The Next Forty Days, Day 12–Driven to Distraction

Sometimes I think I live in a perennial state of distraction. My children used to accuse me of having ADD. “Focus, Mommy,” they used to say to me when I would stop mid-sentence and notice something completely random. I eventually made my way back to what I was going to say, frowning at them for their rudeness. The fact is, they were each diagnosed with a degree of attention deficit disorder (ADD), among other things, so while I resented their implication that  had it, when actually they did, I figure they came by it honestly because I likely suffer from it as well. Back in the olden days when I was in school they didn’t have fancy words for the things that we suffered from, we somehow just gritted our teeth, knuckled down, and did our best. Still, I think the increasing incidence, or rather diagnosis, of ADD has less to do with the ways our brains are wired and more to do with the way technologies and pedagogies (a fancy word for teaching methods) that have emerged in the 21st century. In short, I believe we are driven to distraction.

I have been working all day long on a presentation that I have to deliver to a group in the morning. Actually, I have been more working at it, less than on it. I have been distracted by myriad things–emails, multiple phone calls with people at work, and a variety of random things. The sad part is that I am actually off work, away from the office trying to organize my life after moving this past weekend. So even though I had the presentation to prepare for, I had no business doing all the other stuff. The fact that I have allowed myself to be distracted–and yes, I place the blame squarely on my shoulders– is yet another reminder to me that I simply have to change the ways I work and clearly separate work days from days “off.”

In essence I’ve worked at home all day. And while it is definitely more comfortable here than in my office (if you like being surrounded by boxes and chaos) I might as well have gotten dressed and driven in. And at 5:00 p.m. I still hadn’t finished my presentation and had done very little unpacking in my house. I realize that every time my email “dings” (which happens approximately every five minutes) I either decide to ignore it or take a “quick peek” at it. And of course the peeking turns into firing off a quick response–it’ll only take a minute after all. Only I’ve taken dozens of minutes doing all these random things and suddenly minutes became hours and the day is over. I somewhat belatedly turned off my email–except it’s still dinging on my cell phone–and then the phone rang. I chose to ignore it, letting it go to voicemail, but then was distracted with the guilt of not speaking to the person who left a long, somewhat plaintive sounding voicemail.

Yes, some of this is hardwiring. I get distracted and flit from one thing to another and back again. It gets quite frustrating actually, but I have learned to accept this about myself and try to work on it. Perhaps I should take up meditation again, if only I could sit still long enough to sit still. Some of it is also a function of my increasing reliance on technology and my almost pavlovian response to the pings, dings, and shwooshes of the emails, texts, and Google hangout chats that are constantly blowing up my phone, iPad, and computer. Heck, even the television can do some of that stuff if I could program it to do so.

I bet Jesus didn’t have this problem. Well, I know he didn’t have this problem, at least not the technology piece. While he was likely being constantly distracted and pulled in various directions by the competing needs and demands of his legions of followers, his often bickering and bumbling associates, and his religious and political antagonists, he did periodically withdraw to find quiet. Even when seeking quiet, the pesky ol’ devil harassed and distracted him with wild offers and temptations of various kinds. So in that sense, yes, I suppose Jesus did deal with distractions of his own. Still, I bet he dealt with it better than I have, what with him being the son of God and everything.

As I wander through these 40 days I’ve been pondering the various ways in which I don’t support myself in the manner that I deserve. By my choosing to answer emails and texts and phone calls today I have left myself in a place of not having completed my presentation (and yes, I have distracted myself from that by writing this post…) I will put myself, once again, in a position of having to create from nothing and pull together this presentation from various others I’ve done in the past. Will it turn out alright? Probably. Will I have put unnecessary pressure on myself doing it at the last minute. Absolutely. And yet, I know I will do better. How do I know this? Because there are people in my life who will help me do better. They will ask me if I am distracting myself from doing what I need to do. They will lovingly nudge me to get back to the business at hand. And eventually I’ll be able to better care for myself and do better without assistance. And I will do the same for them.

I’m grateful for having taken a little while from the project I’ve been puttering around with all day to write this post. It is a most welcome distraction. For one thing, I won’t be writing this post late tonight, as often happens. For another, these musings have provided me with another piece of data to help make my life better, and hopefully yours too. I now return you to whatever you were doing before you stopped to read this post!

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