Distraction

by tamarjacobson

Logging into Facebook this morning, I saw that Alex Halavais had asked a question:

Any way (short of major drugs) to stop being so easily distracted and get my #*@($ writing done?

At first I laughed out loud. And then I experienced that support group type of warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with being understood. I replied immediately, my answer spilling out faster than I could type:

grrr … *tell* me about it! I wanna know how, too … as well … also

I lit my candle and incense, switched on the little water fountain that tinkles gently in my study, turned on the CD player to hear The Passport Series, a collection of music put together as a gift for me by my friend Joe-From-Philly, back in those old passport-panic days, and proceeded to water the plants.

While I was watering the plants on the patio and in the living room I could hear the Jays screaming and squawking, probably announcing the food I had just poured into the feeders by the old oak tree outside our window. A slight breeze played with the leaves at the top of the trees in the woods and sunshine filtered through. A beautiful day to be sure. "Perhaps I could take a walk by the Wissahickon after I get done with the plants," I thought to myself. I opened all the doors and windows to allow the cool air to blow through the apartment, and realized I was still thinking about Halavais‘ question. A mischievous smile curled into my lips as I imagined sitting at the computer to write a post about distractions.

"What a great way to answer the question," I thought. How comforting to realize that it is plaguing other people out there. Bend towards, become it, drown myself in distraction, wallow in it, soak it into my skin, brain, soul, burning eyes, and down to my very newly painted toes. Experience the distraction! Fully, openly, completely and without fear. Recognize all its forms and sensations. Its callous cruelty, beauty, the way distraction becomes fun, how it causes shame and guilt to seep into the soul. To become acquainted with its insidious nature as it creeps around the psyche squeezing my brain with its dis-tractable tentacles. Examine its purpose, understand the importance of distraction for me, specifically for me.

I sat down in front of the computer and cast my eyes down to the piles of books strewn around my feet waiting to be used for the literature review I had just started working on before I clicked over to Facebook. I felt the guilt sensation: a kind of sickness in the pit of my stomach, emptiness in the cavity below my rib cage, eyes prickling on the verge of full scale burning. I sat with the discomfort realizing that this uncomfortable feeling had almost become like a friend to me. "Hm …," I thought. "So, I like to feel guilty. It is familiar, eh?" This time when I looked down at the books on the floor I breathed deeply, a sigh loudly escaping my lips, and relaxed.

Distracted again, I checked out when Message in a Bottle would be playing on television later today, because I had been interrupted trying to catch it on some channel or other yesterday just before friends came over for dinner. It was not a particularly spectacular movie but it had just become interesting when I had to turn it off. Okay. Now distractions are arriving even as I try to examine them. I am being distracted with distractions. The situation is chronic. Dire!

Or, perhaps, it is just that it is summer. My nineteen years of full-time work and study, writing and presenting has finally caught up with me and I had a particularly good summer this year. Maybe I just caught a play bug and want to play more and more. Perhaps distraction has nothing to do with guilt and shame and it is just that fun is more appealing. That is it! I just want to have fun.

And yet, I have been collecting books and articles on the topic for my next book for close to thirteen years now. It is a subject near and dear to my heart. A publisher, whose editor understands the importance of what I have to say, is interested, really interested. Contract in hand and deadline beckons. I think about how exciting it is when I get into the writing groove and enjoy watching the words flow up and out of the brain, through my fingers and onto the screen. Ah, so writing gives me pleasure?

Distraction = guilt and shame. Writing = pleasure. A picture is forming.

It occurs to me that distraction feels out of control. It leaves me without a choice. It takes me away from what I want to do, what I enjoy doing, that which gives me pleasure. I do not choose to be distracted. It happens to me. It is not that I write awhile and then stretch and say to myself, "Ah, that was a good writing session. Now I think I will do thus and such," and then do it with a relaxed and happy feeling. It is more like, suddenly I desperately need to arrange the photos in my photo album, check out when the latest movies are being released, or just have to see if FP has invited me to dance on Facebook … [Hold it! I think he just did!] And then, as I follow the uncontrollable distraction, guilt and shame creeps and seeps bringing on the blues, feelings of worthlessness and incompetence, angst, and, even, sometimes … panic.

If only I could let go of needing to feel bad about myself, I might be able to choose to take all kinds of pleasurable breaks that would, thus, enhance further the joy of writing – releasing myself from the burdensome feelings I have created for myself. That is, writing is a chore and not a pleasure.

Having become almost mesmerized by thinking about all of this, I suddenly realize:

Theorizing about distraction is itself a form of distraction.

And now, enough. I really must go and find something to eat …

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: The stand I will take