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Let’s Talk About Bandwidth

I went to a party last week. Anyone who knows me well would make the perplexed head tilt now and say “really?” Yes, I did, and I even stayed an hour longer than I planned to. It was a dinner party for a local grassroots transportation advisory committee I’m part of. We participate in the public process for our city’s Public Works projects and comment on how they could be better for bicycles and pedestrians. This group consists of people with backgrounds in environmental law and urban planning—the kind of people who used to be my colleagues before I got the axe in 2009. The relief I felt at the conversation reminded me of parents of small children who are so happy to talk with other adults.

One woman, Darcy, talked about the lack of participation of low-income people in the political process (and their resulting disenfranchisement). She mentioned that even if they weren’t busy working more hours for less money than most of us, the stress of long-term poverty lowers their emotional bandwidth to the point where they just can’t take on another battle.

I love the way Darcy stated that. Today I was working while packing to move—filling a box, then checking an item off my work to-do list—and I started getting messages from my lender, my insurer, and the company that’s building my tiny house. They had a bit of a Mexican standoff going—the insurer can’t issue my policy until the house is complete and they see a photo of the inspection seal. The lender can’t finalize the loan until they see the insurance policy. The builder is getting anxious that my loan isn’t finalized. I put all 3 of them in touch with one another and said “Figure it out, I have my own work to worry about.” Then my client called with more work for me. I told him it would be okay to wait 2 weeks to get started, it wouldn’t affect the project timing, and I just don’t have the bandwidth to start something new today. The bandwidth concept is sticking.

I looked up emotional bandwidth on the Internet, and it’s a thing. You probably already know about it; it’s widely accepted in the world of psychology. I think it’s something we with hidden disabilities all understand, that the added stress of managing our conditions can reduce our emotional bandwidth and make “adulting” harder. I saw it on the posts of several friends from my audience this week. They had physical crises and suddenly all their other balls in the air fell down. That’s certainly true of me with my move. My last nerve is frayed to a nub.

My friend Sarah is in town and she just texted me to find out what I’m up to. My response was a bad word with extra vowels in a string, followed by the emoji with spinning eyes and mouth open in a wordless scream. My bandwidth was just exceeded. I know she understands.

How is your bandwidth today? Take over for me, okay? Let’s hear some stories.

Let’s Talk About Bandwidth

Kristin Noreen

Kristin Noreen lives in Bellingham, Washington with two cats and her vintage touring bicycle, Silver. Her triple passions are animal rescue, long-distance bike touring, and writing. Her book, On Silver Wings: A Life Reconstructed, is about reinventing her life following a catastrophic injury.

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APA Reference
, . (2019). Let’s Talk About Bandwidth. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Jan 2019
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