to think quietly. Alone.

How I do envy them.

I don’t have a destination other than my dining room table ahead for my writing this summer, but I hope that putting the kids in camp for a few weeks will help me feel like I’m in the woods (as opposed to the weeds) somewhere.

I just need to pick a project and find a place to hide the internet.

P.S. This is one of my favorite songs. Really!


“Curious Chicken,” original image.

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