The way of the Highly Haphazard Woman

In the week that I started back at work after a year of maternity leave and thus added to my life a new metaphorical ball to juggle, I enjoyed an article by author and New York Times writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner on how to thrive on a diet of stress and disarray.

At a time where the ideal modus operandi seems to be ‘deliberate’ and ‘mindful’, Brodesser is championing another way: one which is less calm and more chaotic.

‘When the regimented life went mainstream, it somehow became insurrectionist to have a mind like mine: one that’s always running, one that doesn’t relent, one that races and commands my hands to do a million things at once. Somehow it has become objectionable to be someone who is winging it. It’s become subversive to be scattered.’

Just as JOMO acted as the perfect antidote to FOMO, so too Brodesser’s Highly Haphazard Woman acts as the ideal counterpoint to her Highly Regimented one.

The Highly Regimented Woman (HRW) completes one task at a time. She is zen. She is ‘in the moment’, whatever that moment may be. She meditates, does yoga and I’ll warrant she also drinks hot water with lemon before breakfast. She lives by routine and does one thing at a time. She is intentional and she is deliberate.

I’ve spent a significant proportion of my adult life trying to be this woman. To some outside eyes, maybe I appear to be her in my own yoga-practicing, herbal tea-drinking way. But I have a secret, dear reader: I am not she.

Which is why I find the idea of the Highly Haphazard Woman a heartening one. She is the woman who gets sh*t done. Sometimes it’s ok, sometimes it’s scrappy. In the words of Stephen Fry in a recent podcast on ‘Order’, she is the ‘scrambled eggs’.

She is scattered and fragmented at times. She may forget things. She may have many windows open in her browser and even more half-written emails waiting in draft. If she is me (which she is), she has four or five podcasts on the go at any one time, at least two books with their corners turned waiting to be finished and a good handful of articles on their way to completion. She multitasks and her mind is splintered, so that she may (Ok, I may) stop midway through a run to message a friend or write notes for a blog post.

What is pleasing about this article is that Brodesser makes the HHW seem ok. More than ok: she shows that she can be someone who is empowered, thriving and achieving great things. Brodesser takes the guilt out of not being able to meditate, or of wanting to keep many balls in the air at any given time.

I’d like to finish on this quote from the article:

‘Here is the thing about mindfulness and routine and slowness: They are great in theory, but when they become more important than the things they were supposed to provide you, they are a danger. They can drown out the voices that are telling you how to live, and that’s what I’m afraid of. These thoughts that everyone is spending so much time trying to chase away—they’re gifts. They are blessings. They are the thing that makes us alive.’

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