With the first month of 2016 more than half over, I am finding I’m just not where I thought I’d be. I am no clearer on my purpose and priorities, nor established in routine, nor closer to finding any sense of what normal will mean for me this year. On the bright side; however, one small, yet important revelation has emerged out of my marathon of mental murkiness: I am beginning to recognize my pattern of avoidance and distraction.
First things first, I had to determine whether avoidance (to avoid) and distraction (to distract) are, in fact, the same. Just to be perfectly clear so there is no confusion, the meaning of avoidance is: to avoid or keep away from something. I will use the term in a sentence for illustrative purposes:
I’ve clearly been avoiding my office—the place where I write my most prolific works.
A distraction, on the other hand, can be anything that divides the attention or prevents concentration. However, there is also another connotation of the word: that which amuses, entertains, or diverts. In other words, distraction (to distract) is a sly little term, and an even sneakier phenomenon, as it is manifests in a variety different sizes and forms in our daily lives.
Thinking and journaling on the subject has led me to conclude that even my own thoughts must surely qualify as a distraction on the road to pursuing my goals and dreams. But the following are the big three SHINY distractions that have kept me away from writing since the beginning of January:
- The Holidays and a Decorating Debacle
Not long ago there was thing called Christmas and the holiday season, which really is the ultimate distraction from everyday life. And of course there was decorating for the holidays: SO. MUCH. SHINY. Pretty twinkling lights. Shimmering decorations. The shiny glint and glow of packages wrapped in metallic paper and sparkly bows. I think you get the picture. The holidays are a beautiful time of year, and in many respects a welcome distraction from the otherwise mundane nature of our routine-driven lives.
And then there was un-decorating after the holidays, which took away all the shiny and replaced it with the bland and lackluster. In fact, my house looked so naked after the un-decorating process that I was forced to go out in search of more SHINY things to cover up a certain unmentionable spot in my poor naked house. This became a rather tedious process of trial and error that included many hours of shopping, buying, trying, rearranging, and returning. But in the end I’m pretty happy with how it turned out—because of all the shiny things, plus it’s better than leaving a glitter covered reindeer and frosted garland up all year long. Don’t you think?
2. Books and Reading
“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
It goes without saying that, in my eyes, books are irresistible SHINY things. I am currently enthralled with Still Writing by Dani Shapiro, and I plan to move on to Autobiography of a Yogi when I’m finished. There are so many other titles waiting in the wings that I honestly wish speed reading was a viable option. (I took a course a number of years ago, but something tells me I wouldn’t get nearly as much out of the process that way.)
“For all I know, writing comes out of a superior devotion to reading.”
3. 21-day Journaling Challenge
I stumbled upon a free 21-day journaling challenge (on social media—the most dangerous of all the shiny things) that started at the beginning of January. The challenge, titled A Journey to Genuineness, has proven itself to be a particularly interesting and unexpected shiny thing. If helping to establish a daily writing practice isn’t enough of a benefit on its own, pointing me in the direction of who the heck I really am certainly can’t hurt, either. Learning to distinguish my genuine self from my inner critic, who quite frankly is an obnoxious B-I-T-C-H, and journaling on topics such as my strengths, feelings, and values, has been both enlightening and cathartic. Incidentally, my number one strength is appreciation of beauty and excellence. Coincidence? I think not. It’s also not surprising to see honesty, love of learning, prudence, and perspective ranked high on my list.
The lesson I’m learning is a shiny thing can be anything that distracts you from what you think you ought to be doing. But this rule and schedule-following girl is also beginning to soften into the perspective that it’s alright to give in to the temptation.
What’s more, maybe it’s a good thing to be completely consumed by the sparkle of what catches your eye or captures your heart; to get lost in the beauty of something—simply for beauty’s sake. I’d even like to be so bold as to suggest that you allow yourself the indulgence, particularly when the call is coming from the very deepest part of you (your genuine self). Go all in—with no guilt and no regrets—and just enjoy. This is part of life. Heck, this is life, or as they say en Francais: “C’est la Vie!”
Sure, being disciplined is important, but getting distracted and veering off course temporarily isn’t the worst thing one can do, either. As I slowly come around to welcoming that which amuses, entertains, or diverts as an essential part of my life, I can see how these distractions are often the experiences and things that add colour, shine, and visual variety to my world, not to mention providing much needed mental stimulation and a break from the monotony.
I’d like to think that, even with some scenic stops along the way, I will still get where I’m going eventually—and right in the time I am meant to. Stopping to smell the roses, swim in a freshwater stream, or climb a tree will no doubt delay me temporarily, but more importantly these distractions are experiences that can teach me valuable lessons, lead to important discoveries, or present a new path I hadn’t seen before. And even if none of these things transpire, C’est la Vie! I am willing to bet that I’ll enjoy all the shiny things I saw along the way.
I’d love to hear about your ‘shiny’ things. If you are so inclined to let me in on your beautiful distractions, please leave a comment below.