A counseling phrase that I latched on to years ago--‘Life is a series of crises’--came to mind this week after participating in an outdoor wedding service where several components of crises were active: interruptions, distractions and disruptions. All three reek with hidden stressors but the only controllable happening is distractions which quietly descend without notice on the everyone including the young and old. I intend to present an accurate and also positive view of distractions to help readers appreciate what may have previously been regarded as negative behavior and offer ideas on how to wisely take advantage and manage the urges. Again, I write what I need to read.
Interruptions and disruptions: Since interruptions often involve people, I preface it with the idea of the joys of interruptions because Feelers have a tendency to put people before plans, especially putting off dusting or mowing the yard. Children are sources of many interruptions, door-to-door salesmen, phone calls, perhaps someone needing to borrow a tool, sugar, or need your assistance, etc. We wouldn’t want to eliminate interruptions since most add spice to our lives and provide opportunities to help family and friends--a rich source of unplanned joy.
By contrast, disruptions vary from minor to devastating like running out of gas, power outages, to car trouble, detours, water in the basement, a tooth ache, accidents, fires, tornados, floods, someone needing an ambulance, etc. A gal at our meeting shared the stress in getting a new washing machine installed by incompetent delivery men who didn’t know how to install the machine and managed to get water on a hard wood floor and carpet. She was glued to her phone attempting to get correction. “I’m frazzled”, she sighed. That was minor but a bonified disruption. It wouldn’t take long for you to compile your own list of unenjoyable and memorable disruptions, because no one is exempt from them. We manage unpredictable disruptions as gracefully as possible given the circumstances.
Distractions are completely different consisting of unpremeditated mental urges which can surprisingly readjust our schedules. Distractions are not scary but rather resemble tiny determined ants that enter quietly, taking over while they chomp away on precious time. The good news is that it’s possible to retrieve valid value from distractions without overloading our do-it-now plate and getting completely thrown off track. The following accounts describe the simple process of distraction-urges.
1. This morning, on a packed morning-meeting day, still in house coat and slippers, placing letters in the mail box, I was drawn to the sight of new weeds appearing in my garden after a hard rain. I couldn’t resist pulling a big pile. I tossed the weeds in a container, grabbed the water hose to wash my muddy hands and noticed the potted plants on the porch were waiting for their daily drink. By the time I went back in the house 20 minutes had disappeared.
So, as usual, I verbally cautioned myself “no more little jobs or you’ll be late”. Running in my mind is the old proverb ‘Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today’ because as a structured person I feel rather obligated to take care of any chore put before me which I feel compelled to finish. Then, I was forced to rush breakfast and getting dressed.
2. Going for an apple to eat while I’m working on a project, I discover that the bag of apples is getting soft, so I succumb to the urge to remove the bag from the fridge and make applesauce which took 25 precious minutes. While I stay with the sauce until I can turn the fire off, I picked up and read a letter I forgot to open, and notice the African violet on the side table is dry. I fill the water can and proceed to water all the inside plants which required about 15 minutes. Both tasks are important, but I’ve robbed my original project of 40 minutes, and am mad at myself because an appointment will further push my early morning project plans until afternoon.
Generally, distractions urge our attention to necessary chores that fall into untimeliness. In the process of going from one task to another we are likely to get tangled up in several non-related ‘gotta do’s’. To be working on a task and be drawn into another before the first is finished is frustrating. Unfortunately, staying focused is not as easy as it might sound to some temperaments. But this is what we do to ourselves when we acquiesce to those mental urges. Submitting to distractions often places one on a merry-go-round going in dizzy circles. Be conscious when distraction urges hit you and intentionally stop them in their tracks.
Controlling distraction-urges demands the mental discipline of identifying them and ascertaining if the possible urged-task could just as well wait for later, asking ourselves, “Must I take care of it now, or can it wait?” Some people write down the proposed task which is usually a positive prompt so they don’t forget it. Although distraction-urges are most often good reminders, they do not necessarily have to be followed up on immediately. Let them ‘get in line’ for a more convenient time-frame. Learn to intentionally juggle howling distractions by taking charge of dispensing them when ‘hurry’ isn’t involved. Determine if the distraction offers real merit at the present time.
Be particular with what you allow to occupy your mind and actions. The key is to insist on being in charge of what you do and when. The time saved by controlling distractions can then be filled with family time, reading, writing, relaxing and especially adequate time to get ready to leave.
Handling distractions of other family members present a different challenge. Naturally, if you are responsible for children, being kindly responsive to their many routine distraction-urges is very important. it’s wise for parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers’ not only for skillful teaching reasons but for children’s’ wellbeing.
Little children who are unaware of the time-factor will play rather than dress for school. The temptation to scold for not staying focused is counter-productive. Merely acknowledging the problem: “I understand that you want to play with your toys but after school is a better time,” is a positive and non-offensive way to deal with legitimate distractions which will continue until they leave home as young adults
Since the majority of people are given the Sensing preference, which is being conscious of the physical world, they are more likely to be able to ignore urges that would hinder their finishing a job at hand. I observed how Jim stayed focused on car repair, yard work or finances until he was finished. He did not flit from one to the other. Only an interruption by a family member would entice him to stop.
However, as an Intuitive, preferring possibility thinking, distraction-urges come across to me as exciting mental reminders and multi-tasking opportunities, but in essence are likely to tempt me to unrelated and time-consuming tasks. When returning to the original chore, I’m amazed with how much time has vanished.
Learning to quell hurry and dispelling frustration enables us to carve out time for family, fun, relaxation, reading, etc. ensuring peace and joy.
9. I will listen to what God the Lord says: he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants…10 love and righteousness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other… 12 The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Ps 85: 9,10, 12 (NIV)