Tag Archives: distractions

Spring Concert…Where’s my iPhone?

Tonight I attended the Spring Concert at the elementary school.  As I craned my neck to search for my son who would be singing (or mouthing) and playing (or blowing anyway) the trumpet, I couldn’t help but notice the iPhone attached to the hand on the person in front of me.  I saw a sewing machine.  I saw fingers adeptly copying a description and pasting into a Google search bar.  Up came the search, nudge to the husband, look at what I found.  Maybe her child wasn’t on the stage just yet.

What’s with not being able to sit through a performance, as tedious or chore-some as it might be, and just try to enjoy it?  What’s with not being attached to the phone every and any hour of the day?  Was it really important in that moment to look for a sewing machine?  Was it?

I admit I am not the most plugged in person.  I hung up my technology hat long ago to learn nursery rhymes and revisit new words, like car, red, big.  I did not have to forfeit everything, but I did forfeit a lot.  I wanted to focus on something else.  It doesn’t make me better or smarter.  In fact, I feel a whole lot dumber.  I am not savvy.  I am not fashionable.  I am not even all that much fun.  Okay I’m grumpy.  I don’t even care for computers.  I took a blogging class to learn what a blog was many years after blogging was a verb!

I may not be the best audience for the latest gadget.  But I am a better audience when I’m looking at the kids on a stage and not at that gadget.   When you go see a show, the screen is the stage full of kids who have practiced, or not, their songs and who are all dressed up and proud and happy and just having fun.   Having been a teacher and up on a kind of stage, I came to realize how much you see of an unaware audience.  You see everything.   If my son looked out with a big smile and searched for me and I was looking at my phone, well I guess I wouldn’t even notice.  But he would.

I am not the most Zen and I am certainly not present in every moment.  I definitely don’t focus 100% when one or any or all at once of my children are talking to me.  But I try.  It’s become much harder to do now that I have four kids and not one.  I am much busier than I even try to realize.  There is much more laundry, much more food to prepare, much more scheduling, much more everything.  And there is also much more out there to distract us, not to mention our children.  But we can also make choices.

I choose not to pick up my phone during a movie, or a concert, or anything where years ago my phone would not have even been present.  It is so easy to pick up the phone because there is so much to look at and search for and check on.  But really.  Is it necessary?  The sewing machine will be there.  Will the cacophony on the stage last beyond that one scheduled hour?

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Indecisions Indecisions

Making a decision is not in my tool box of strong skills.  Even Stop & Shop is overwhelming.  They finally have a good gluten-free aisle, but now check out all the pastas I can try…quinoa, corn, rice, rice and soy, corn and quinoa…

Years ago my husband and I were divided on what to plant along our back fence to replace aging bushes that provided privacy except when it rained and they sagged or it snowed and the snow sat on their limbs which bowed in every direction and acted as accommodating horizontal benches or it was sunny and you could see in between them.  Each year I said forsythia and he said arborvitae.  Another year would pass.  The aging bushes got taken out.  Another year passed.  I found euonymous.  Lovely green glossy leaves.  Bushy eventually.  Provides cover eventually.  Three years later they’ve grown quite nicely.  They do not provide full coverage quite yet.  Still, they have filled out, they are tall, they have glossy leaves.  They’re pretty.

But they are not forsythia and they are not arborvitae.  They are a compromise.  Neither one of us got what we wanted, but we did make a decision.  So I’m not sure I like them.  I can still see forsythia.

And that’s the problem with decisions.  You don’t always make the right choice, but you don’t know that until later.  And there isn’t a later if you don’t make a choice to begin with.  Or rather there is a later, but one that resulted from not making a decision.

I heard a story once about a woman who was pregnant and couldn’t decide which doctor she wanted to use for her delivery.  She was between two doctors (like Stevens’ of “two minds”) and pregnancy’s finale doesn’t wait so her due date got closer and closer.  Eventually she went into labor and ended up at a clinic.  Decision made.

Not clearing a pile of stuff is a way to delay a decision.  It’s very easy to clear a pile if you see that this go here and that goes there and this gets thrown away and that gets donated and everything is now in its neat little home and everything is put away and in its place.  I always liked that idea(l): a place for everything and everything in its place.  It sounds nice.  It is nice.  But it’s a kind of fiction.  A kind of control over things that maybe can be controlled.  When I look at a pile, I know I’m looking at decisions.  Does this go out? Does this get filed? Don’t I have that kind of file started?  That pile is a pile of decisions that may be easy or may be hard but decisions nonetheless and decisions, well, I don’t like them.

Here’s the thing with decisions.  In a sense, they are control: I have made a choice, I am in control, I will move forward and not back.  I accept this choice I have made and now the consequence.  And from that consequence, other choices and decisions to be made.  Move forward.  Move forward.

Having piles is a way of not doing that.  Not making a decision is a way of not doing that.  And that’s okay too.  Except it’s not really.  Because it’s a delay and a delay means stuck like stuck in traffic and you can’t see around that truck or around that corner.  And what is there if these cars get out of the way??

What is it about decisions? For me it’s making the “right” choice.  Intellectually, I know there is no right, but there are so many options! And each one a different consequence!  Remember the books with the choices you could make at every chapter and the choice you made got you to the next scene and subsequent choice until you got to the end?  I loved to hate those books.  I, of course, would always go back and try out the other options.  But the best part is: I always ended up safe.  I never went off the cliff, I never fell to my death, I never took the scary choices.

Ok, deciding between forsythia and arborvitae or between quinoa or corn pasta is not that life-threatening or risky.  But the point is you have to make a choice.  You have to say this is it.  I mean I can’t imagine picking Bachelor number 1 from behind a wall! Oh darn, I knew I should have picked 3!!

And the thing with decisions is they move you forward.  You have to accept.  You have to move on.  Or you can have regrets, which I am very good at.  Witness forsythia.

Yet what I am realizing is not making decisions is not fun.  What I decide may not be right or good or perfect.  What I decide will have its drawbacks.  But deciding is a muscle, like any other, that I have to flex and use and strengthen.  The more decisions I make and avoid delaying  the better I get at it.  And the stronger I become.  Even if I don’t like the consequence.  At that’s what I want to see when the traffic clears.

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What is Clutter?

Clearly I’m on a clutter roll here… Clutter is anything that is in the way of something else.  This idea struck me last night.

Right now, my book club is clutter.  I love my book club: the friends, the interaction, the discussion, even the dinner–our venue is a casual restaurant which is so fun–no clean-up!  But I’m reading (or not really) books in which I’m not all that interested in right now.  The books are fine, the books are interesting, but right now rather than the latest Pulitzer winner, I’m on the parenting and organizing circuit.  I can’t get my head around much else.  It’s not that I don’t want to read the books.  But actually I don’t want to read the books.

So last night I walked into my bedroom and caught sight of my desk, which I cleared off and relocated (that’s another story), and an unexpected and involuntary jerk of joy swam across my face.  There resting on my desk was a copy of a book I wanted to read! And there was nothing beside it! You see earlier in the day I forced myself to accept that I did not want to and would in fact not read the current book club selection and I made myself return it to the library.  That book had been next to the book I was given recently from the World Book Night USA list (The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, if you must know), a not so demanding read that pulled me right in with the first page. The book I was Supposed to read was telling me that I was not Allowed to read the other book because I was Supposed to be reading that one first (In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, if you must know).  And I did want to read it.  Really, I did.  And I started it too.  But with so little time, did I really want to invest all those hours (I am a painfully slow reader) into a book I didn’t really want to read right now –as good and great as it might be– instead of doing something else I’d rather do–say read a different book, or maybe -gasp- some poetry – or write in my blog? How could I?

I did.  I stopped reading the book.  I accepted the loss and future challenge of returning to it when I was ready.  I returned the book.  I am going to hang up my book club hat for now.  I am going to read other books.  I am going to write in my blog.

When I saw my desk and only the book I wanted to read, I realized then the other book was clutter.  The other book was reminding me of what I was supposed to do rather than what I wanted to do.  It was a distraction.  It had to go.  It was a relief and a joy to see that it was gone.  In that moment, I understood clarity.  Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do.  But sometimes you don’t.  Some things are elective even though they feel like they’re not.  If the elective becomes clutter and not joy, it has to go.

In that microcosm I saw the macro.  Is my general house clutter a distraction from at the very least my writing?  Yes.  Is it easy to get rid of?  No.  Am I ignoring it to write right now?  Yes.  Will I address the clutter?  I am.  But at least for now, not at the expense of writing.

What is your clutter? What can you let go of to make room for what you really want?  It can be as small as a book you don’t want to read.

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