Nevertheless I’m Persisting


As Matt isn’t here, wretched thought, I’ve had to get up out of bed and stagger downstairs to make my own first onslaught of caffeine for the day.

And this is the difference between us. Because before I could make the tea I had to clear off the counter. But before I could clear off the counter I had to sweep the floor. But before I could sweep the floor I had to remove an array of childhood weaponry–a plastic princess bow and arrow set, three nerf swords, and a light saber–away from my path. But before I could clear the path of last night’s battle I had to give the cat a tiny bowl of milk. But before I could give her milk I had to clear the counter. And before I could clear the counter I needed the caffeine.

So I stood in my strangely crocheted slippers, paralyzed, and realized this is why I hope I am never called into real battle. Because a man, like Matt, just walks into the kitchen and makes the tea. He doesn’t even see the stuff on the counter. He doesn’t realize that there is even dirt on the floor. He might realize it later, after the cat has had her milk–it is really hard to consider the thing in front of you when an angry cat is wending her way in and out of your legs, meowing with an edge to the voice that lets you know she’s about to reach out and smack you–but in the critical moment, he isn’t distracted by non essential issues. He sees immediately the main thing and does that, without wavering in indecision.

Incidentally, this is why the kitchen should be cleaned all the way at night. So that I can walk in and make the tea, which would allow me to clear the counter and sweep the floor. But, well, I have a cold, so.

The Deep Work book that I’m listening to has been so helpful in illuminating the distraction loop that I am so constantly caught in. Its not Just that I stand in the kitchen unsure about what to do first because there are so many things, all of them critical, its that I stand in Almost Every Facet of life this way, because my conscious attention has been refracted, scattered in every direction, by the lilting loop of news checking, facebook checking, twitter checking, text checking.

As part of working through this book I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like to sit still for awhile and only think about One Thing for, say, fifteen minutes, without shifting my attention away to think about something else. I can’t imagine, frankly, what that would be like.

What is so brilliant about the social media inventors is that they created a product that falls gently and easily into the already carved out, well settled paths of distraction that are the property of raising children and organizing a household. My attention and ability to focus has always been, how shall I say, suboptimal. From my youth I have never been A Deep Thinker. But then having children and being chattered at in all directions only made matters worse. I am wired to hear every noise, respond to every alarm, see every spec of dust. Looking out over the battlefield of ordinary life I see the vast sweeping scope of every single threat and problem.

In this way I am the ideal Facebook user. My mind is perfectly formed for the short, distracted, angsty scroll. It couldn’t be more perfect.

Nevertheless, I persist in trying to alter my present course. I am not trying to learn to become a multimillion dollar making CEO with my striving effort towards Deep Work. I am only trying to break the stranglehold of social media distraction and return to the way I was before I had six children. Only better, because I know a lot more than I did before, even if most of it is useless.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I guess I will clear off the counter and sweep the floor, because instead of doing that, I sat down to write this post. You’re welcome. Pip Pip.

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