Monday, August 14, 2006

Are We Doing What We Want to Be Doing or Are We Just Busy?

Where have I been for the past week? For the past summer, really. Would you believe wonderfully scenic Distraction, USA? It’s a quaint little town, but I wouldn’t recommend visiting it. Lots of activities there to pull at your attention. I guarantee you there’s something there for every member of your family. You’ll find yourself being pulled in one hundred and one directions simultaneously. The residents there have a very handy way of making you think you’re actually getting something done during the pandemonium. Definitely a place to avoid.

Actually, I find myself lost in Distraction, USA an awful lot these days. It seems that every family member has had urgent business to attend to and I was their only way of getting it accomplished. Irish Step dancing competitions and performances every time I turn around. Gigs and auditions for my oldest daughter all over Northern Utah. Podcast production. MySpace band page maintenance. Resumés to write for everyone EXCEPT me. Finding new schools for three of my children to attend. Researching homeschooling, charter schools, and scholarships. Fighting with a narrow minded principal. Meeting with his executive director. Worrying. Fretting. Discussing. And lately a music competition that my family sweeped in our hometown of Midvale, Utah. My eleven year old is a Midvale Idol, my fourteen year old is a Midvale Idol, and my wife placed third in her division. We brought home $215 in prize money. That was exciting for us, but it took hours of preparation over a two week period. Nevermind all the cleaning and moving preparations I have to organize. In my children’s case, like yours I imagine, it’s clean, reclean, reclean, rinse, repeat.

It’s all so positively domestic and “unmanly”. In response, the greatest temptation for me is to mindlessly zone out in front of the computer and be browsey for hours reading tech news and speculating about the latest holodeck technology in Apple’s upcoming OS X Leopard. Plenty of refreshing distractions out there in the World Wide Wasteland to entertain me. But none of them help me accomplish my goals in the short amount of time I have to myself. I have a book to write. I have art skills to take to the next level. Oh, and I have this thing called a “blog” that I’ve been neglecting.

During times like these when our lives get busy and our addled minds are pressed to perform, neurological conditions are a bit of an inconvenience. Who has time to be depressed? Who has time to vegetate mindlessly in front of the TV? As usual, there are those detractors out there who would whine about how everybody has those problems. And it’s true. They do. But not to our extremes. That’s what makes these conditions disabilities. Don’t you want to just slap the next guy who suggests “just snap out of it” when you’re depressed? Or “why don’t you focus harder” when your brain is spinning about wildly in a classic AD/HD moment? How exactly are they being helpful?

The maddening thing about their insensitive advice is that there’s a kernel of truth to it, but not as they understand it. There is being depressed and there is giving into depression. There is being unable to focus and there is leaping into the warm and loving arms of distraction. Perhaps I haven’t been clear in the year and a half I’ve been writing here, but there is an awful lot we can do about the latter part of those problems. I will never have a mind like a steel trap. It’s more like a steel colander, actually. But I can either give into a life of aimless distraction and new projects that never get completed, or I can knuckle down and accomplish something. Forget about those snotty, judgmental critics. They ignorantly treat all mental disorders as being a lack of character and discipline. Our task is to find the unique way our minds work and find coping strategies to manage them better.

For me, I need a PDA with a loud alarm, To Do lists up the wazoo, a cheeky attitude, but most important of all I need a road map. All these trips to Distraction, USA are expensive. The cost of gas is killing me alone, nevermind all the travel time wasted. If I hope to find my way to the end of my novel by December I’m going to have to stay home more often and keep on the main road.

My disabilities are not an excuse. They are the reason why my life is in complete pandemonium. The pandemonium disguises how little I'm actually getting accomplished. There is meeting ones obligations and there is losing oneself in them. So much noise. So much distraction. However, I believe I can quiet the din down to a murmur by making sure I stay on track. It’s time again to reassess my life and see where it’s going. It’s time to cut back distractions, cancel a few extra roadtrips, and maybe even use that dirty word “discipline” to actually get something done on my list for a change. With the end of summer in sight I recommend that all of us take time to reasses our lives and ask ourselves “Are we doing what we want to be doing or are we just busy?” Obviously, the disabilities won’t go away because I will them to, my girls aren’t going to be any less demanding of my time, but I can move forward instead of backwards for a change. That’ll make for a nice change of scenery.