At some point I learned to function on more than one level of consciousness. This can be very convenient, though at some points the levels cross and a thought that won't make any sense will come out of my mouth to the wrong person. It is often helpful at the theater--where I can listen to someone telling me information over our radio headsets while appearing to be perfectly engaged in helping to direct the patron standing before me.
Other times, it means that I zone out of reality and start replaying books in my mind. I find when I'm agitated or frustrated, I tend to revert to Jane Austen. In her commentaries on manners and expectations, cads and wonderfully reliable gentlemen, ditsy and practical women, I find a soothing "other world" to escape into while I'm doing the dishes. I can come back at a moment's notice (to prevent from dropping a glass) but then I can slide right back into Maryann's walk through Norland Park or Anne Elliot's visit to her crippled friend.
Without conscious choice I often go back to Hamlet--but that's probably more of the theater than anything else. Having heard it 40-50 times this fall, it's easy to fall into the comfortable cadence of Shakespeare. I hear Claudius raging about his decisions, Hamlet struggling to make a decision, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern cracking me up...yet again. I tend not to hear the soliloquies (the horror, I know) but instead the scenes, playing again with stellar voices such as Barbara Robertson, Mike Nussbaum, and Ben Carlson happily chatting along while I'm making the bed.
It comes to me as little wonder that we still love to see and hear Shakespeare performed--the beauty and music of the language he used still is charming and memorable.
Does anyone else have books that run through their minds when their bodies are otherwise engaged?