As I write this, my phone is beeping with unread text messages, unopened emails, Facebook notifications and a reminder for an impending dentist appointment.
If you’re thinking I sound busy, I assure you I am not. Being busy is an easy and vague explanation I carelessly throw around, but I’ve met busy people. I’m quite certain I have never been busy.
What I am is distracted.
I could blame technology and social media but the truth is, I am willingly distracted. I regularly distract myself when I feel nervous or overwhelmed. It is a lot easier to browse someone’s vacation photos, imagining myself somewhere beautiful, than it is to browse job postings. I will happily send funny SnapChats to my sister before I send an apartment application. When a deadline is approaching, I become suddenly engrossed in reorganizing my closet.
These are all fairly harmless and natural, right? Everybody procrastinates!
My mom and I went to the farmer’s market the other day. We needed apples and potatoes and I wanted to check out the freshly baked breads. On the way to the market, I remember thinking how terrible a driver my mom is.
Once we got there, I noticed how unbelievably slow she was. It took her forever to get her stuff together and get out of the car. When making our purchases, I felt myself becoming annoyed at how disorganized her purse was. She had to practically take everything out before she found what she was looking for. Then there was the spectacle of putting it all back in.
Ultimately, I made some dickhead remark about her taking ages to do anything. She apologized and became quiet. We left early; she wasn’t in the mood to peruse the vendors anymore. I felt terrible.
The following day, I was leisurely channel surfing when I felt myself becoming restless. I always look forward to Sundays, the day I reserve for relaxation and self-reflection…or football. Instead I was wandering around the house, agitated and searching for something to do. I inspected the fridge and cupboards. Healthy food, this just wouldn’t do. I fished out my keys and hopped in the car, fully intending to drive to the supermarket, stock up on chocolate, then commence stuffing my face.
“Hang on a minute,” I thought as I approached the first stop sign. “How did I get from relaxing self-reflection to emergency junk-food run? What exactly am I doing?”
I threw on my hazards and spent the next few minutes sitting at the stop sign, like a weirdo.
“I am not hungry. I don’t want to gorge myself and get sick. So what am I trying to numb?” I asked myself. Then I thought of my mom at the farmer’s market and how focused I was on noticing tiny faults. “What is going on inside of me that is so difficult I am picking other people apart? What am I trying not to feel? What am I distracting myself from?”
I consciously refocused my attention inwardly. Within myself is where I found my answers.
Something I was afraid of, something I needed to deal with that I knew was going to hurt, was scratching at the periphery of my brain. I turned around and headed home. I took a deep breath and dealt with it. It was difficult, yes, but I handled it. And no chocolate was harmed in the process.
Procrastination is one thing, the consequences are clear and expected. But ignoring something inside of myself, some difficult feeling I am struggling with, resulted in bad choices and uncharacteristic behaviour. I love the odd chocolate bar, but I don’t want to make binge-eating a habit. And I certainly don’t want to make my mom feel like crap.
Evasion does not a problem solve.
So check in with yourself now and again. Give your feelings the time and attention they deserve. Maybe if we refocus our attention inwardly, we can stop picking each other apart or pointing angry fingers and start fixing ourselves.
Author: Elizabeth Conrad
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: David Michalczuk/Flickr